To ease the burden that  British taxpayers had to put up with at the initial stages of conquest and occupation of Kenya, Britain had to make Kenya economically viable, having set up a system of administration over the colony. Europeans from Britain, south Africa, Australia and Canada were encouraged to settle on the vast “empty” land, followed by establishment of policies and structures to facilitate changes in basic infrastructure, agriculture, education and health.


The Kenya-Uganda railway was built between 1896-1901, with George Whitehouse as the Chief Engineer. Work on the railway was done by British and Indian personnel since the local people could not provide skilled labour. Though costly, the construction of the railway had a tremendous impact on the administration and economic development of colonial Kenya. State the reasons for the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway. (Explain why the KenyaUganda railway was constructed. Or:

Explain why the British Government built the Kenya-Uganda railway.)

  • Enormous economic potential in the Kenya & Uganda region.
  • Missionaries‟ need for easy movement into the interior.
  • Enhancement of British access to Uganda, which, to them, was a strategic territory.
  • The need to replace slave trade with legitimate trade.
  • The need for fast movement of troops to trouble sports within the region.
  • To prove that the territory was now firmly and effectively under the British crown.
  • The Berlin Act, which demanded that colonizers develop the colonies.

In 1901, the railway reached Kisumu, having passed through Nairobi in 1899.

Identify the feeder lines that were laid out to make the railway network a meaningful mode of accessing the interior in Kenya.

  • The Nairobi-to-Thika branch (1914).
  • The Konza-to-Magadi branch (1915).
  • Voi-to-Moshi (1918).
  • Rongai-to-solai (1925). Ø Eldoret-to-Jinja (1927).
  • Gilgil-to-Nyahururu (1929).
  • The Thika-to-Nanyuki branch (1930).
  • The Kisumu to Butere branch (1930).

By 1948, the Kenya-Uganda railway network had been linked with the Tanganyika network to form the East African Railways.

Explain the problems experienced in the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway.

(Explain the factors that undermined the building of the Kenya-Uganda railway.)

  • Additional costs and delays due to heavy reliance on British and Indian rather than local personnel. The British had to import Coolies, clerks and craftsmen from India to provide the necessary manpower and expertise.
  • Scarcity of food, water, medicine and other essential supplies.
  • Ragged and expansive unfamiliar terrain across the highlands into the Rift Valley. Descending the Eastern Escarpment and ascending the Western Escarpment caused engineering problems that took a lot of time to solve.
  • Adverse (dry and hot) climatic conditions across the coastal plains, the Nyika plateau and the Taru desert. These took a heavy toll on the builders due to heat and dehydration.
  • Costly and delayed delivery of the needed building equipment and materials.
  • Tropical diseases like Malaria, Smallpox and the Jigger.
  • Hostility to railway builders by some interior communities, who kept on stealing the materials and attacked railway builders. E.g. the Nandi stole telegraphic wires and iron bars to make ornaments and weapons.
  • The menace of the Man-eating lions, especially across Tsavo.


What were the results/consequences of the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway?

(Explain the impact/effects of the building of the Kenya-Uganda railway.)

  • Rapid expansion and promotion of British administration. With it, troops could easily be sent to the trouble spots.
  • Influx of Asians into Kenya, who embarked on commercial activities along the railway line. Ø Rural-Urban migration and rise of African enterprises e.g. hawking and charcoal selling. Ø Development and expansion of other forms of transport and communication, including telegraph and roads.
  • Increased cultural and social interaction among different races.
  • Rise and growth of urban centres like Nairobi, Kisumu and Nakuru, some of which mushroomed as railway stations or residential areas.
  • Rapid growth of trade between the interior, the coast and the outside world.
  • Easy accessibility to the interior, which the railway opened up to the outside world.
  • Rise of the railway as a major source of revenue for the colonial authorities.
  • Influx and settlement of many Europeans in the interior.
  • Creation of jobs for many Africans and Indians.
  • It facilitated the evangelisation work of the Christian missionaries.
  • Rapid development of agriculture and industry. The railway boosted Settler agriculture and growth of agro-based industries like flour milling and milk processing.
  • Massive land alienation, with some communities such as the Maasai and the Nandi being confined in reserves.



