Kenya from a glance

Here is some of the basic Swahili vocab we have learned!

Hey (casual greeting) – Sasa/Jambo

Hello (formal) -Jambo (we’ve basically only heard this when people are greeting us as tourists. Sasa is most common)

How are you?-Habari?

Thank you-Asante

Thank you very much-Asante Sana

Welcome/You’re welcome -Karibu (a little confusing at times since it serves as both)

Please -Tafadhali

Sorry – Polei (most commonly used in the phrase “POLEI CHA CHA”)

General information about Kenya. 

National Languages – Swahili and English

  • Nearly everyone speaks both languages – they learn Swahili at home and study 5 of six subjects in school in English
  • Most people communicate entirely in Swahili, but commonly use an english/swahili slang language called sheng

Population – 45,010,056 (total), 6.5 million in Nairobi metropolitan area

  • Within Nairobi 60% of the population lives in slums – on 6% of the land
  • 73% of the population is under 30
  • The life expectancy for men in the city is under 60 (Cha cha told us this)

Religion – 83% Christian and 11.2% Muslim

  • upon telling a friend we were not religious we received the response “Oh no. You should get religious.”

Climate – Kenya is close to the equator so it does not experience stark summers and winters. The temp ranges from 55-85 degrees F. It has been around 70 the last week.

Economy – Kenya’s services sector contributes 61% of GDP (much through tourism) yet 75% of the work force is employed in agriculture (an underdeveloped and inefficient sector which accounts for 24% of GDP). Their largest export is tea.

Development – Kenya has a fairly low HDI (Human Development Index – composite measurement of life expectancy, income per capita and education) is 0.591 of 1  – ranked 146 of 186 countries in the world.

Independence/Politics – The Kenyan Movement for independence began in 1944 with the formation of the Kenyan African Union led by Jomo Kenyatta. Kenyatta’s Kanu (Kenyan African National Union) party represented the Kikuyu ethnic group an economically marginalized group which demanded political rights and land reforms in reaction to white settler expansion. Beginning in 1952 a violent Kikuyu guerilla uprising left Kenya in a declared state of emergency, which endured eight years and led to the deaths of thousands of Africans.

In 1963 Kenya achieved its independence (from Britain) led by Kenyatta and the Kanu party, which remained in power for four decades. The Kanu reign was characterized by centralization, corruption and rent seeking, civilian disapproval and ethnic tensions that came to a violent peak surrounding the 2007 presidential elections in which nearly 1,500 people died.The Kenyan people have faced severe ethic preference from their leaders – meaning that Kikuyu areas have received disproportionate amounts of public goods over the years.  Up until this point Kenya had essentially existed as a single party state and was arguably not even a formal democracy until 2010 when its new constitution was ratified. This constitution intended to devolve power regionally and received a two-thirds approval vote from Kenyans. This new era of governance focused on the development of county governments and improved public service delivery, government accountability, and equitable allocation of land and resources has Kenya headed toward the shaping of a participatory democracy.

–Carly Paul





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