Problems of Kenya

We travelled around Kenya as tourists in a van. We saw the animals more closely than we saw the ordinary people of Kenya, because when we were in the Safari Parks looking at the animals, at least the roof of the van was open, whereas on the road it was closed. The workers at the lodges where we stayed were pleasant people, and it was interesting that they were always ready to stop and talk - about the area, about the wildlife, about Kenya.

We were told, however, that Nairobi was too dangerous to walk around in - as it turned out we didn't have time, anyway. At the Maasai Mara lodge, we met an Asian family from Nairobi. They had left Kenya under the Moi regime, but had recently returned, because they felt that Kenya, not England, was their home. We asked about walking around in Nairobi, and they said that, of course, white people could walk around in Nairobi, as all the foreign NGOs for the whole of east and north Africa were based there, so there were thousands of white people, and lots of fancy restaurants and discos and so on. But then they said, "Of course you shouldn't carry a fancy camera like the one you have, and you shouldn't walk alone. Your hotel will be able to provide a guard." So, it doesn't sound so safe, after all. And that's the capital city. It is difficult to judge this situation. If I were as poor as the average Kenyan, then I wouldn't be very safe to be around either.

FACT: our one-week trip, including airfares, cost over ten times the annual income of the average Kenyan.

The few pages that follow on the problems of Kenya do not pretend to cover everything. We were stunned by the beauty of the wildlife areas we saw, and the beauty of the country of Kenya. The limited range of people that we met were good people, and the people that we saw from our van looked energetic and dynamic. But, it would be wrong to ignore the problems of the country as a whole, and these pages are an attempt to bring this into the consciousness of the reader, as well as of ourselves.

In 1982, I visited China just after the country was opened to foreigners after the Mao Zedong era, and long before the current apparent prosperity of China. I was expecting Kenya to be similar to the China of this era. In some ways it was, and some of the better parts of Kenya, such as Nakuru, looked like provincial towns of China of today. However, overall, Kenya seemed much poorer than the China of 30 years ago, and certainly of the China of today. One of the reasons is surely that China has made an enormous effort to control its population, so that growth goes into improving the standard of living of a fairly constant population, whereas in Kenya it goes into increasing the population at a fairly constant level of poverty. There seems to be increasing penetration of Kenya by both Christian and Islamic sects. This is unlikely to result in the restriction of population growth and increased wealth per person.