The period between 1900-1904 witnessed enormous influx of white settlers into the Kenya highlands, encouraged by the colonial government.


  • A visit to the Kenyan interior by sir Charles Eliot: the British Commissioner to Kenya, who referred to the Kenya highlands as a Whiteman‟s country. The colonial government therefore embarked on making Kenya a “Whiteman‟s country” by encouraging white farmers to form the backbone of Kenya‟s economy.
  • An urgent need to exploit the Kenya highlands for agriculture.
  • To finance the administrative expenses of the colony without involving the British taxpayers.
  • To pay for the construction and maintenance of the railway.
  • To produce raw materials for British industries.
  • To counter Asian influence in Kenya.
  • Suitability of the Kenya highlands for European settlement in terms of climate and soils.


Various factors enabled the White settlers to establish farms in the Kenya Highlands, such as the following:

Adequate rainfall experienced in the Kenya Highlands.

  • Concessions and loans granted to them by the government.
  • Provision of transport facilities such as the Kenya-Uganda and Feeder railway lines and roads.
  • Research services, which were started to support them.
  • Removal of trade tariffs and reduction of Freight charges on import and export of agricultural inputs and products.
  • Access to unlimited cheap labour.
  • Ample land snatched from Africans and given to them by the


  • Banning of Africans from growing cash crops and keeping exotic animals in order to eliminate any competition for labour, land and markets.
  • Promotion of cooperatives and provision of extension services for crop and animal farming, e.g. The establishment of the Department of Agriculture and research stations for crops and animals.
  • Building and maintenance of infrastructure i.e. development and expansion of road, railway and telegraphic services among other forms of transport and communication.
  • Enactment of Labour laws to force Africans to work in the White farms.
  • Imposition of taxes (Hut and Poll tax) to compel Africans to provide wage labour.
  • Setting up of a Land Bank to give credit to White farmers.
  • Protection of settlers against possible African rebellion.
  • Establishment of Agro-based industries, which created a ready market for settlers‟ produce.
  • Establishment of African reserves in remote and underdeveloped areas to deprive them of markets for their produce, thus forcing them to look for employment in White settler farms.
  • The Northey circulars of 1918 and 1919, which required chiefs to supply labour recruits for settler farms and government projects.
  • The Squatter system, which ensured that Africans residing on settler farms provided the required labour in return for small plots where they practised subsistence farming.


  • Pests and diseases.
  • Shortage of capital, which hindered procurement of farm inputs, machinery and labour.
  • High operational costs.
  • Alien climates and soils.
  • Constant raids by local inhabitants e.g. the Maasai, Nandi and Agikuyu.
  • Difficulty in marketing, particularly in the inter-war period (from the 1920s to the 1930s), characterised by price fluctuations.
  • African unwillingness to provide labour.
  • Transport problems due to inadequacy of roads and railways.
  • Poor farming methods i.e. lack of basic farming knowledge and experience.


  • Coffee in the Kenya highlands around Nairobi.
  • Tea in Limuru and Kericho.
  • Wheat in the Rift Valley.
  • Pyrethrum in the cool places.
  • Sisal in the drier areas near Machakos and at the coast.
  • Cotton in Nyanza.


This perennial plant (coffee) was introduced in Kenya in 1889 and was grown only by wealthy European settlers as it required plenty of farm input.

In spite of shortage of capital, chemicals and labour, coffee cultivation continued to spread, especially after the founding of the Coffee Planters  Association in 1908.

Until 1937, Africans were not allowed to grow coffee because, as the settlers claimed:

  • African labour would not be available for European farms.
  • African-grown coffee would be pron to diseases, which would easily spread to European farms.
  • Africans would bring unnecessary competition to a market that should be monopolized by Europeans.
  • African lack of knowledge in coffee cultivation would lower the quality of Kenyan coffee.


This was brought to Kenya in 1903, but it thrived as a crop from 1912.

