Forty-nine years ago today, Governor General Malcom McDonald handed over partial power to Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta as Kenya moved from colonial to internal governing status as a British Dominion ahead of full independence on December 12, 1963, becoming a republic in 1964.
Since then, it has been a long journey and what a better way to look back than a visit to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data vaults for the numbers that tell our story.
8,636,263: Kenya’s population in 1962, a year before independence. This number has steadily been rising with the current figure standing a few digits shy of 40 million. And just like it was the case in the 2009 census, the first post-independent Kenya headcount indicated that the ratio of men to women was one to one
266,794: Nairobi’s population in 1963, which has grown eleven fold to three million as recorded in the 2009 national census.
46.5 yrs: Average male life expectancy in 1963 which has since risen to 64.2 by 2010. This is credited to easier access to healthcare and improved living conditions. Life expectancy for women is four years more in both cases
184: The number of MPs in the first parliament of independent Kenya. Although women had to wait for six years before Grace Onyango entered the house that professes the “just governance of men” in 1969. Now the house boasts 22 female MPs
908: The number of registered doctors in Kenya at independence compared to the 7,129 indicated in the government records as of 2010. Despite the increase in doctor numbers, the patient-doctor ratio remains low at 18:100,000
4,132: Number of registered nurses in 1963 which had grown to 29,678 by 2010. But just like the doctors, the patient-nurse ratio still hovers around the uncomfortable figure of 75:100,000. The huge number of patients that a single doctor or nurse attends to is one of the reasons why personnel from the two professions have been resorting to strikes in recent times
177: The number of hospitals in 1966 which has grown to more than 400 today
62: Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births) at independence. The current figure stands at 52 per 1,000 live births. However, this figure has been fluctuating over the years with one of the highest rates recorded being 78 in 2003. Also, note that many infant births and deaths went unrecorded in the early 1960s
35, 448: Number of registered cases of abortion countrywide in 2005, including unsuccessful attempts. The figures for abortion, indecent exposure, incest, defilement of minors — all of which were classified as crimes against morality— totalled up to less than a thousand
11: The number of typhoid cases reported countrywide in 1965 compared to more than 1.75 million cases reported in 2008. This is attributed to water scarcity and contamination at the source or in transit. Also the emergence of slums
0: Number of universities in Kenya in 1963 compared to the current 32. Although University of Nairobi existed as a college, it was upgraded to an autonomous university and renamed as University of Nairobi in 1970 with Kenyatta University as its constituent college
151: Number of secondary schools at the dawn of independence compared to the current 7,308. This is credited to the Harambee spirit and the introduction of programmes like the Constituency Development Fund (CDF)
27,489: The number of primary schools across the country by 2010, which is more than three times the 6,058 that were operational when Kenya became a republic in 1964
30,120: Number of students who joined form one in 1963 compared to 1.7 million recorded in 2010
45,427: The number of primary school teachers in service between 1962 and 1963. The rise of this number has been slow compared to the drastic growth of the number pupils attending primary school from a few hundred thousands during independence to several millions
2,922: Number of secondary teachers in service between 1962 and 1963. According to KNBS records, the number had risen to 52,937 by the year 2010.
1:50: Student teacher ratio in public primary schools. The huge disparity between the number of students enrolling and the hiring of teachers in both primary and secondary schools
445: Total number of students at the University of Nairobi in 1964, then known as University College, compared to 49,369 in the 2010/11 academic year
7,033: The length in kilometres of the railway line that was accessible to traffic at independence. This has drastically dwindled to around 2,704 by 2010 owing to negligence by the Moi-regime and the fact that no new lines have been built by the Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki regimes
2,219: The kilometres of tarmacked roads in Kenya during independence in 1963 compared to today’s 8,879. But while the post-independent era roads had around 100,000 registered vehicles to handle current roads have to contend with more than 1.4 million, which perhaps explains the constant traffic jams in urban centres today and the swift degradation of newly repaired roads
2,054: Number of ships that entered the Mombasa harbour in 1963 bringing along 74,177 passengers compared to the 1,579 vessels that brought 1,126 passengers in 2010. These vast differences are principally because the sea is now preferred as a mode of transporting goods rather than passengers across the world
15,440: The total number of landings and takeoffs (called movements) at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in 1966 that brought in more than 600,000 passengers and 9, 771 tons of cargo.
However, these numbers fade into oblivion compared to the more than 80,000 landings and takeoffs that flew more than 4.9 million passengers in 2008
525: Number of motorcycles registered in 1963. This number has rapidly risen in the last decade as motorcycles, commonly known as boda boda, have become and a cheaper and affordable means of transport.
According to the 2009 Economic Survey, the number of registered motorcycles in Nairobi alone increased from 4,136 in 2004 to 16,293 in 2007, a 400 per cent rise in just three years
2,253: Kenya’s forest cover in square kilometres by the dawn of Independence. Thanks to illegal logging and clearing of land for farming and other human activities the number has gradually dwindled to 1,422 square kilometres
35,275: The number of prisoners serving sentences of two or more years in Kenyan jails in 1966. The figure of prison population for serious offenders was 87,883 in 2011
29: The daily average of prison deaths in 1963, excluding official executions. The figure stood at 39 by 2010, according to KNBS records
2,326: The number of robbery cases reported in 1966. Figures from the KNBS’s 2010 Statistical Abstract indicate that the number was 2,843. This is a clear indicator that some forms of crime have remained constant in the past five decades
26: Number or reported rape cases in 1963, including attempts. In 2010 there were 1,398 cases of rape and 363 incidents of incest
11,747: The total number of personnel in the Police force by 1966 which had risen up to around 35,000 in 2003. But the ratio of police to population still remains around 1/400
230: The number of reported industrial disputes in 1963 which involved more than 54,000 workers. In 2010 there were 32 strikes involving a total of 38,272 workers from both the private and public sectors
Building and construction
30: The number of registered contractors in the building and construction industry in 1965 who, with a workforce of 5,474, earned a profit of Sh92 million.
This compares to 101,260 registered contractors in 2010 who raked in an estimated total of Sh300,000 million in post-tax profits
686: Number of house plans that were approved by the government in 1965, which becomes almost negligible compared to 93,575 that were approved in 2010. With the current boom in the building and construction industry, this figures were expected to be much higher in 2012
812: The millions of shillings that the government paid its more than two million public sector employees in 2009. In 1963 the number of government employees stood at 157,300, translating into an annual wage bill of Sh36.5 million
175: The shillings paid monthly to a contracted worker in Nairobi in 1966 as opposed to Sh140 paid to a female colleague. Casual labourers used to earn Sh7 daily. Compared to the cost of living at that time, the money was enough to afford them a life of relative comfort. The same labourer is paid between Sh250 and Sh450 per day today but most have to live in the slums because the money is not enough to pay for decent housing
75: Cost of bread in cents at independence compared to Sh40 shillings that consumers pay today. Most of the other basic household commodities like sugar, cooking fat, tea leaves and vegetables were being sold at around the same price as bread in the 1960s
2.03: The price in shillings of a bottle of beer in 1963. Today it costs between Sh110 and Sh400 depending on the location and clientele. But going by the consumption figures, the rate of drinking beer has been rising steadily despite the increasing price
0.95: Cost in shillings of a litre of petrol in 1963 which goes for Sh123 today
Sh8: The cost of dry cleaning a three piece suit at independence. The same service goes for Sh990 at White Rose, one of the oldest dry cleaning companies in the region