Kenya Overview: Economy
About 75% of Kenyans are engaged in farming, largely of the subsistence type. Coffee, tea, corn, wheat, sisal, and pyrethrum are grown in the highlands, mainly on small African-owned farms formed by dividing some of the large, formerly European-owned estates. Coconuts, pineapples, cashew nuts, cotton, and sugarcane are grown in the lower-lying areas. Much of the country is savanna, where large numbers of cattle are pastured. Kenya also produces dairy goods, pork, poultry, and eggs. The country's industries include food processing, flour milling, horticulture, and the manufacture of consumer goods such as plastic, furniture, batteries, clothing, and cigarettes. Petroleum is refined and aluminum, steel, and building materials are produced. Industrial development has been hampered by shortages in hydroelectric power and by inefficiency and corruption in the public sector, but steps have been taken to privatize some state-owned companies. The chief minerals produced are limestone, soda ash, gemstones, salt, and fluorospar. Kenya attracts many tourists, largely lured by its coastal beaches and varied wildlife, which is protected in the expansive Tsavo National Park (8,034 sq mi/20,808 sq km) in the southeast.
Kenya's chief exports are tea and coffee; fluctuations in their world prices and periodic droughts have tremendous economic impact. Petroleum products, flowers, and fish are also exported. The leading imports are machinery, transportation equipment, petroleum products, motor vehicles, iron and steel, and plastics. Major trading partners are the United States, Great Britain, Uganda, and the United Arab Emirates. Kenya's population growth continually exceeds the rate of economic growth, resulting in large budget deficits and high unemployment. The country's well-developed transportation system has suffered from neglect in recent years, but a new Chinese-built rail line opened between Nairobi and Mombasa in 2017.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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