Wheat farming was boosted by Lord Delamere‟s establishment of a flour mill (Unga Limited) in 1908. wheat was cultivated in the Nakuru and Uasingishu areas. To increase production, the government imposed a 30% Import duty on wheat flour and subsidised local Wheat farming. It was only after independence that African farmers began to grow wheat.


Sisal was introduced in Kenya from Tanganyika in 1893 and was initially cultivated around Thika in 1904. By 1920, it was the second-largest income-earning crop after coffee.  Major sisal growing areas were: Baringo, Koibatek, Oldonyo Sabuk, Ruiru, Thika,

Murang‟a, Voi, Taita and Taveta.

Africans started growing sisal in 1964. However, sisal later on faced stiff competition following the introduction of artificial fibres.


This Beverage crop was introduced in Kenya in 1903, but was not successfully cultivated until after 1925 when large tea estates were established in Limuru, Nandi, Kericho, Sotik, Nakuru, Murang‟a and Kiambu by tea companies such as Brooke Bond and African Highland from India, encouraged by rising world demand for tea and coffee.


Exotic breeds of livestock were introduced into Kenya by European settlers such as Lord Delamere, who, in spite of many problems e.g. diseases like East coast Fever and Rinderpest, mineral deficiencies and raids from the Maasai, set up factories like the Kenya Cooperative Crimaries (KCC), the Uplands Bacon Factory and the Kenya Farmers Association, encouraged by increase of Import duties on dairy and meat products to promote the local farmers.


These were land acts and ordinances passed by the Legico to empower white settlers to take up most arable land, especially in the highlands, to the exclusion of Africans and Asians. Such policies included:

  • The Indian Acquisition Act (1896) which empowered the authorities to take over land for public utility and for railway and government constructions.
  • The Land Regulations Act (1897), which allowed the government to offer white settlers certificates of occupation and a lease of 99 years.
  • The East African Land-Order-In-Council (1901), which defined Crown land as all public land that is not private. It empowered the government to take any land at will.
  • The Crown land Ordinance (1902), which empowered the government to either sell or lease crown land to the White settlers.
  • The Maasai Agreement (1904), by which the Maasai were pushed into the Ngong‟ and Laikipia reserves and White settlers acquired the vacated
  • The 1905 creation of four more reserves in the Kikuyu and Nandi areas.
  • The 1906 government confirmation that the highlands were reserved for White settlers. In it, Lord Elgin: the British Secretary of state, in what became known as the Elgin Pledge, confirmed that the Kenyan highlands were reserved for the White settlers.
  • The second Maasai Agreement (1911), which pushed the Maasai out of the Laikipia reserve to pave the way for White settlement.
  • The Crown land Ordinance (1915), which provided for a land-registration scheme for settlers. It opened for sale and leased Africans‟ land by the settlers. In it, Crown land included the land occupied by Africans.
  • The Kenya annexation Order-in-council (1920), which declared Africans tenants of the Crown, even in the reserves.
  • The Land Commission (1924), which fixed the boundaries of the reserves, which were legalized in 1926.
  • The Native Lands Trust Ordinance (1930), which declared African reserves permanent property of Africans.
  • The Carter Commission (1932), which fixed the boundaries of the White highlands and removed Africans from the highlands.
  • The Kenya highlands Order-In-Council (1939), which fixed the boundaries of the White Highlands and reserved them permanently and exclusively for the Europeans.


  • Disruption to traditional structures and activities e.g. interethnic migration due to land alienation. Also, women took up some of the roles reserved for men after the men went to search for wage labour.
  • Nationalistic activities among Africans due to the Land issue, which became a source of great bitterness. For instance, it spurred the Maumau uprising.
  • Alienation of the Africans‟ right to own land, causing Africans to be dispossessed of their land, even in the reserves as White settlers like Lord Delamere acquired large tracts of land. v Serious labour shortage for European farmers due to African unwillingness to work on settler farms.
  • Indians lacked access to arable land due to reserving of the highlands for Europeans. v Carving out of the best available land for European settler farming, Mission work and the construction of the railway.
  • Imposition of taxes on Africans to compel them to seek wage labour as the taxes had to be paid in monitory form.
  • African quest for alternative settlement due to the situation in the reserves, which caused some to become squatters on European farms.
  • Confinement of Africans into reserves specially allocated for them, characterised by overcrowding.
  • Introduction of the “Kipande” Pass Book through the Native Registration ordinances of 1915 and 1920 to coerce Africans to provide wage labour on large settler farms.


