Agriculture is the main employment and source of income
for the majority of the population, but the service industry
and the manufacturing industry are also important. The
country's economic growth from independence to the late
1970s was one of Africa's highest. In the years 1970–78,
average GDP growth was more than 5 percent per year; the
industrial sector grew by more than 10 percent per year
during the 1970s.
However, in the early 1980s, the economy began to face
problems in the form of falling export prices and rising
import prices, which led to problems with the balance of
payments and reduced foreign exchange reserves. A slight
upturn was noted in 1983, but a severe drought in 1984 led
to a continued decline. During the 1990s, growth could not
keep pace with population growth, and living standards were
falling for many Kenyans. During the late 1990s, the country
had problems with increasing budget deficits, declining
tourism and falling agricultural exports. Widespread
corruption and recurring banking crises have caused several
of the country's most important donors to stop payments on
COUNTRYAAH, the new government that took office in 2002 deregulated
the economy and growth reversed again. Political unrest in
2008 had severe but relatively short-term consequences for
both agriculture and tourism. A socio-economic reform
program supported by the IMF was adopted in 2011.
Although there is a lack of good agricultural land and
only 7 percent of the total area is classified as highly
productive, agriculture dominates the country's economy. In
addition to plantations and remaining large farms, which
were established during the colonial period, the sector is
characterized by a large number of agricultural households
with areas less than 2 ha. More than half of agricultural
production is for self-sufficiency.
During the 1970s, agricultural growth did not keep pace
with population growth, but with the exception of the dry
years of 1983 and 1984, that was the case during the 1980s.
The beginning of the 1990s was characterized by low growth
due to drought. The country has subsequently been hit by
several dry periods (1996–97, 2000 and 2011) and flood
disasters (1998), which has caused major problems for
agriculture. Kenya has been forced to import large
quantities of food during periods.
The main crop crops are coffee, tea and cut flowers,
which are the most important export crops, as well as sugar,
maize, wheat, sisal, pyrethrum, tobacco and cotton. Coffee
production reached a peak in 1988 of 125,000 tonnes, but
production has fallen due to falling world market prices.
However, the decline in coffee production has been offset by
a sharp increase in tea production, and Kenya is one of the
world's largest exporters of black tea. The country is also
one of the world's largest producers of sisal and pyrethrum.
The main food crop is corn. Livestock management is
important both for domestic consumption and for export.
Large parts of Kenya's former forest holdings have been
cleared to provide room for agriculture. The total forest
area is estimated to be approximately 162,000 ha (about 3
percent of the country's total area). Due to increasing
forest harvesting, soil degradation has become a major
problem. The state is therefore trying to encourage
replanting to counteract further soil erosion and to meet
the country's timber needs. Since 1999, there has been a ban
on logging of plantation forest, but a number of large
forest companies have been exempted.
Most of the country's fishing is freshwater fishing and
is conducted in Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana. Fishing is
an important supplement in the diet, but traditional
consumption patterns limit demand. Lake Turkana is
considered to have Africa's largest yet untapped potential
for freshwater fishing.
Mineral extraction in Kenya is limited. However, fluvial
deposits in the Kerio River valley have been utilized since
1975. Soda is extracted from Lake Magadis in the Rift
Valley. Kenya has relatively large deposits of rubies, and
since 1974 jewelry rubies have been extracted from these.
Exploration for chrome, nickel and copper, among others, is
ongoing in the Central Province and in the valley of the
Kerio River. Oil exploration, especially in coastal areas,
has not yet produced any results.
Most of the country's energy needs are covered by
hydroelectric power stations, five in the Tana River and one
in the Turkwelf River, a geothermal power plant at Olkaria
in the Rift Valley and an oil power plant on the coast.
Plans are under way for an expansion of the geothermal power
plant in the Rift Valley.
Although Kenya is the most developed country in East
Africa, the industry's share of GDP is relatively modest.
The sector has previously been largely focused on import
substitution, but during the 1990s the export industry began
to prioritize. The most important industrial sectors are oil
refining, food production and processing of agricultural
products, composition of cars, chemical production,
printing, textile and sewing industry, cement production,
electrical industry and rubber industry. About half of the
country's industry is foreign-owned, and in turn, British
companies own about half.
Since the late 1980s, tourism has been the main source of
income for foreign currency. Kenya has a large deficit in
trade with countries outside Africa. Exports are dominated
by coffee, tea and cut flowers. In order to reduce the
dependence on the fluctuating world market prices for
agricultural products, the state is trying to stimulate new
export products, including fruits and vegetables, handicraft
and textile and leather goods. Imports are dominated by
mechanical equipment, crude oil, manu- facturing and iron
and steel. Uganda and Tanzania, with which Kenya has free
trade agreements, are the country's most important export
markets. Outside Africa, Pakistan and the United States are
important trading partners for exports. The most important
importing countries are China, India and the United Arab
Tourism and gastronomy
Tourism is the country's most important source of income
for foreign currency and the number of foreign visitors has
increased sharply in recent decades; In 2006, the number of
foreign tourists amounted to about 1.7 million. The
political unrest in 2008 meant a considerable reduction, but
the industry has recovered rapidly. Most visitors come from
Germany and the UK, but tourists from Asia are growing. The
peak season for tourism in Kenya is December – March.
Most of Kenya's tourists come for national parks. South
of Nairobi, Nairobi's national park with rhinos, hippos,
antelopes and ostriches is spreading in unspoilt
surroundings, despite the large city skyscrapers gleaming in
the background. From Nairobi, the country road can also
reach the magnificent landscape of the East African Rift
Valley (Great Rift Valley), the large lakes northwest of the
capital and the constantly snow-covered Mount Kenya, which
can be climbed. Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya is
among the most visited, with Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as the
fund. Here are elephants but also lions and black rhinos.
The Masai Mara Game Reserve is a continuation of the
Serengeti National Parkin Tanzania and houses practically
every species of animal in Kenya. The largest national park
Tsavo, known for its large population of elephants and its
unique landscape, lies in the southeast.
The capital of Nairobi is a modern city, with no other
historical traces to show than the museum over the railway
between the coast and Lake Victoria which was the cause of
the city's emergence as well as memories from Karen Blixen.
The National Museum deserves a visit for its interesting
exhibition of finds from human history.
Also of great interest is the coast of the Indian Ocean,
with the ancient mixed culture and ancient sites of ancient
Muslim culture, but also with 400 km of sandy beaches and a
crystal clear sea that attracts bathing tourism. The
commercial hub of Mombasa (where you can go with the elegant
colonial night train from Nairobi) houses the Fort Jesus
fortress, built by the Portuguese and now a museum. Another
point of interest on the coast is the old commercial town of
Lamu with well-preserved Swahili architecture.
Seafood is an important part of the gastronomy of the
coastal resorts, but also delicate game dishes (zebra,
gazelle, warthog) and beef are characteristic of modern
Kenyan cuisine; the Indo-Pakistani business class has
ensured that there are also plenty of restaurants with
Indian food (mainly in Nairobi). Tropical fruits, fruit
juices as well as vegetables and exotic root vegetables are
important elements of the food culture, which also offer
excellent dairy products.
Traditional Kenyan home cooking is rare in tourist
restaurants. It includes stews with potatoes, peas and
beans, corn porridge and fried freshwater fish with spicy
sauces. Coastal Swahili traditions use coconut for deep
frying and flavoring. The coastal area is also an important
region for spice cultivation, which is reflected in spicy
seasonings, not least of fish dishes. Tea (chai) is
consumed in large quantities. Beer is locally sourced, and
domestic wines are produced at wineries on Lake Naiva.