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To which language should you translate to localize in Kenya?

What we know from our community

Home to forty-three different ethnic groups, Kenya enjoys incredible ethnocultural and linguistic diversity. It was, therefore, necessary to adopt a common language to enable inter-ethnic communication. Kenya is one of the world’s fifty-five countries with more than one official language. The constitution recognizes both English and Swahili, locally referred to as Kiswahili, as the official languages. Throughout most official communication in Kenya, you will find both languages. All major media stations broadcast national news in English and Swahili. The Kenyan national anthem is sung in both English and Swahili. The Kenyan constitution itself is available in both languages. Swahili, however, is the national language and has been since 1970. Today, nearly all Kenyans speak Swahili making it the country’s most-spoken language. The development of the Swahili language dates back to contact between Arab traders and the coastal people of East Africa. Its use spread inland with time as it was considered the language of trade. 


Ikiwa ni nyumbani kwa makabila arobaini na tatu tofauti, Kenya inafurahia uanuwai wa ajabu wa kitamaduni na lugha. Hivyo basi ilikuwa ni lazima kupitisha lugha ya pamoja ili kuwezesha mawasiliano baina ya makabila. Kenya ni mojawapo ya nchi hamsini na tano ulimwenguni ambazo zina zaidi ya lugha moja rasmi. Katiba inatambua Kiingereza na Kiswahili kama lugha rasmi. Katika mawasiliano mengi rasmi nchini Kenya, utapata lugha zote mbili. Vyombo vyote vikuu vya habari vinatangaza habari za kitaifa kwa Kiingereza na Kiswahili. Wimbo wa taifa wa Kenya unaimbwa kwa Kiingereza na Kiswahili. Katiba ya Kenya yenyewe inapatikana katika lugha zote mbili. Kiswahili, hata hivyo, ni lugha ya taifa na imekuwa  tangu mwaka 1970. Leo, karibu Wakenya wote wanazungumza Kiswahili hivyo kuifanya iwe lugha inayozungumzwa zaidi nchini. Chimbuko la lugha ya Kiswahili ni pale wafanyabiashara Waarabu walipochangamana na wakazi wa pwani ya Afrika Mashariki. Matumizi yake yalienea ndani ya nchi baada ya muda kwani ilitumika kama lugha ya biashara.

Winnie, Kenyan translator and writer

If you need others information, below you can find a selection of economic/social/cultural data



Official language
English, Swahili


T-Index ranks countries according to their potential for online sales.

Other languages
Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Meru, Kalenjin, Kamba

High proficiency (EF) – 21 of 112 countries/regions in the world- 2/21 position in Africa.


Capital: Nairobi
Currency: Kenyan shilling
Population: 54,98 m
Population density: 97/km2


GDP: 110.35 billion USD (2020)
GDP per capita: 5,023.5 USD ‎(2020) ‎
Exports: $6.52 billion (2020)


Unemployment rate: 5% (2020)
Urbanisation: 27.51% (2019)
Literacy: 82% (2018)
Internet users: 42% penetration, 23.35 million

By 2025 more than 50% of SubSaharan Africa will have a mobile connection, of which 65% will have a smartphone. This will result in more than 475 million mobile internet users; the top three markets for smartphone users are projected to be Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya.


Numbering system
Arabic numbering system and dot as decimal separator

Date format: yyyy-mm-dd/ dd-mm-yyyy / mm-dd-yyyy
Time: 24h time system
Country code: 00254

Language data sources: Worldatlas/Britannica//EF/Wikipedia; Demography data sources: IMF/Worldometers; Conventions data source: Wikipedia; Economy data sources: WTO/OEC/CIA/Esomar/Datareportal; Statistics data sources: Datareportal/WorldBank/UN/UNESCO/CEIC/IMF/Culturalatlas/Commisceoglobal

Facts and data


Imports $18.2 billion (2019). Refined Petroleum ($2.13B), Palm Oil ($671M), Broadcasting Equipment ($521M), Packaged Medicaments ($477M), and Cars ($403M), importing mostly from China ($4.86B), India ($1.95B), United Arab Emirates ($1.34B), Japan ($755M), and Saudi Arabia ($632M).

Financial inclusion factors (over 15 years of  age)
• 28% have an account with a financial institution
• 1.3% have a credit card
• 49% have a mobile money account
• 26% make online purchases

Ease of doing business
It is easy to conduct business (rated 73.2 out of 100) ranked 3rd out of 48 African countries. 56th out of 190 countries worldwide (2020, World Bank)

Global Innovation Index
Ranked 3rd out of 27 Sub-Saharan African countries, 85th out of 132 worldwide.

The Global Innovation Index captures the innovation
ecosystem performance of 132 economies and tracks the most recent global innovation trends.

$6.52 billion (2019). Tea ($1.2B), Cut Flowers ($596M), Refined Petroleum ($308M), Gold ($262M), and Coffee ($229M), exporting mostly to Uganda ($940M), Pakistan ($515M), Netherlands ($503M), United States ($496M), and United Kingdom ($435M).

Main local online stores
Jumia, Kilimall, OLX, Pigiame, Cheki, Electrohub, Mimi, Mamamikes, Masoko, MallforAfrica

Economic freedom
‘Mostly not free’ (rated 52.6 out of 100) Ranked 28th out of 47 African countries Ranked 138th worldwide out of 177 countries (2022, Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal)

Economy data sources: WTO/OEC/CIA/Esomar/Datareportal

Kenya. A country’s loss of identity in the quest for globalization.

Kenya. A country’s loss of identity in the quest for globalization.