Determined to meet the Mandate regulations of the League of Nations, which compelled Britain to address African grievances more keenly than before, the colonial government in Kenya instituted three dramatic reforms in 1922 to settle the intense conflict between European settlers and Asians on one hand and Africans and other minority races on the other. These reforms were:

  • Removal of Governor Northey, who was replaced by Sir Robert Coryndon in 1922.
  • Abandonment of the Racial Segregation policy in Kenya except in the Highlands.
  • Allowing the Asians to elect four members to the Legico, which was initially settler dominated.

In a swift reaction, the settlers dispatched a delegation to London for consultation with the Duke of Devonshire, who was at that time the secretary for colonies over the reforms in 1923. This meeting came up with a fundamental set of principles, referred to as The Devonshire White paper.


The Devonshire White paper categorically stated that:

  • The Kenya highlands would be exclusively reserved for white settlers.
  • The Indians would elect five members of the Legislative Council on a Communal
  • The European settlers‟ demand for self government was rejected.
  • Racial segregation in all the residential areas and restrictions on Indian emigration were abolished.
  • Interests of the Africans were declared paramount to those of other races in Kenya. This meant that in case of conflict, African interests would be given priority before those of the emigrant races.
  • The Colonial Secretary would exercise strict control over the affairs of the colony.
  • A Missionary would be nominated to the Legislative Council to represent African interests.
  • Shortly later, John Arthur was appointed to take up this position.
  • The settlers would still enjoy an upper hand concerning representation in the Legico.


The Devonshire white paper left the settlers, the Indians and the Africans more dissatisfied than ever before as follows:

  • the Indians:
  • Totally opposed settler dominance in Kenya and called for equality of all races.
  • Opposed policies on residential segregation and restrictions on their emigration.
  • Called for direct and adequate representation in the Legico based on a Common Roll free election.
  • Objected to separate taxation of Europeans and Indians.
  • Opposed segregated education. v The settlers:
  • Opposed the Indians‟ call for equality, which they termed as unrealistic and wishful thinking. v Felt that racial segregation in all spheres would be justified since European culture was superior‟ and had to lead and dominate the colony.
  • Argued that they had the moral right to protect African interests.
  • Felt that the highlands were primarily theirs and that they had a legal claim over them.

In actual sense, the Devonshire White paper was the outcome of the struggle between the Europeans and the Asians, not between Africans and the Europeans. In spite of emphasis on African interests, total settler dominance continued up to the time Kenya attained her independence in 1963.


  • The White settlers continued their dominance in the politics of the country despite emphasis on African interests.
  • Asians were denied the right to settle in the Kenya highlands, which were reserved for European settlers.
  • It intensified rivalry between the Asians and the White settlers.
  • A missionary: John Arthur was appointed to the Legico to represent African interests.
  • It caused the Asians to refuse to take up their seats in the Legico.



  • Development of colonial administrative posts into towns e.g. Machakos, Murang‟a, Mumias, Kapsabet, Nyeri and Kisii.
  • Mining activities, as was with Magadi and Kakamega.
  • Construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway,, which led to the emergence of various urban centres, which sprang up as points for resting and for replenishing the supplies of the settlers and personnel along the railway line. Such towns include Voi, Makindu, Nairobi and Kisumu. (d) Commercialization of agriculture due to large scale settler farming, which led to rise of market centres, which then became towns e.g. Eldoret, Nakuru and Nairobi.
  • Asian establishment of shops along the railway, which grew into important centres and towns.
  • Agro-based industries e.g. flour mills, meat processing plants and saw mills, which attracted labourers from all parts of the country and transformed their surrounding areas into town centres.

