Kenya - The People

Population: 21.4 million in 1989, projected 29.7 million in 1998.
Literacy: 69.4% (Male: 75.7, Female 63.3) 1989 census

According to the 1989 Census, there are 42 tribes living in Kenya, as well as all of the non-African people groups. As such, it is difficult to make general comments about people in Kenya. Of course, since folks email me all the time looking for me to write their highschool research paper for them, here's some general information:


English is the official language while Kiswahili is the national language. That means that government and education are in English, while everything else tends to be in Swahili. And, in actuality, most of government is in Swahili also.

In addition to these two languages, most of the people in Kenya also speak what they would call their "mother tongue" - the language that they grew up speaking. While an increasing number of city-dwellers are growing up speaking English, most rural people still speak their tribal languages when they go home.

Kenya's African population is divided on three linguistic groups:

Over 30 distinct languages or dialects are spoken in Kenya.


The Constitution of Kenya guarantees freedom of worship and there are hundreds of religious denominations and sects in the country. The followers of Christian faith are the majority. Islam is the main religion for most of the communities along the coast and the Somali community. The Asian community is mainly Hindu. Some Kenyans observe traditional methods of worship.

The last national Census was in 1989,, as far as I know. The following statistics were taken from the web site of the Kenyan Commission in Canada, and I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these statements.

26,164,473 (July 1992), growth rate 3.6% (1992)
Birth rate:
44 births/1,000 population (1992)
Death rate:
8 deaths/1,000 population (1992)
Net migration rate:
0 migrants/1,000 population (1992)
Infant mortality rate:
68 deaths/1,000 live births (1992)
Life expectancy at birth:
60 years male, 64 years female (1992)
Total fertility rate:
6.2 children born/woman (1992)
noun - Kenyan(s); adjective - Kenyan
Ethnic divisions:
See table
Protestant 38%, Roman Catholic 28%, indigenous beliefs 26%, Muslim 6%
English and Swahili (official); numerous indigenous languages
69% (male 80%, female 58%) age 15 and over can read and write (1990 est.)
Labor force:
9.2 million (includes unemployed); the total employed is 1.37 million (14.8% of the labor force); services 54.8%, industry 26.2%, agriculture 19.0% (1989)
Organized labor:
390,000 (est.)