Marvin Jessop

Anthropology 100

Katrina Prime


Globalized Kenya


Before globalization and colonialism, Kenya was a territory with no boarder lines. It is estimated that Kenya was settled by humans from all corners of Africa around 2000 BC. Archeological findings, however, suggest that humanoids have been there more than 20 million years ago. The famous Homo erectus skeleton known as Turkana Boy, is displayed at the Nairobi National Museum. This is why Kenya is referred to as the cradle of humanity.

The language the first human settlers in Kenya spoke was Cushitic. In the 1st century AD, Kenya’s coast was visited frequently by Arab traders because of its proximity to the Arabian Peninsula, and so Arab and Persian colonies were established there. Later in the same century, the Nilotic and Bantu people also came and settled inland. The Swahili language, a mixture of Bantu and Arabic then developed as a lingua franca for trade between the different peoples.By around the 8th century Arabs, Indians, Persians and even Chinese were arriving on the Kenyan coast to trade skins, ivory, gold and spices.

Then in 1498, the Portuguese arrived and the Arab dominance on the coast was taken, which was a blow for Arab because the Port of Mombasa was used by them to resupply stop for ships that were going to the Far East. The Portuguese built Fort Jesus in 1593, which today is one of Mombasa’s top tourist attractions. They gave way to Islamic control under the Imam of Oman in 1698 after a 33-month siege. By 1730 all the Portuguese had left the East African coast for Mozambique.


The colonial history of Kenya go back to the Berlin Conference in 1885, when Africa was divided into territories of influence by the European powers. One of the territories the British Government got was Kenya where they opened its fertile highlands to white settlers. Before Kenya was officially declared a British colony in 1920, the white settlers were allowed a voice in government, while the Africans and the Asians were banned from direct political participation until 1944. During this period 32,000 Indians were brought into Kenya to work on building the Kenya Uganda Railway Line. Many stayed after it was completed, as did most of the Indian traders and small businessmen.

Then in October 1952 to December 1959, Kenya was put under a “state of emergency” because of the Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule. As a result, thousands of Kenyans were incarcerated in detention camps. By 1956, the death toll stood at more than 13,500 Africans and about 100 Europeans. In 1959 Jomo Kenyatta, one of the original Mau Mau leaders, was released from prison. In 1960 the British government officially announced their plan to transfer power to a democratically elected African government. Kenyatta became president of KANU (Kenya African National Union) in October 1961, then Kenya’s first prime minister in December 12, 1963, the day Kenya got independence. The following year, Kenya became a Republic with Kenyatta as its first President. In the same year Kenya joined the British Commonwealth.


The majority of Kenyans do not believe globalization has improved their lives. An open global market economy will provide benefits, Kenyans believe, only when government is effective and efficient.(Lehmann). In its early years Kenya was quite a success story, praised as a model African market economy, especially in contrast to its neighbor, Tanzania, which had embarked on a quasi-Maoist form of communal development. However, the death of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, in 1978, destabilized politics and contributed to Kenya’s rapid decline. Kenya’s average GDP per capita fell from $500 to about $300. The UN’s 2003 Human Development Index ranks Kenya 146th out of 175 countries

The positive effects of globalization in Kenya is the World Bank-IMF’s Structural Adjustment Programs of the 1980s and 1990s played an important role in liberalizing their economy for the benefit of domestic and global capital. Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, has made great steps developing its global trade, transport, communications, financial, and investment connections since the 1980s due to large tourist flows to Kenya and the ongoing concentration of multinational corporations, international NGOs, and UN agencies in the city. Moreover, the city’s global distribution and consumption role has benefited from the increased emigration of Kenyans to richer countries and the subsequent increase in remittances, continuing regional political instability in East and Central Africa and the ensuing relocation of wealthy Somalis, Rwandese, & Congolese to the city and, the increasing role of Nairobi in aspects of the global underground economy (Nelima).