Urbanization was largely the result of two vital processes. These were:

  • the expansion of the commercial sector, in which European and Asian business firms played a key role.
  • Influx of migrant African labourers from various parts of Kenya, who contributed to the expansion of the commercial sector in different capacities e.g. porters, fitters, shop assistants, overseers, dock workers, clerks, taxi drivers and interpreters.


  • Land alienation, which had pushed the Africans into reserves, which were congested, with poor soils, since their fertile land was snatched by the Europeans.
  • Desire by African entrepreneurs to take advantage of the wider markets in towns to escape poverty in the crowded reserves.
  • Attractions such as hospitals, water, electricity and other facilities of such kind in urban centres.
  • Many were escaping from the brutality of colonial administrators e.g. taxation and forced labour.
  • Prospects for good jobs and wages in towns.
  • Some women migrated to escape from unhappy marriages.



  • Interaction between people of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, which was crucial for the development of national consciousness.
  • National integration and a sense of nationhood as intercommunal differences and prejudices were watered down.
  • Formation of welfare associations e.g. the Luo Union, to cater for African workers‟ needs. Such associations served as a good training ground for political leadership.
  • Cementing of relationships between different ethnic groups and races through popular sporting and cultural activities in towns.
  • Gainful African employment in the industries, European homes and small-scale businesses.
  • expansion of industries due to ample labour and raw materials.
  • Many Africans acquired technical skills from their European and Asian employers.
  • Some Africans sold their produce to the urban communities and improved their income. v some Africans, particularly in towns like Nairobi and Mombasa converted to Islam, which, in addition to Christianity, created religious/spiritual diversity in the African society.

Negative effects

  • full urbanization of some migrant workers, who lost contact with their rural villages.
  • Rampant unemployment due to increased competition for the few a available jobs. v Disruption of rural economic activities due to mass movement of young energetic men into towns.
  • Establishment of slums due to poverty and lack of housing among migrant workers.
  • Very poor remuneration and unfavourable working conditions due to the large African labour force.
  • Social vices such as alcoholism, robbery and prostitution.
  • Indulgence in crime, especially by the youth.
  • Disruption of social structures in the rural areas due to migration of men to the urban.
  • Racial segregation, mostly in urban centres.


In order to control the influx and increase of the African population into towns, the colonial government authorities adopted the following measures:

  • A special Urban Pass (“Kipande”) was issued to identify legal African town dwellers.
  • Vagrancy laws were introduced and enforced, by which the police could arrest any African that appeared to be loitering in the streets without work and return them to the rural areas.
  • Different African communities were segregated by setting aside special locations for Africans working in towns, with Europeans living in high-income houses as Africans.

Were left in subhuman structures.

Such conditions led to formation of political associations and trade unions to air African grievances and to fight for the rights of African workers, eventually spilling over into African agitation and struggle for independence.


Initially, the colonial Kenya government provided Africans with industrial education, which would enable them to acquire technical and agricultural skills instead of high education, which, according to the government, the Africans had no mental capacity to pursue.

In response to this bias, Africans set up independent schools to give quality education to their people. Indeed, the period between 1940-1963 saw great improvements in the provision of education due to various factors such as the following:

  • The experiences of exe-soldiers in the Second World War convinced Africans of the advantages of higher education.
  • Increase in African nationalism, which meant increased calls for the improvement of the African education sector.
  • There was need to produce better and more skilled manpower for the future independent Kenya.
  • Primary schools were producing qualified children, who needed higher education. This necessitated establishment of Secondary Schools for Africans.

In colonial Kenya, formal education  was provided by four groups . These were:

  • Christian Missionaries.
  • The colonial government through local councils.
  • The Africans themselves.
  • Community organizations e.g. that of Asians.


Christian Missionaries introduced Western education in Kenya in  the 1840s. Up to 1910, they had established many schools without help from the government. As demand for Mission education and medical work increased, reading and writing became the yardstick by which to enjoy better lifestyles.

In 1911, the colonial government started the Education department, which offered grants to certain Mission schools for technical education. Then some industrial and agricultural schools were opened up. More schools were built in areas not effectively served by the Missionaries to avoid duplication of services or clashes with Missionaries, who were not in favour of secular control of education. By 1926, a notable number of Africans had completed  Primary education and could even proceed to Secondary School.

