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Kenya: Kenya People Profile


The last official census took place in Kenya back in 2009 when it was confirmed that 38,610,097 people were living here. Estimates are released on a regular basis and in 2011, it was claimed that those numbers had risen to 41,070,934, The estimate for 2014 is 45,941,977, which would make this the 30th largest country in the world in terms of population numbers alone.

As far as population density is concerned, Kenya has a surface area of 580,367 square kilometres which converts to 224,080 square miles and makes it the 47th largest country in the world in terms of pure land mass.

It is relatively sparsely populated, however, and for every square kilometre of land, there is an average of 79.2 people here (205 per square mile) and this means that Kenya is the 140th most densely populated country on earth.
Ethnicity splits

Coming back to the issue of diverse ethnicity, it is interesting to consider the many varied groups that make up the population of Kenya. Based on the Census figures of 2009, they can be divided as follows:

Kikuyu 22%
Luhya 14%
Luo 13%
Kalenjin 12%
Kamba 11%
Kisii 6%
Meru 6%
other African 15%
non-African (Asian European, and Arab) 1%

Age breakdown

In 2011, the CIA World Factbook produced a set of statistics based on the population estimate of the time that was declared at 41.07 million. As far as age breakdowns were concerned, it was revealed that 42.3% of the population of Kenya was aged between 0 and 14.

Additionally, it was shown that 55.1% were aged between 15 and 64 while just 2.6% of the Kenya population was aged 65 and over in 2011.

Kenya has sustained population growth, but it has both high birth and infant mortality rates. This is consistent with Africa as a whole and blame is being put on the HIV / AIDS epidemic but, statistics have shown that there has been some slight improvement in this area.

There has been marked improvement in life expectancy as well, particularly in recent years, and in 2006, the average level stood at 48.9 years. This figure rose, however, to 57.9 years in 2010.
Kenya’s future

With improved life expectancy and a drop in infant mortality, Kenya seems set to build on an ever increasing growth in population. By 2020, the UN predicts that the Kenyan population will have risen to 52,563.91 and it will be interesting to see if they are proved right.


It has been estimated that the people of Kenya is about 28 % Roman Catholic, 38 % Protestant, and 6 % Muslim. The remaining people are largely followers of various traditional religions.


Nearly all the African ethnic groups in Kenya have their own distinct languages, some of which are closely related. Since the early 20th century Swahili has become a major African tongue, and it is the official language of Kenya; Kikuyu, Luo, and English are as well widely used.

Social Context and Human Resource Development

The 2008-09 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) revealed that the total fertility rate has continued its downward trend and stood at 4.6 children, the lowest ever recorded. There are nonetheless significant fertility differentials across regions, with a total fertility rate of 2.9 in urban areas and 5.2 in rural areas. There has as well been an significant fall in childhood deaths, as the infant mortality rate in the 2008-09 DHS shows a fall to 52 per 1 000 live births compared with 77 in 2003. Similarly, over the same period, the under-five mortality rate has decreased from 115 deaths per 1 000 live births to 74.

Both the central and local governments have progressively allocated and availed funds to the health sector over the years. Central-government spending on health increased from KES 17.6 billion in the fiscal year 2004/05 to KES 22.3 billion in 2006/07. In the fiscal year 2008/09, spending on health stood at KES 27.7 billion. For the local government, spending on health services increased from KES 1.3 billion in the fiscal year 2004/05 to KES 1.6 billion in 2008/09. From 2004 to 2008, the number of health institutions increased by 19.8% to 5 712 by 2008. This increase can be attributed mainly to the use of the Constituencies Development Fund (CDF) to construct health facilities in most constituencies in the country.

Full immunisation coverage for children improved from 59% in 2004 to 71% in 2008. In the last five years, malaria has been the leading cause of disease-driven morbidity in Kenya followed by respiratory diseases and diarrhoea. In 2008, 9.31 million cases of malaria were reported, representing 32.8% of all diseases reported in Kenya. Respiratory-system disease had a reported incidence of 6.8 million cases. The reported cases of diarrhoea in the country in 2008 were 1.98 million representing 7% of all diseases reported in Kenya. Since late 2008, there has been an outbreak of cholera in Kenya. At November 2009, reported cases of cholera in 2009 were 4 700 with 120 deaths.

HIV/AIDS continues to be a major concern for Kenya. The 2007 Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey (KAIS) statement released in September 2009 reveals that 7.4% of those aged 15 to 49, i.e. 1.4 million Kenyan adults, are HIV positive. This represents an increase of 0.7 % points from 2003. Although in general prevalence rates are higher in urban (8.4%) than in rural areas (6.4%) the prevalence part men in rural areas has increased by 1.7 % points from 2003. The government has embarked upon a full data campaign and subsidises antiretrovirus (ARV). Approximately 150 000 persons are estimated to be on ARV.

The gross total spending on education increased from KES 85 billion in the fiscal year 2004/05 to KES 122 billion in 2008/09. The total number of educational institutions increased from 62 721 in 2004 to 70 790 in 2008. The gradual expansion in the provision of education services in Kenya can be attributed to the implementation of the Free Primary Education programme in 2003 and the introduction of the Free Tuition Secondary Education programme in 2008.

Primary-school enrolment increased from 7.49 million in 2004 to 8.56 million in 2008. On the other hand, the total number of primary school teachers declined by approximately 8 000 in that same period. Secondary school enrolment increased by 49% from 2004 to 2008, although the number of secondary school teachers declined from 47 584 to 43 016 during the same period. Student enrolment in universities increased from 91 541 in the academic year 2004/05 to 122 847 in 2008/09.

This significant increase can be attributed to the continued need for higher education and the accessibility of part-time studies in most public and private universities. The number of students attending secondary school and universities will increase in the coming years, putting increased pressure on the resources at those levels. An additional challenge will be to ensure that the quality of training is not adversely impacted by the significantly larger number of students.

According to the 2009 Human Development Statement, roughly 20% of the people lives on less than USD 1.25 a day and about half of the Kenyan people lives below the poverty line. Urban poverty is of particular concern. Indeed, by some measures, 60% of Nairobi’s people is estimated to live in slums characterised by poor housing conditions, lack of basic amenities (e.g. water, sanitation and electricity) and high levels of insecurity.