Kenya is an independent republic which lies on the Indian Ocean coast and forms part of the East African Region. The capital city is Nairobi. Other major towns are Nakuru and Kisumu and the port of Mombasa.
The lingua franca is Kiswahili while English is the official language of communication. Bantu languages are the mother tongues of over 60% of the population. Kenya has a free market economy with an active stock exchange. The local currency is the Kenya shilling (KSh). (US$ / KSh – current exchange rate).
Medical services in Kenya may be expensive and require advance payment. Vaccinations and medical insurance should be arranged prior to arrival. Due to the state of health, the immunisation status, location and the local disease situation; cholera, hepatitis A, malaria, Rift Valley Fever, schistosomiasis, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and yellow fever (regional) can occur in Kenya. Risk assessment is advised.
Effective personal protection, such as the use of N,N-diethylmetatoluamide (DEET) insect repellents, against mosquitoes is strongly recommended. The anti malaria drug, chloroquine, has been banned in Kenya. Travellers should use mefliam or doxycycline.
Kenya’s economy is reasonably diversified, though most employment depends on agriculture, which contributes 2 percent of GDP. Kenya is the world’s third largest exporter of tea, which, together with coffee and horticultural products, contributed about 53% of total merchandise exports in 2002. GDP in 2002: US$12.1 billion. Agriculture makes up 19% of GDP, industry 18% and services 62.6%. Although the industrial sector is still small, it is a growing source of East African exports. The horticultural and tourism industries are growing, becoming two of the country’s most important sources of foreign exchange.
Since its deregulation in October 1994, the Kenya oil industry is one of the key elements in the economy with a growing market for petroleum products. Shareholders in the oil refinery at Mombasa have announced plans to invest in upgrading the plant.
In addition to its oil industry, Kenya has an active chemicals industry, as well as being one of the larger markets in the lubricants industry of the East African region.
The mining industry in Kenya is limited but prospecting continues. Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility Kenya Power and Lighting Corporation.
Kenya’s foreign debt is high, but fortunately a large proportion is concessional debt. However, interest payments on domestic debt cause a serious depletion of government revenue.
Steps have been taken to implement the removal of import licensing, price controls, foreign exchange controls as well as fiscal and monetary restraint and the reduction of the private sector through privatisation and civil service downsizing. Through these processes the government hopes to bring about economic liberalisation and reform. Supported by the IMF and the World Bank, the economy grew until political violence, government inefficiency and corruption caused a decline. In January 1999 an advisory board to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority (KACA) was appointed. Long term barriers to growth remain, including; inefficient dominance of key sectors by the government, endemic corruption and a high population growth rate.
The government has prioritised combating corruption having recently introduced key governance legislation, and has taken initial steps towards strengthening the judiciary. These efforts have helped to improve Kenya’s image which has previously been very poor and as a result donor aid was resumed in 2003.
The major export commodities in Kenya include cut flowers, fluorspar, gemstones, gold, petroleum, pyrethrum, salt, soda ash, sodium carbonate, sugar, tea and coffee
Imports include automobiles, beverages, capital goods, consumer goods, crude oil, and equipment, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, professional and scientific instruments and resins.
Import and exchange allocation licenses are not required except for a few items that are included on a negative list for healthy security and environmental reasons.
There are five export processing zones namely: Mombasa, Athi, Nairobi, Della Rue and Nakuru and more are being planned. Since May 1993, importers in Kenya are no longer required to obtain import licenses and the Single-column tariff is based on the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System.