Kenya Country Profile for a Market and Social Researcher

Kenya is one of the top ten countries with a well-developed market and social research infrastructure in Africa. Therefore, it’s important for clients interested in carrying out market and social fieldwork in the country to have a good understanding of the country.

As such, this article is aimed at providing a general overview of the country. This will help anyone planning or executing market and social research projects in Kenya.

If you carry out or plan to have a market and social research project in Kenya, this is a great starting point. For more information on how to carry out market and social research fieldwork, data, and project management, feel free to contact us.

Read more: Planning a research project in Africa, Ten things you should do to make it a success

Overview on Kenya

Kenya or the Republic of Kenya as it is officially known is one of the 13 countries in the Eastern Africa Region. Additionally is classified in the Great Lake Region.

The country is the economic powerhouse of the Eastern African region and Africa’s ten largest economies.

This former British colony gained its independence on the 12th of December 1963 and became a republic the following year; on the 12th of December 1964.

Today, Kenya is a member of the 54 nations African Union. Additionally, it is a member of Inter Development Authority (IGAD). IGAD headquarters are in Djibouti. Furthermore, the country is also one of the five members of the East African Community. Besides, it is a member of the Common Market for the Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

Kenya’s capital city is Nairobi. In addition, Nairobi is Africa’s 9th largest city based on population. The nation’s capital is located almost at the center of the nation.

Its currency is Kenya Shilling (KSH) issued by Kenya Central Bank.

The country is +3 GMT and consequently 3 hours behind the Prime Meridian. Interestingly, the equators cut the country in two halves. This is important to know since it means that the country does not practice Daylight Saving.

This Eastern African country has an area of 582,646 square kilometers of which 569,246 is dry land while the rest is water. Therefore it is Eastern Africa’s fifth-largest country.

Kenya is one of the countries in Africa that is said to be the cradle of mankind. Other African countries who make this claim are South Africa and Kenya’s northern and southern neighbors; Ethiopia and Tanzania.

The country was among the first nations to become a member of the Non-aligned movement. Besides, it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, since it was a British colony.

Kenya’s Public (Bank) Holidays and Working Hours

The country enjoys several public or bank holidays. Most of these are important historical dates, while others are religious and cultural holidays.

Bank and Public Holidays in Kenya

Below is a list of Kenya Bank Holidays:

  1. New Year Day on the 1st of January
  2. Good Friday and Easter Monday
  3. Labour Day on the 1st of May
  4. Eid al-Fitr
  5. Eid al-Adha
  6. Madaraka Day (Self Governance Day) on the 1st of June
  7. Utamaduni Day (Culture Day) which was formerly known as Moi Day 10th of October
  8. Mashuajaa Day (Heroes Day) on the 20th of October
  9. Jamhuri Day (Independence Day) on the 12th of December
  10. Christmas Day on the 25th of December
  11. Boxing Day on the 26th of December

It’s important to check for the specific days for the holidays in bold when planning for fieldwork in Kenya. In addition, at times the government dedicates some important days as public holidays on short notice, this can greatly affect your fieldwork so it’s important to keep in touch with the local team during the course of fieldwork.

Another important thing to note is that when any bank holiday falls on a Sunday, the subsequent Monday automatically becomes a bank holiday.

Working Hours

The normal working day starts from Monday to Friday, from 8.00 AM to 5.00 PM. Most businesses open beyond the 5.00 PM mark as well as weekends, especially on Saturday. However, on Sunday most of the businesses are closed.

The government offices operate only within business hours and only from Monday to Friday, 8.00 AM to 5.00 PM, in addition to closing during bank holidays

Languages and Ethnic groups of Kenya

Official, National, and other Languages spoken in Kenya

Kenya’s official language is English and its national language is Swahili; referred to as Kiswahili in the country. Additionally, the country has 43 ethnic groups who speak Afro-Asiatic, Nilo-Saharan, Niger-Congo, European and Asian languages. 

Kenya’s Ethnic Groups

Today, Kenya has 43 ethnic groups, mainly derived from three linguistic groups; Niger-Congo such as Bantus, Nilo-Saharan such as Nilotic, and Afro-Asiatic such as Cushitic language families.

Additionally, the country has a small population of hunters and gathers. The hunters and gatherers are historically the earliest settlers of the land.

The last community to be recognized, hence becoming the 43rd ethnic group was Makonde who originally came from southern Africa at the turn of the 19th century.

Furthermore, Kenya has sizeable Asian and European communities.  Most of the Asian communities are from India, who came to the country at the turn of the 19th century to work in the construction of the Uganda Railway. Besides, Indians, there is a significant number of Arabs, who have been living along the coastal strip for centuries, while of late the country has attracted a number of Chinese. The majority of the European community are originally from the United Kingdom who decided to remain after independence.

Percentage of Major Ethnic Groups in Kenya

Ethnicity in Kenya
EthnicityPercentage (%)
Kikuyu17.13%
Luhya14.35%
Kalenjin13.37%
Luo10.65%
Kamba9.81%
Somalis5.85%
Kisii5.68%
Mijikenda5.23%
Meru4.15%
Others including Whites and Asians13.78%

Translation of Fieldwork tools for a Kenyan project

Please note that when translating marketing and social research materials, there is no need to translate them into all the 43 languages spoken in Kenya.

