Tourism & Communications
Tourism is the mainstay
A century ago, the American President Theodore Roosevelt went on a hunting expedition in Kenya. This helped promote Kenya as the capital of the safari industry.
Today, the emphasis is on conservation, with 48 national parks and reserves. Kenya's wildlife is most valuable as a key attraction for tourists. As the country’s top earning sector for foreign exchange, tourism is a mainstay of the economy.
As well as the well-known safari animals, there are over 1,100 different birds in the country, making it an ornithologist’s delight.
Tourists are also drawn by the miles of white sandy beaches along Kenya’s coastline. Beach-lovers benefit from the winds which cool the steamy equatorial temperatures.
And the coast is calm and shallow, protected by the off-shore coral reef which stretches from Lamu in the north to Vanga in the south. Scuba diving and snorkelling are popular activities along the reef.
Tourism was badly hit after civil unrest in the early 1990s, terrorist attacks in 1998 and 2002, and violence following elections in 2007. The industry rebounded, recording its best-ever year for visitors in 2010, when over a million foreigners flew into Kenya. However, militant groups from neighbouring Somalia are proving a new threat to the industry.
Communication means business
A hub for airlines
Kenya's three international airports (in Nairobi, Mombasa and Eldoret) provide connections to various destinations in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
With its strategic location on the coast and well-established road network, Kenya acts as a hub for trade in East Africa.
Mombasa is the main port, dealing in most of the import and export traffic. And it's not only Kenyan goods handled by the port, but also exports from surrounding countries.
Mobile banking has proved an especially important and popular service. Many farmers and traders use their phones to transfer money and make cash payments – see Economy & Industry.
Telecommunications are advanced for the region. Kenya boasts the highest number of internet users (over three million in 2009) in sub-Saharan Africa.
Most of the population has no land line, but access to the internet is provided by the country’s mobile phone networks. Four-fifths of adults have a mobile, with phones cheaply available. The high take-up, even among rural Kenyans, has transformed lives.