Kenya Human and Economic Geography in the Early 2000’s


East African state. At the 1999 census the population was 28,686,607 residents, While 2005 estimates attributed to the country about 34 million residents; this assessment does not include 220,000 political refugees from Somalia and Sudan who, since the end of 2001 and in agreement with the UN, have been welcomed into the country.

Like other African countries, the mortality rate as a result of the spread of AIDS, has undergone some increase (in 2003 the 6.7 % of the adult population was infected by the virus with more than 150,000 deaths).

GDP is growing slowly and in 2000, it had a fall due to a drought which resulted in the loss of most of the crops. In the following years, a certain normalization of climatic cycles has favored the recovery of production, but serious difficulties remain, including the low international prices of export products, the lack of confidence of foreign investors and the high level of corruption affecting aid. international.

Already in 2000, the International Monetary Fund had suspended funding due to the government’s inability to implement reforms and fight corruption. To cope with the dramatic consequences of the drought, aid was restored, but suspended again in 2002 due to the inadequacy of the measures implemented.

From December of the same year, with the formation of a new government (see below: History), a cycle of reforms was launched, together with a more incisive fight against corruption, which allowed the resumption of international financing and improved prospects. of foreign investors. In the two-year period 2004-05, the GDP grew by over 2 % thanks to exports and tourism: in 2004 the flow of visitors increased by 15 % with the sector contributing to the formation of income estimated at 12%. The ethnic tensions on the borders with Ethiopia and the constant threat of international terrorism constitute, however, a serious impediment to the further growth of a sector that potentially has enormous resources (with over 1 million tourists a year, Kenya is one of the 20 most visited countries in the world).

Agriculture continues to be divided between a few crops intended for self-consumption and products intended for export (in particular, coffee and tea). The latter are grown in the highlands of the interior where, however, phenomena of environmental alteration continue to occur. The industrial sector is based on the refining of petroleum products, chemistry, engineering and activities related to the processing of agricultural products. Although Kenya has great growth potential, it remains a deeply backward country, with serious imbalances, lack of infrastructure and a precarious health situation.


The 21st century opened with a far-reaching political change: the electoral defeat of the Kenya African National Union (KANU), the party that had dominated the life of the country since independence, and of its candidate for the presidency of the Republic, U. Kenyatta, imposed by DA Moi, more ‘monarch’ than head of state for about twenty years.

The consultations held in December 2002 marked the clear victory of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), an alliance between numerous opposition groups, which obtained 132 seats out of 224 against 68 in the KANU and 15 in the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy-People (FORD-People), while M. Kibaki, candidate of the rainbow coalition, won the presidency of the Republic with 62.3 %.

This change took place in a context characterized by strong elements of economic and social crisis, crossed by latent ethnic conflicts, fueled and used in a very unscrupulous way by the previous administration. The new government, with many uncertainties and seeking a balance between the numerous interests represented in the vast coalition that supported it, promoted some decisive reforms such as prison, education, which provided for free and compulsory schooling for eight years, that of information. This reform, by widening the spaces of freedom and the exercise of a fundamental right of citizenship, favored the emergence of a lively civil society, compressed by years of police control and a de facto monopoly of the media. Reforms,

Economic growth, despite some signs of recovery starting from 2004, remained in fact among the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, and was affected by high foreign debt. Economic difficulties had been compounded by decades of corruption and the patronage of development aid. Again in 2005 Kenya was considered by international agencies to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world, despite the centrality that this problem had assumed in the Kibaki electoral campaign and the immediate establishment of a commission against corruption by the new government. The work of the commission was made difficult by the widespread diffusion of the phenomenon, by the permanence in key posts of officials compromised with the past and by a judicial system not immune to suspicion. However, addressing this problem was crucial for the country’s survival because the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank made the reopening of credit lines subject to the establishment of the independent commission, the opening of judicial proceedings against economic crimes, compliance with a rigorous code of conduct for parties and the privatization of some quasi-state entities. Problem was also the path of the constitutional reform that had been under way for years and included among Kibaki’s electoral promises. The text passed by the constitutional conference, which provided for some innovative elements such as greater protection of women, but revised by the government in favor of wider powers to the presidency, caused lacerations in the majority, sectors of which instead preferred a strengthening of the role of the prime minister.

Seven ministers, including the leader of the largest party in the coalition, came to publicly declare their opposition to the reform which, strongly supported by Kibaki, was subjected to a referendum in November 2005 and rejected by 58.1 % by the electorate. The vote went beyond party affiliations and was also transversal to ethnic and regional divisions (only in the central region inhabited by the Kikuyu, to which the president belonged, there was a clear prevalence of yeses), assuming the eminently political character of an open declaration of criticism of the government and dissatisfaction with the slow pace of change.

On the international level, the early years of the century saw Kenya’s rapprochement with the United States, underlined by the president’s visit to Washington. This rapprochement was part of the government’s effort to counter Islamic radicalism and terrorism which, in the second half of the 1990s, had begun to use the country as a recruiting and training base and a place for bloody demonstrations. In November 2002 in Mombasa a suicide attack by al-Qaeda in the hotel owned by an Israeli had caused 18 deaths and a missile attack had touched the charter flight of an Israeli company. At the regional level, collaboration with Tanzania and Uganda continued, and in March 2004 a protocol was signed for the formation of a customs union which provided for the elimination of duties on most of the goods exchanged by the three countries.

Kenya Human and Economic Geography in the Early 2000's