The Republic of Kenya, located in East Africa, covers a total land area of 582,646 km², which includes varied formations of plains, escarpments, and hills, as well as low and high mountains. Starting east along the coast, low plateaus run inland (west) to an elevated plateau and mountain ranges, marked by the Kenyan highlands in the southwest corner of the country. Kenya shares borders with Ethiopia to the north, South Sudan and Uganda to the northwest and west, and Tanzania to the south. The country’s southeast coastline borders the Indian Ocean. Approximately 85% of Kenya’s land area is classified as a fragile arid and semi-arid ecosystem, which is largely pastoral , .
The population of Kenya is estimated at 54.986 million people (in 2021) , and according to current projections, the population will surpass 100 million by the end of 2058 . Annual population growth rate is estimated at 2.3% .
Approximately 27% of Kenya’s population currently live in urban areas. This is projected to increase to 33% and 46% of the population by 2030 and 2050, respectively . The capital and largest city in Kenya is Nairobi , home to about 4.556 million people (in 2019) . Other major cities in Kenya include Mombasa, Kisumu, and Nakuru .
Nairobi is also home to one of the largest slums in the world, the slum of Kibera . Kibera is the biggest informal settlement in Kenya and arguably in the Africa continent. Its population is estimated at 250,000, and has the highest settlement density of any settlement in the country . In Nairobi, poverty is highly concentrated in unplanned settlements, with nearly 33% of slum residents being poor, compared to just 9% of those living outside slum areas. Although the national poverty rate continues to fall, poverty rates in urban areas have stagnated. Over the past decade, the urban poor population has increased both in absolute terms and as a share of the total poor population .
Kenya, while considered a lower middle-income country, has the largest economy in East Africa . Between 2015-2019, Kenya’s economic growth averaged 5.7%, making it one of the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya has implemented significant economic and structural reforms, which have helped to sustain economic growth and political gains over the past decade. However, key development challenges remain, namely, poverty, inequality, climate change, continued weak private sector investment and the vulnerability of the economy to internal and external shocks .
In 2020, Kenya’s economy was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, through supply and demand shocks on both the external and domestic fronts (real gross domestic product is estimated to have contracted by 0.3% in 2020). Agricultural output grew robustly, while manufacturing and many services subsectors (e.g., tourism, education) were severely disrupted. In addition, a regional locust infestation, which started early 2020, also affected some parts of Kenya, especially the North East. Nevertheless, a significant economic recovery has been underway, although it remains highly uneven across sectors (with some, such as tourism, remaining under severe pressure) .
Access to electricity has been steadily improving in Kenya in recent decades, which has been important for the country’s economic development. According to Kenya’s latest Voluntary National Review (2020), the percentage of population with access to electricity rose from 41.5% in 2016 to 50.4% in 2019. The country has set an ambitious plan to achieve universal access rate by the year 2022. In addition, the proportion of population with primary reliance on clean fuels and technology increased from 14.6% in 2016 to 25.4% in 2019 .
Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) is key in the implementation of the SDGs, and an enabler of Kenya’s National Development Agenda. Kenya places emphasis on STI through its Vision 2030 and medium-term plans (MTPs). The MTP III, 2018- 2022 clearly outlines the importance of STI in the development process and gives ways of enhancing scientific innovations for future development. The Government prioritises excellence in research and development for the generation of new knowledge and technologies. In addition, Under MTP III, the STI sector aims to drive the transformation agenda by supporting the Big Four Agenda initiatives, namely Food and Nutrition Security, Universal Health Coverage, Manufacturing and Affordable Housing by ensuring that all sectors have access to new technologies in order to increase productivity and efficiency .
With one of the largest refugee populations in Africa, Kenya hosts over 520,000 refugees, including more than 278,000 from Somalia, close to 133,000 from South Sudan, 47,000 from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and 29,000 from Ethiopia. Most refugees stay in the Dadaab camp in the southeast, the Kakuma camp in the northwest, and in Nairobi .
