Kenya : Society


Population density (per sq. km): 


Life expectancy: 
62 years
Primary enrolment: 
82% (2009)

44,354,000 (2013); 25 per cent of people live in urban areas and nine per cent in urban agglomerations of more than one million people; growth 2.8 per cent p.a. 1990–2013; birth rate 35 per 1,000 people (51 in 1970); life expectancy 62 years (52 in 1970 and 60 in 1990).

The ethnic composition of the population is estimated as: Kikuyu 22 per cent, Luhya 14 per cent, Luo 13 per cent, Kalenjin 12 per cent, Kamba 11 per cent, Kisii six per cent and Meru six per cent. There are Masai, Arab, Asian and European minorities.


Kiswahili and English are official languages. Each of the ethnic groups has its own language.


Christians 84 per cent (mainly Protestants 48 per cent and Roman Catholics 24 per cent), Muslims 11 per cent, and most of the rest hold traditional beliefs (2009 census).


Public spending on health was two per cent of GDP in 2012. Some 62 per cent of the population uses an improved drinking water source and 30 per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities (2012). Infant mortality was 48 per 1,000 live births in 2013 (122 in 1960). Malaria is the main endemic health problem, and AIDS is a severe problem. In 2012, six per cent of people aged 15–49 were HIV positive.


Public spending on education was 6.7 per cent of GDP in 2010. There are eight years of compulsory education starting at the age of six. Primary school comprises six years and secondary six, with cycles of two and four years. The school year starts in January.

Among Kenya’s many higher education institutions are University of Nairobi; Kenyatta University (main campus Nairobi; other campuses at Kitui, Mombasa and Ruiru); Moi University (in Eldoret since 1984); Egerton University, the principal agricultural university with its main campus at Njoro, Nakuru (established as a university in 1987); Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (in Juja since 1994); and a growing number of private universities. The female–male ratio for gross enrolment in tertiary education is 0.70:1 (2009). Literacy among people aged 15–24 is 93 per cent (2010).

In 1987 Kenya hosted the Tenth Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Nairobi. Commonwealth Education Ministers meet every three years to discuss issues of mutual concern and interest.


English-language daily newspapers include Daily Nation, The Standard (established 1902) and The Star. Taifa Leo is published daily in Kiswahili. Weeklies include The EastAfrican (for an international audience). Newspapers from Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania are widely circulated in the country.

Radio is the main source of news and information for most Kenyans. The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation provides public radio services in English, Kiswahili and 15 other Kenyan languages, and public TV services in English and Kiswahili. Many private radio stations and TV channels compete with the public services, particularly in the urban areas, and private radio stations increasingly provide national services, and broadcast in other national languages as well as Kiswahili.

Some 28 per cent of households have TV sets (2009). There are 91 personal computers per 1,000 people (2010).


Country code 254, followed by 20 for Nairobi and 41 for Mombasa; internet domain ‘.ke’. Public phones work with coins or phonecards (card booths are blue, coin-operated booths are red). There are internet cafés and post offices in most towns.

For every 1,000 people there are five landlines, 706 mobile phone subscriptions and 390 internet users (2013).

Public holidays: 

New Year’s Day, Labour Day (1 May), Madaraka Day (1 June), Moi Day (10 October), Kenyatta Day (20 October), Jamhuri Day (Independence Day, 12 December), Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Religious and other festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Good Friday, Easter Monday and Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan, three days).