Kenya had a population of approximately 48 million people in January 2017 with a young population of 73% of residents aged below 30 years because of rapid population growth from 2.9 million to 40 million inhabitants over the last century.

Nairobi is a home to Kibera which is one of the world’s largest slums. The shanty town is believed to house between 170,000 and 1 million locals. The UNHCR base in Dadaab in the north also currently houses around 500,000 people.

Ethnic groups

Kenya has a diverse population that includes most major ethno-racial and linguistic groups found in Africa. There are an estimated 47 different communities with Bantus (67%) and Nilotes (30%) constituting the majority of local residents.

Cushitic groups also form a small ethnic minority, as do Arabs, Indians and Europeans. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), Kenya has a total population of 38,610,097 inhabitants.

The largest native ethnic groups are the Kikuyu (6,622,576), Luhya (5,338,666), Kalenjin (4,967,328), Luo (4,044,440), Kamba (3,893,157), Kisii (2,205,669), Mijikenda (1,960,574), Meru (1,658,108), Turkana (988,592), and Maasai (841,622). Foreign-rooted populations include Kenyan Arabs, Somalis, Asians and Europeans.


Kenya’s various ethnic groups typically speak their mother tongues within their own communities. The two official languages, English and Swahili, are used in varying degrees of fluency for communication with other populations.

English is widely spoken in commerce, schooling and government. Peri-urban and rural dwellers are less multilingual with many in rural areas speaking only their native languages.
British English is primarily used in Kenya.

Additionally, a distinct local dialect (Kenyan English) is used by some communities and individuals in the country containing features which are unique to it that were derived from local Bantu languages such as; Kiswahili and Kikuyu.

It has been developing since colonization and also contains certain elements of American English. Sheng is a Kiswahili-based cant spoken in some urban areas primarily consisting of a mixture of Kiswahili and English, and it is an example of linguistic code-switching.

There are thus a total of 69 languages spoken in Kenya most of which belong to two broad language families called; Niger-Congo (Bantu branch) and Nilo-Saharan (Nilotic branch) spoken by the country’s Bantu and Nilotic populations respectively.

The Cushitic and Arab ethnic minorities speak languages belonging to the separate Afro-asiatic family with the Indian and European residents speaking languages from the Indo-European family.