This is because the country’s official language English is spoken by most of those who have secondary education, while Swahili, locally known as Kiswahili is spoken throughout the country by the majority of the population.

Therefore, survey tools like questionnaires, screeners, discussion guides as well as stimulus materials in either English, Swahili, or both will provide the desired results.

Kenya;’s Administrative Divisions and Sampling Units

Historically the country had five-tier administrative levels. These were Provinces, Districts, Divisions, Locations, and Sublocations. In the past, the country had 8 provinces and over 40 districts. The president back then could create and discard districts for political reasons. However, this changed when Kenya ushered in a new administrative structure upon adopting a new constitution promulgated in 2010.

Since 2013, administratively, Kenya is divided into 47 counties. The counties are further divided into sub-counties, which are then divided into locations and finally into sub-location. Consequently, the sub-location is the smallest administrative unity. Therefore when sampling for a market and social research in Kenya, the sub-location is the Primary Sampling Unit (PSU).

For election purposes, the County is divided into sub-countries which are also the country’s constituencies. To date, Kenya has 290 sub-counties (constituencies) and 1450 wards.

If you need to learn more about sampling for a market and social research project in Kenya, please feel free to talk to us by contacting us.

Religion in Kenya

The majority of Kenyans are Christians but with a sizeable Muslim population. Additionally, some people still practice indigenous religion while there are a significant number of people of Hinduism and Judaism.

Religion in Kenya
ReligionPercentage (%)
Christian85.52%
 Muslim10.91%
Non-Practicing1.60%
Traditional African Religion0.68%
Other Religions1.29%

Kenya Population and Demography

Kenya last carried its population census in 2019. The country population based on the census was 47,564,296, consequently ranking 29th globally. Additionally, the country has a population density of 78 persons per square kilometer or 202 people per square mile, making it the world’s 124th densely populated.  

Based on 2020 estimates, 14,975,059 people live in urban areas. Below is a list of the country’s major cities.

Population Kenya’s Major Urban Centers
No.Urban Centre NamePopulationCountyFormer Province
1Nairobi2,750,547NairobiNairobi
2Mombasa799,668MombasaCoast
3Nakuru259,903NakuruRift Valley
4Eldoret218,446Uasin GishuRift Valley
5Kisumu216,479KisumuNyanza
6Thika200,000KiambuCentral
7Malindi118,265KilifiCoast
8Kitale75,123Trans NzoiaRift Valley
9Garissa67,861GarissaNorth Eastern
10Kakamega63,426KakamegaWestern
11Kapenguria56,000West PokotRift Valley
12Bungoma55,962BungomaWestern
13Busia51,981BusiaWestern
14Nyeri51,084NyeriCentral
15Ol Kalou47,795NyandaruaCentral
16Meru47,226MeruEastern
17Kilifi46,118KilifiCoast
18Wajir45,771WajirNorth Eastern
19Mumias45,485KakamegaWestern
20Voi45,483Taita TavetaCoast
21Iten42,000Elgeyo MarakwetRift Valley
22Lugulu40,894BusiaWestern
23Homa Bay40,319Homa BayNyanza
24Naivasha38,366NakuruRift Valley
25Nanyuki36,142LaikipiaRift Valley
26Mandera36,076ManderaNorth Eastern
27Narok36,061NarokRift Valley
28Kericho35,748KerichoRift Valley
29Migori35,240MigoriNyanza
30Embu34,922EmbuEastern
31Moyale34,314MarsabitEastern
32Isiolo33,207IsioloEastern

In conclusion

Below is a quick summary of key information about Kenya

Quick facts about Kenya
ContinentAfrica
Sub-RegionEastern Africa
Capital CityNairobi
Other Major Cities and TownsMombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret, and Nyeri
GDP (Nominal) 2020 Est$109.116 billion
Per capita$2,296
GDP (PPP) 2020 Est$206.532 billion
Per capita$4,071
GINI Index (2014)42.5 (Medium), Global Rank 48th
Human Development Index (HDI)0.579 (Medium), Global Rank 147th
Time zone(+3) Eastern African Time
Official LanguagesEnglish
National LanguageSwahili (Kiswahili)
Type GovernmentA unitary state, republic, presidential system
LegislatureTwo Chamber; Senate and National Assembly
Independence from Britain12th of December, 1963
Declared a Republic12th of December, 1964
CurrencyKenya Shilling (KES)
Population53771296 UN 2020 Estimates
Area (km2)580,367
Area (sq mi)224,081
Highest MountainMount Kenya 5,199 meters  (17,057 ft) ASL
Largest LakeLake Turkana
Longest RiverTana
Calling Code(+) 254 XX XXX XXX
Median Age20.1
Urban Population27.80%
Life Expectancy67.47 years
Infant Mortality30.6 out of every 1,000 Live Births
Death Under the Age of 5 years40 out of every 1,000 Live births

Do you have a market and social research project in Kenya? Feel free to contact us for fieldwork and data management in Kenya

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