Article 69 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 addresses the rights of the environment by providing that the State shall ensure the sustainable exploitation, utilisation, management and conservation of the environment and natural resources, and ensure equitable sharing of the accruing benefits. The Vision 2030 economic blueprint and its five-year Medium-Term Plans (MTPs) are tools that are meant to actualise the demands of the Constitution in service to the people of Kenya.
Kenya’s Vision 2030 seeks to transform Kenya into “a newly industrialised, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens in a clean and secure environment”. The current MTP plan, MTP III’s (2018-2022) theme is “Transforming lives: Advancing socioeconomic development through the “Big Four Agenda”. The Big Four Agenda has four pillars, namely: provision of Adequate Decent Housing, Increasing Manufacturing, Universal Health Coverage, and attaining Food Security and Nutrition. Over the 5-year period, the plan aims to achieve accelerated, high, inclusive, broad based and sustainable economic growth as well as social economic transformation and development.
Kenya has enacted the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA), amended in 2015, and the Climate Change Act (2016) to provide an appropriate legal and institutional framework for the management of the environment and for matters connected therewith. Mainstreaming of climate change at the national level is done through the National Climate Change Framework Policy (NCCFP), National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) 2018 -2022 and international protocols such as the Paris Agreement. Additionally, Kenya has also developed a Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan (2016-2030) which aims at supporting a globally competitive low carbon development path .
Public institutions responsible for environmental governance include the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Kenya Wildlife Service, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Kenya Forest Service, County Environmental Committees, Water Resources Authority, National Land Commission, and multiple environmental NGOs .
The EU-Kenya Green Diplomacy Conference, which took place on 11-12 May 2021, confirmed the shared interests of Kenya and the EU, including the transition to a green climate-resilient economy, aligned with the EU Green Deal .
Based on EU fundamental values and founded on mutual interests with Kenya, the draft Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) (2021-2027) identifies three priority areas for EU's cooperation with Kenya: (i) Green Transition, Environmental Sustainability and Resilience; (ii) Leave no one behind: Human Development and Digital Inclusion, and (iii) Democratic Governance, Peace and Stability .
EU Member States and financial institutions including the EIB and KfW have adopted a Team Europe Initiative to support Kenya in: its transition to a green economy, sustainable climate, smart agriculture, digitalisation, conservation of natural capital and biodiversity, transition to green and sustainable cities, and a better energy mix through supporting the production of green hydrogen .
Furthermore, the European Joint Cooperation Strategy (JCS) 2018-2022 supports the Big Four Agenda with a financial envelope of EUR 4.5 billion from 2018-2022. Support includes better resilience to climatic shocks in Arid and Semi- Arid Land (ASAL) areas and related drought, and support for implementation of the SDGs .
Kenya is highly vulnerable to climate variability. Over 80% of the country’s landmass is arid or semi-arid land (ASAL), and coastal ecosystems are under pressure from climate-induced acidification and sea level rise. Kenya’s growth is mainly nature-based; however, climate change is reducing natural capital and decreasing yield, causing greater shocks and recurring natural disasters . Climate change has already imposed constraints on Kenya’s economy, and these impacts will intensify in the coming decades. For instance, climate change will likely reduce crop and livestock production, as well as that of coastal fisheries, lowering aggregate growth and productivity . Significant impacts are expected for the country’s water resources, agriculture, health, and forestry sectors, as well its coastal zones . Rural livelihoods are particularly at risk from climate change, due to the dependence of the rural economy on climate-sensitive sectors .
Kenya is considered a high-risk country in terms of hazards, vulnerability, and lack of coping strategies . The most common hazards in Kenya are floods and droughts. It is estimated that over 70% of natural disasters in Kenya are attributable to extreme climatic events. Typically, major droughts occur approximately every ten years, and moderate droughts or floods every three to four years. Climate change is expected to increase the risk and intensity of flood events, as well as increase average annual rainfall amounts, while also furthering drought likelihoods for some areas across Kenya. Repeating patterns of floods and droughts in the country have already had large socio-economic impacts and high economic costs. For example, the 1998 to 2000 drought cost an estimated $2.8 billion, principally due to crops and livestock loss, as well as forest fires, damage to fisheries, reduced hydropower generation, reduced industrial production and reduced water supplies .
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