Kenya Human and Economic Geography

Kenya Human and Economic Geography


During the first half of the nineties the population of Kenya (29,008,000 residents According to a 1998 estimate) increased by 4. 600. 000 residents (average annual growth rate 1990-98: 31 ‰); it is worth underlining that, although slowing down, demographic growth has remained until recent years at a level equal to or even higher than the growth of the productive system. The liberalization of the economy, launched in 1993, has also resulted in an increase of GDP (3, 9 % in 1994, 5,2 % in 1995, 4.6 % in 1996, but 2.3 % in 1997 and 1.6 % in 1998).

In particular, and regardless of the contrasts in the urban area, with a prevalent political-party matrix, in some peripheral regions inter-ethnic tensions have worsened, causing both riots that have opposed ethnic minority groups to the central government, and clashes between the same ethnic groups minority interests (see below: History).

Economic conditions

The primary sector (with the exception of plantation productions) suffers from an evident structural backwardness, which is at the origin of a very low productivity per worker and per cultivated area. The development of agriculture was hampered by recurrent episodes of drought, which took on the character of a national disaster in 1997, the year in which, in order to meet the food needs of the population, it was necessary to resort to the importation of large quantities of corn. beans and other commodities. In addition, the country is particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices to global markets: especially tea (24, 1 % of the total value of exports in 1994) and coffee (14 %).

The eighth plan for the development of the national economy (1997 – 2000), in compliance with the structural reorganization policies agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has among other objectives those of facilitating private investments and reducing the number of employees in the public sector. However, a certain reluctance to start the privatization process operationally, and attempts by the government to stabilize the prices of some agricultural products led the IMF to postpone the payment of the installments of its substantial financial aid, after they resumed in 1996. payments.

Industrial activities (mining, manufacturing, construction and energy production) still have a modest productive and employment importance, even if the sector appears rationally structured and more advanced than in the other countries of the area. The industrial sector is, in any case, considered as the most promising of the Kenyan economy. In the field of manufacturing activities, in particular, the most important, measured in terms of production value, are those of food processing, the chemical and petroleum derivatives industries, and the metalworking industries. In 1994, purchases of fuels (essentially crude oil) accounted for 15%% of the total value of imports. The energy of hydroelectric origin makes up for 80 % of the national needs; another 15 % is covered by geothermal energy. The service sector generates more than half of the GDP, demonstrating a very high productivity per employee.

The contribution of tourism to the balance of payments became particularly substantial starting from 1987, although from 1991 to 1996 there was a certain decline in foreign presences, which were then partially recovered. Interesting prospects seem to be offered by the entry into force of an economic cooperation agreement between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, aimed at the creation of a real common market, which for the production structure (especially industrial) of Kenya would be very advantageous.


The country passed, at the beginning of the 1990s, from a one-party political system to a multi-party one without registering a substantial change of regime or an authentic process of democratization of the social fabric. DA Moi, who came to power in 1978 after the death of J. Kenyatta, continued to dominate the political life of Kenya benefiting from a complete control of the state apparatus and organization, of an unscrupulous use of ethnic rivalries, of the monopoly of the media and finally of the internal divisions of the opposition forces as well as of their inability to represent a credible political alternative and an outlet to the tensions that ran through Kenyan society, often expressing themselves in violent forms. In fact, although since 1992 had formally assumed the characteristics of a democracy, the country continued to be governed through a system in which the old personalism, patronage and ethnic loyalties were still predominant.

The first multi-party elections held in December 1992, even if judged substantially correct by a Commonwealth commission, were marked by a climate of tension and by suspicions of bias on the part of the government: the consultation was in fact disturbed in the western Kenya by violent clashes that broke out between different ethnic groups, fomented, according to Moi’s opponents, by the government itself to demonstrate the country’s inadequacy for a pluralistic political system. The consultations, which were presidential and legislative, recorded the split of the main opposition group, the Forum for the Restauration of Democracy (FORD), who presented himself divided between a faction expressing the Kikuyu ethnicity (FORD-Asili) and another of the Luo ethnicity (FORD-Kenya), and saw the reappointment of Moi as president with 36, 35 % of the votes and the victory of the Kenya African National Union (KANU), which received 100 of the 188 seats in the National Assembly, against 31 each for the two Forums, 23 for the centrist Democratic Party (DP) and three smaller formations.

In the following years, the general situation of Kenya did not register significant improvements: while in fact very serious inter-ethnic clashes involved the Kikuyu and Kalenjin populations in the Rift Valley area, causing, among other things, the exodus of hundreds of thousands of people to other areas in the country, the economic situation remained difficult and the living conditions of a large part of the population worsened following the implementation of the structural adjustment program, launched by the government in exchange for the granting of a large loan by the IMF in November 1993. The growing social unease was also witnessed by a worrying increase in crime in urban areas. Protests against the government’s economic policy and for a real democratization of public life intensified, but the government responded to them with increasing harshness, so much so as to attract numerous complaints and condemnations from international organizations for the protection of human rights. In March 1996 the main international credit institutions and some countries, such as Great Britain and Germany, again decided to make the granting of further loans conditional on effective respect for human rights and the introduction of substantial reforms. Protests and violence marked the whole of 1997, in particular after the killing in February of the leader of a movement of university students and later, in July, on the occasion of a series of massive demonstrations organized by the opposition to demand, before the holding of the new elections scheduled for the end of the year, the launch of constitutional reforms that redefined the constituencies, designed to favor the ruling party, and introduced a round of ballot for the election of the president. In this phase of bitter political confrontation, a new opposition cartel was formed, the National Convention Assembly (NCA), which brought together representatives of some of the parties present in the parliament together with those of non-governmental organizations and religious groups, including the Catholic and Protestant Churches, which have long been very critical of the regime. The government’s response oscillated instrumentally between signals of openness and violent forms of repression. The presidential and legislative elections, held in December 1997 and characterized by fraud and violence, saw the confirmation of Moi as president, and of KANU as the majority party. Moi’s victory was also favored by the weakness of the opposition, which presented itself at the electoral test divided into nine different parties with an overwhelmingly ethnic prevalence. It was precisely the ethnic tensions that erupted once again during 1998 and 1999 in bloody clashes. On the international level, the problems encountered in relations with Western governments, which also did not seem to have found alternative interlocutors to Moi, were matched by the maintenance of good relations with Tanzania and an improvement in those with Uganda, marked by a decade of severe difficulties. The three countries in 1994 decided to set up a permanent commission to increase regional cooperation.

Kenya Human and Economic Geography

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