• With an area of 580,400 square kilometres, Kenya is about two and a half times the size of the UK and nearly one and a half times the size of California. The population, which for many years had a growth rate higher than that of any other country, is now beginning to stabilize and currently stands at around 44 million.
• Kenya regained independence in 1963 after nearly eighty years of British occupation and colonial rule. The Republic of Kenya is a multiparty democracy with more than fifty registered political parties.
• With few mineral resources (though potentially viable oil reserves were confirmed recently), most of the foreign currency Kenya needs for vital imports is earned from coffee and tea exports, and tourism. Most Kenyans scrape a living through subsistence agriculture and remittances from one or two family members in paid employment.
• Kenyan society consists of a huge, impoverished underclass, a small but growing middle class and a tiny elite whose success often owes much to nepotism and bribery. Unbridled corruption percolates every corner of the country and affects every aspect of the economy.
• More positively, more than 93 percent of Kenyans have a mobile phone, an exceptionally high figure for a developing country. The mobile money service M-Pesa, allowing anyone with a mobile phone to send money to another phone user, is one of the most advanced in the world, and has transformed the lives of many poor Kenyans working far away from their families.
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