Monday, February 15, 2010

Facts about Kenya

When I was a little kid, I remember asking teachers if I could use the bathroom. Their response was, "I don't know, can ya?" My dad told me to reply with, "Kenya is a country in Africa, next to Tanzania. So, can I go to the bathroom now or what?" Sounds like a kid story, but from then on, I always knew where Kenya was. Unfortunately, aside from my own fascination and reading, I never really learned much about Africa in school. To compound on that, so many people I've known have thought of Africa as simply a land mass full of lions, giraffes, elephants, and poverty where everyone looks the same, speaks the same language, and shares the same culture. This could not be further from the truth.

I could go on and on, but a few facts:

1. While it is true that over 50% of Kenya's population lives in poverty, Kenya also enjoys a reputation as the economic hub of East Africa. Countries such as China have invested in various projects in Kenya and companies such as Citibank have offices there.

2. Kenya's official languages are English (a vestige of British colonialism) and Kiswahili, a language derived from Arabic (the Arabs colonized Kenya around 18 centuries before the British Empire did). In addition, at least forty different local languages are spoken throughout the country.

3.There are at least seven major ethnic groups in Kenya, each with their own history and cultural traditions. This is common in quite a few nations. Within each nation, you continue to find multiple cultural groups, with their own language and traditions. So, when you think African, know that it applies to a wealth of diversity.

4. Most people in Kenya are Christian. About 45% of the population is Protestant and 33% are Catholic (more than the U.S. population, which is 24% Catholic). Other than that, about 10% are Muslim and 10% adhere to traditional belief systems, yet, according to CIA World Factbook, these numbers are disputed. Usually, when depicted in the media, people in Africa are thought to adhere to traditional belief systems. However, this is not always the case. I'll admit, as a Catholic, I was surprised to find out that Kenya had a higher percentage of Catholics than my own country.

5. Kenya is huge on the environmental scene as well. They have a government appointed Minister of the Environment and the UN Environmental Program is based in Nairobi. There are various organizations throughout the country, such as the Green Belt Movement, to help combat issues of deforestation, desertification and climate change. Even the Vatican has been stepping in on this. According to recent news, Vatican officials within the country have been making statements on the need to protect the environment.

OK, enough talking. Here's a map:)


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