Kenya: Climate risk country profile

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The Republic of Kenya, located in East Africa, covers a total land area of 582,646 kilometers square (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.1 The country’s highlands are home to the majority of the population and also host significant farm lands. Highlands are relatively cool and agriculturally rich, and are largely dominated by commercial and small-holder farms. Principal cash crops include tea, coffee, flowers, vegetables, pyrethrum. Wheat and maize, as well as livestock production is also practiced across the highlands, which lie at 1,500 to 3,000 meters (m) above sea level.
The Great Rift Valley bisects the highlands into an east and west region forming a steep sided trench of 48 to 64 km wide and 600 to 900 m deep2 (Figure 1).

Kenya, while considered a lower middle-income country, has the largest economy in East Africa. It has a population of 51.3 million people (2018) and an annual population growth rate at 2.3%.4 Approximately 27% of Kenya’s population currently lives in urban areas. This is projected to increase to 33% and 46% of the population by 2030 and 2050, respectively.5 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2018 was US$87.9 billion and the economic annual growth rate 6.3% (2018).6 Kenya had continued to implement significant economic and structural reforms, which have helped to sustain economic growth and political gains over the past decade. Key challenges continue to be seen in the country’s inequality and poverty levels, which has increased the country’s economic vulnerability to shocks7 (Table 1).