The People

Virtually all of the people are Africans, members of more than 70 different ethnic groups, predominantly Bantu. The Bantu people live mainly in the coastal region and the southwestern uplands. The Kikuyus, a Bantu people, are the largest group in the country and a dominant force in Kenya's political and social life. Principal non-Bantu peoples include the Luo and the Turkana in the west, and the Somalis in the east. Among the smaller groups are the Masai, a pastoral people who use the blood and milk of their cattle as a main food.

The non-African population, which is less than 1 per cent, consists mainly of Britons, Arabs, and Asians (Indians and Pakistanis). Many of the British hold government positions or have managerial jobs in the manufacturing, banking, and communications industries. The Asians own a large percentage of the small businesses. The number of Africans involved in commerce and government has been slowly increasing.

Language and Religion

The official and most widely used language is Swahili (Kiswahili), the commercial tongue of all East Africa. Other widely spoken tongues are English, Kikuyu, and Luo. Most of the people are Christians, about 30 per cent of them Roman Catholics. About 20 per cent are animists, and about 6 per cent are Muslims.


Primary education begins as early as age five and lasts eight years. Secondary school lasts five years. The leading institution of higher learning is the University of Nairobi (founded in 1956). About 70 per cent of the people are literate.