Kenya (KE)

1.  Language information / Données sur les langues

1.1  Languages spoken / Langues parlées

a) Official / Officielle(s) :

Apparently none, at least as far as being named in the constitution. English is mentioned in some legal texts as official (L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde). There is some discussion now of giving Swahili an official status (article in East African Standard). Swahili and English are languages of government (L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde).

b) National, indigenous / Nationale(s), indigène(s) :

Swahili is mentioned in some legal texts as the national language (L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde).

About 60 are spoken, notably Kikuyu (Gikuyu), Luo, Luyia, and Meru (each over 1 million speakers). Ethnologue has an extensive list at

The Kikuyu, Meru, Gusii, Embu, Akamba, Luyha (or alternate spelling of Luyia), Swahili and Mijikenka (which in fact is a group of different ethnic groups) constitute the majority of the Bantu speaking peoples of Kenya. (Webbook)

There is a Swahili-English slang called "Sheng" which is popular especially among the young in uban areas.

c) Relevant pages in the Major Languages section of this report / Pages appropriées dans la section de ce rapport sur les Langues principales :

Swahili, Kikuyu, Luo/Acholi/Lango, Luyia, Meru, Kamba, Maasai, Kalenjin, Teso/Turkana

1.2  Language policy / Politique de langue

a) Laws/legislation / Lois/législation :

The site L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde has a page on Kenya at

b) Agencies / Agences :

Three institutions "involved in or responsible for African Language research" in Kenya (UNESCO 1985). Updated information is needed:

  • Department of African Languages and Literatures, University of Nairobi, P.O. Box 30197 - NAIROBI
  • Institute of African Studies, University of Nairobi, P.O. 30197 - NAIROBI
  • Kenya Institute of Education, P.O. Box 30231 - NAIROBI

c) Languages in education/literacy / Langues dans l'éducation/l'alphabétisation :

UNDP (2006) gives a literacy figure (without reference to which language[s]) of: 73.6%

1.3  Writing in national/indigenous languages / Ecriture en langues nationales/indigènes

a) Orthographies / Orthographes :

Before colonisation, Swahili was written in the Arabic script. This practice continues [verify] even though the language is currently written in the Latin alphabet.

The Latin script is used for other Kenyan languages. A chart showing the digraphs and diacritics used in some of them is available at:

b) Print publications / Editions imprimées :

UNESCO (1985) reported the following periodicals (name, frequency of publication, circulation, language). Updated information is needed:

1.4  Other comments / Autre commentaire

There is a suggestion that the politicization of language as a marker of "tribalism" (which is seen negatively) is discouraging use of languages other than Swahili (need reference).

2.  ICT situation / Situation des TIC

2.1  Infrastructure / Infrastructure

a) Telephones / Téléphones :

  • Fixed lines: Telephone mainlines: 10 per 1000 people (APC)
  • Mobile subscriptions: 1,591,000 (5.0 per 100 people) (ITU 2004 cited in Vodafone 2005)

b) Radio stations / Stations de radio :

c) Connectivity / Connectivité :

  • International internet bandwidth / Bande passante internationale d'internet :
  • ISPs / FSI :
  • Geographic coverage / Couverture géographique :

2.2  Computer & internet access / Accès aux ordinateurs et à l'internet

a) Computers & points of access / Ordinateurs et lieux d'accès :

  • Number of computers / Nombre d'ordinateurs: 5.6 per 1000 people (APC)
  • Cybercafés / Cybercafés:
  • Project telecentres / Télécentres de projets:

b) Internet / Internet :

  • Dial-up subscribers / Abonnés par ligne téléphonique :
  • Internet users / Utilisateurs de l'internet : 1,500,000 Internet users as of Sept/05, 4.4% of the population, per ITU (Internet World Stats)

c) Other / Autre :

  • Digital Opportunity Index (DOI): 0.13 (ITU 2006); 0.17, ranked 153 (ITU 2007)
  • ICT Opportunity Index (ICT-OI?):
  • ICT Development Index (IDI):

2.3  ICT Policy / Politique de TIC

"There have been significant changes in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in Kenya over the last ten years, despite the lack of a legislative framework to guide it. While it is difficult to capture all the developments in detail, the formation of the multi-stakeholder Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) has been a remarkable achievement. Through the network, an inclusive policy process has been catalysed, resulting in the country’s first draft ICT policy document, approved by cabinet in February 2006." (Munyua and Mureithi in GISW 2007)

"The Kenya Communications Act No. 2 of 1998 unbundled the Kenya Postal and Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC) into five separate entities: the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), which is the regulator; the National Communications Secretariat (NCS), which serves as the policy advisory arm of the government on all matters pertaining to the information and communications sector; the fixed-line operator, Telkom; the Postal Corporation of Kenya (POSTA); and a Communications Appeals Tribunal." (Munyua and Mureithi in GISW 2007)

The APC page, "ICT Policy in Kenya " has some information and links:

2.4  ICT4D/E & ICT training / TIC pour le développement/éducation, et formation en TIC

2.5  Resources / Ressources

ICT info

Ubuntu Kenyan Team has a page at

3.  Localisation situation / Situation de localisation

3.1  Country web content / Contenu web du pays

3.2  Web content in indigenous languages / Contenu web en langues indigènes

(See also specific language pages.)

3.3  Software localisation / Localisation de logiciel

a) Computer / Ordinateur

(See also specific language pages.)

b) Mobile phones / Cellulaires

There is apparently Swahili SMS, not sure about user interfaces.

3.4  Projects & organisations / Projets et organisations

3.5  Localisation policy / Politique de localisation

4.  References / Références

APC, "ICT Policy in Kenya," Africa ICT Policy Monitor, ("Politiques de TIC en/au Kenya," Observatoire des politiques des TIC en Afrique, )

Balancing Act Africa. 2005. African Internet Country Profiles, Part 2, East Africa. London: Balancing Act.

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, (page on "Meru," )

International Telecommunications Union (ITU). 2004. African Telecommunication Indicators 2004. Geneva: ITU.

______. 2006. World Information Society Report 2006. Geneva: ITU.

______. 2007. World Information Society Report 2007. Geneva: ITU.

Internet World Stats: Africa. 2006.

"Kiswahili Could Become Second Official Language." The East African Standard (Nairobi), May 9, 2005. (article at )

Leclerc, Jacques. L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde, "Kenya,"

Munyua, Alice W., and Muriuki Mureithi. "Kenya." Global Information Society Watch (GISW) 2007 Report

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Languages of Kenya,"

UNDP. 2006. ''Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis. Human Development Report 2006.'' New York: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). [Human development index Adult literacy rate (% ages 15 and older) (HDI) ]

UNESCO Regional Office for Education in Africa. 1985. African Community Languages and Their Use in Literacy and Education: A Regional Survey. Dakar: UNESCO.

Vodafone. 2005. "Africa: The Impact of Mobile Phones." The Vodafone Policy Paper Series, Number 3, March 2005.

Wikipedia, "Communications in Kenya,"

______, "Languages of Kenya,"

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