By Winnie Ngimor

Home to forty-three different ethnic groups, Kenya enjoys incredible ethnocultural and linguistic diversity. It was, therefore, necessary to adopt a common language to enable inter-ethnic communication.

Read it now

Service Imports (2014)

Source: OEC

Most complex products by PCI

Product Complexity Index measures the knowledge intensity of a product by considering the knowledge intensity of its exporters

Source: OEC

Service Exports (2014)

Source: OEC

Most specialised products by RCA Index

Specialisation is measured using Revealed Comparative Advantage, an index that takes the ratio between Kenya observed and expected exports in each product

Source: OEC

Export Opportunities by Relatedness

Relatedness measures the distance between a country's current exports and each product, the barchart show only products that Kenya is not specialized in

Source: OEC



Reach most of the online purchasing power

T-Index ranks countries according to their potential for online sales. It estimates the market share of each country in relation to global e-commerce.

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Media language English, Swahili

Information channels
Kenya has a lively media scene and a small number of big players dominate the industry. One of them, Nation Media Group, also operates in neighbouring countries. The state-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) is funded from advertising and a government budget.

Television is the leading medium and free-to-air digital terrestrial TV is the most popular platform. Privately-owned Citizen TV is the top station in terms of audience and revenue. Radio is flourishing and there were 173 licensed stations by the end of 2018, according to the Communications Authority. Entertainment, music and phone-ins dominate their output. Radio is an important medium in rural areas, where most Kenyans live. Many stations broadcast in local languages other than English or Swahili. Full-time FM relays of the BBC World Service are on the air in Nairobi (93.9), Mombasa (93.9) and Kisumu (88.1). The highly-competitive press scene is the most sophisticated in east Africa. Print media are dominated by two publishing houses, the Nation and Standard. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in 2019 that Kenya has seen “a slow erosion” of media freedom. It said that the political situation and security concerns have been used as grounds to restrict the freedom to inform. Freedom House said that the government and security forces harass journalists, sometimes prompting self-censorship. Kenya leads the region in internet connectivity, mobile phone use and social media engagement. Mobile devices are the main means of access. There were 43 million internet users by June 2019, comprising 83% of the population (InternetWorldStats). A 2018 cyber-crime law has been criticised for criminalising vaguely-defined offences and for allowing for punitive measures against journalists.

The press

Daily Nation – market-leading daily published by the Nation Media Group
The Standard – privately-owned daily, Kenya’s oldest newspaer
The Star – privately-owned daily
The East African – weekly, published by the Nation Media Group
Taifa Leo – Swahili daily published by the Nation Media Group


Kenya broadcasting Corporation (KBC) – state- owned
Citizen TV – private, most watched network, owned by Royal Media Services (RMS)
Kenya Television Network (KTN)
– private, operated by Standard Group
NTV – private, operated by Nation Media Group
K24– private, news


Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) – state-owned, networks in English, Swahili and other indigenous languages
Capital FM – national commercial network, music and hourly news
Kiss FM– national commercial network, music
Radio Citizen – national commercial network

News agency

Kenya News Agency  – state-owned
Business Today – news website  – news website

Media data source: BBC

Internet Data

Internet users
42% penetration, 23.35 million

Share of web traffic by device
69.43% mobile phones, 29.62% computers (laptops and desktops), 0.94% tablet devices, others 0.01%

Median speed of mobile Internet connection
13.19  Mbps

Median speed of fixed Internet connection
8.58 Mbps

Mobile connection as a percentage of total population: 114.2%

Percentage of mobile connections that are broadband (3G-5G): 65.3%

Most popular web search engines
Google (97.32%), Bing (2.25%),Yahoo (0.21%), Duckduckgo (0.13%), Petal Search(0.02%), Ecosia (0.02%) 

Most used social media
Facebook (60.89%), Twitter (16.7%), YouTube (9.2%), Instagram (6.69%), Pinterest (5.33 %), Linkedin (0.58%)

Internet data sources: Datareportal/Statcounter

Social statistics

Life expectancy
78.73 yrs (2020)

Healthcare Expenditure
4.5%of GDP (2018)

27.51% (2019)

Political leaders and the wealthy are deferred but there are no castes. In the workplace, staff members with money or connections expect special treatment.

Every Kenyan is affiliated to a tribe. The local culture is therefore a patchwork composed of approximately 30 representative groups and a large influence from religion. Regional cultures play a part too although it is not major in the larger picture.

Median age of the population
18.87 years


Most Kenyans are Christians. There is a large population of Muslims on the Kenyan Coast. There are also traditional religions coexisting with these two major ones. Many Christians and Muslims have found a way to accommodate both culture and religion, thus changing both the culture and the religion to suit each other. In the workplace: A firm in Mombasa has to take into account Islamic holidays more than a firm in Nairobi.

Men are regarded as the “first” gender and expect to be treated as such; women are “second”. Women are not supposed to have a voice and if they do voice their opinions publicly, they open themselves up to insult. In the workplace: A woman supervisor has a harder task at work, even when she is supervising other women.

Social statistics sources: WorldBank/UN/UNESCO/CEIC/IMF

The Data Factbook is a work in progress project. Our community is helping us to fill it up always with new and updated data. Your contribution is precious. If you want to help us, please write your advices at

Language research

Main language families in Kenya



  • Turkana

  • Kikuyu

  • Kenyan Somali

  • Mijkenda

  • Kamba

  • Maasai

  • Kisii

  • Luo

  • Luhya

  • Kalenjin

The geographical distribution of languages that you will find in the maps published in this section is a work in progress. Our community is helping us to fill it up with always new and updated data. Your contribution is precious. If you want to help us, please write to

Photo credit: Amani Nation Unsplash