Kenya is located on Africa’s eastern coast, bordering Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Indian Ocean. It is about twice the size of the state of Nevada.

Kenya achieved independence from Great Britain in 1963 under the leadership of Jomo Kenyatta after decades of both peaceful and violent attempts to assert African rights. Both Kenyatta and his successor, Daniel Moi, governed Kenya as a single-party state. Over the next several decades the government structure underwent numerous changes in response to both national and international calls for political liberalization, including the resumption of multi-party politics in 1991, constitutional reforms, and ultimately the adoption of a a new constitution in 2010 following the post-election violence of 2007. Despite these political milestones, democracy in Kenya is complicated due to ethnic conflict, economic inequality, and government corruption.

Kenya has the largest economy in East Africa and is considered the technological and financial hub of the region. The country’s economic success is attributed to its relative stability, diversification, strong private sector, and intra-regional trade. Projections for economic growth are positive, though corruption, ethnic conflict, the need for infrastructure improvements, and high import demands are challenges.

Although economic success in the capital of Nairobi has paved the way for positive development, economic inequality pervades. Almost half the population lives below the poverty line and unemployment is approximately 40%. There is a great deal of work to be done to ensure basic needs are met throughout the country, including water, hygiene and sanitation. According to the Joint Monitoring Program’s 2015 estimates, 37% of the total population still lacks access to an improved water source, and 43% uses an unimproved sanitation facility.  In rural Kenya these figures are higher at 43% and 51%, respectively. Lack of access to clean water and sanitation has implications for other sectors of development like gender equality. Women still lag behind men, especially with respect to higher education, access to the labor market, and land rights.

However, there are many reasons to be optimistic about Kenya’s future.  According to the World Bank, the GDP per capita has risen by eightfold in the past 50 years. Furthermore, within that same time period, primary and secondary school enrollment doubled, life expectancy of the average Kenyan increased by 20 years, and infant mortality has been halved. To ensure ongoing development in Kenya, prudent government management, improvements in infrastructure, and mitigating ethnic conflict will be paramount.

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