The negative effects of globalization has risen its social and economic division. The majority of Kenyans are still poor where as the elite have fenced residential homes, offices, and leisure spaces. Kenya has had serious problems in the 1980s with the collapse of its commodity-based economy left the country deep in debt, and persistent corruption and neglect of basic infrastructure and services have stalled economic development. Still, writes Lehmann, the country has “key assets that should enable it to participate in a global economy”(Nelima). Kenya is a pretty well of country because of their successful education system, natural beauty that draws tourists, and a society mostly free of the ethnic violence that is still happening in other countries close by. 56 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. An estimated 15 percent are infected with HIV/AIDS, and life expectancy has fallen to 45 years (Lehmann).



NAIROBI: How many people know that there is a high probability that in Europe most flowers given to loved ones on St Valentine’s Day come from Kenya? Since the country’s independence in 1963, and especially in recent years, horticulture has emerged as one of Kenya’s great economic success stories. Flowers picked in the morning reach the markets in Amsterdam by evening. Horticulture is the country’s fastest growing sector and is ranked third (after tourism and tea) as a foreign exchange earner. At a time when most foreign investors are wary of committing money in Kenya, horticulture is one of the few industries that continue to attract foreign investment. However, horticulture does not need to be the only shining star of Kenya’s global economic success. The country’s political and economic openness places it in a good position to benefit from globalization.

Kenya’s low level of human development is partly due to economic circumstances. As with many sub-Saharan African countries, Kenya’s commodity-based economy – and its export earnings – was hard-hit when commodity prices collapsed in the late 1970s and 80s. The collapse caused the country’s debt service to more than double, from 16 percent in 1980 to 34 percent in 1990.

But the country has also suffered abysmal national governance. As a result of almost 25 years of corruption and neglect of basic services and infrastructure, Kenya is in dire straits. The World Economic Forum’s 2001 Africa Competitiveness Report ranked Kenya 22nd among 24 countries, surpassing only Zimbabwe and Madagascar. The 2003 Index of Economic Freedom gives Kenya a poor mark as “mostly unfree”. The most telling indicator, perhaps, is Transparency International’s “corruption perception index”, in which Kenya ranks 122nd amongst 133 countries.

Kenya has certain key assets that enable it to participate in the global economy. First, it is a breathtakingly beautiful country, endowed with a fantastic climate. Though tourism declined because of terrorist attacks in 1998 and 2002, the sector is expected to revive soon.

Second, Kenya boasts a stable society devoid of the sectarian and ethnic violence and conflict that characterizes most sub-Saharan African nations. Geographic borders of nations in sub-Saharan Africa reflect a colonial legacy rather than the ethnic, religious, and linguistic landscape of the region’s inhabitants. This has led to wars, massacres, and other inter-ethnic hostilities in many African countries. In Kenya’s region of Africa, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo and Mozambique have all suffered from internal strife. Kenya, in spite of a population composed of over forty different tribes and a large Christian majority and a strong Muslim minority (10%), has had neither conflicts nor secessionist movements.

Third, Kenya is an exceptionally tolerant society. As in many other countries of East Africa, Kenya has a successful merchant Indian minority. Unlike the violent discrimination against the Indian minority that characterized Idi Amin’s brutal regime in Uganda, Indians in Kenya comprise an economically prosperous community. This is also true of the local European (mainly British) population.

Fourth, Kenya’s integration within the global economy is also facilitated by a well functioning and successful education system. Male literacy is 90%, a high for any nation, especially one as poor as Kenya. Although female literacy is at 80% – a gender disparity that needs to be addressed – it compares favourably to most developing countries.

More recently, Kenya has seen the development of a garment industry and the creation of export processing zones, spearheaded by the Clinton administration’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). As mentioned, horticultural is very successful, as is tea, in spite of the competition from Vietnam. Other sectors, notably sugar and coffee, have suffered from mismanagement and excessive government intervention. Kenya is a major “exporter” of nurses, doctors, and teachers, who are an important source of remittances. At the macro level, Kenya has been able to limit inflation to an average annual rate of 2.5% in the last decade.


Lehmann, Jean-Pierre: “Kenya: Globalizing with flowers” YaleGlobal April 9, 2004.

Nelima: “The Globalization of African Cities: The Case of Nairobi Kenya” Minneafrica April 21, 2009.



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