In colonial Kenya, Missionary education had three main features:

  • It was elementary. Subjects taught included Religion, writing, reading, Hygiene and Arithmetic.
  • It was industrial and technical in approach.
  • It was Denominational, purposed to inculcate doctrines of a particular church in the learner.


  • To impart agricultural skills in order to promote white Settler farming.
  • To train Africans in technical skills such as Carpentry and Masonry.
  • To train Africans as Catechists in order to spread Christianity.
  • To impart basic literacy.
  • To train Africans to be honest and obedient.

Among the Missionary groups that participated in the provision of education in colonial Kenya were:

  • The church Missionary society (CMS).
  • The church Of Scotland Mission (C.S.M).
  • The Africa Inland Mission (AIM).
  • The Holy Ghost Fathers.
  • The Consolata Fathers.


From 1900-1920, Missionaries established village schools, which were later transformed into elementary schools. A Two-Tier system evolved, which comprised two stages i.e.:

That which covered Standards 1-4, whose curriculum included Writing,  Arithmetic, reading, Religious Education and Hygiene.

That which dealt with Standards 5-7, which emphasized on acquisition of technical skills such as Carpentry,  Metalwork and Masonry. This was meant to provide semiskilled manpower for the colonial government and settlers.

The 1908 Fraser Commission recommended a racially segregated system of education. In 1918, this commission made the following far-reaching recommendations to the government:

  • Provision of technical education to Africans.
  • Maintenance of racially segregated schools.
  • More cooperation between the colonial administration and the Christian Missionaries.
  • Grants in aid for Mission schools.

In 1924, the Phelps Stokes commissioners toured Kenya to identify African educational needs.

The commission made the following recommendations:

  • Uniform system of education in all government and Mission schools.
  • Enhancement of sufficient training of teachers and related personnel by establishing colleges. Ø Building of schools in rural areas.

Therefore, schools were established for Africans by the Local Native Councils in 1924, free from Missionary or Government control. Among such schools were: Kagumo, Kisii, Kakamega and Machakos.


Secondary education was the exclusive right of Europeans, meant to eliminate African & European competition for jobs and to limit African political awareness.

Due to African pressure, Protestant Missionaries set up the first African secondary school (Alliance) at Kikuyu in 1926, while the Catholics established Mang‟u in 1930. Secondary schools for Whites included:

  • Prince of Whales (Nairobi) school, Ø Duke of York (Lenana) School, Ø Kenya Girls High School, etc.

Schools for Indians included: The Asian Railway School and Government Indian schools in

Mombasa and Nairobi. Community-based secondary schools such as Allidina Visram and the Arya Samaj foundation of the Ismailia were developed. In 1953, Hospital-Hill became the first multiracial school in Kenya.

Up to the 1950s, there virtually was no higher education for Africans. The colonialists claimed that Africans were not yet mature enough to pursue higher education.

Between 1940-1963, trends in African secondary education were influenced by many factors such as the following:

  • African soldiers returning from service in the second World War talked of and demanded advanced education in Kenya, having seen its benefits wherever they had been.
  • African nationalists mounted pressure on the colonial government to give more and better education to Africans to produce local skilled manpower, necessary at independence.
  • The establishment and success of Kakamega, Kisii and Kagumo schools, which by 1945 had outshone the endeavours of Mission schools in Examination results.
  • African demand for Secondary education outside Mission control after 1945.
  • African demand for a better higher education and a college similar to Makerere.
  • In response to these demands, the government increased the number of secondary schools to twelve by 1957. Africans who could afford advanced studies  proceeded to Makerere. This process went on until after 1960 when the Higher school Certificate (HSC) course was decentralized from Makerere college to the local secondary schools.

Unlike Africans, European children got adequate education. The colonial government spent a lot more money on European education than that of other races.


Before 1949, University education was only offered abroad, which made it scarce for Africans. Racial discrimination prevented African students from getting overseas government scholarships, bursaries or loans.

In 1938, Peter Mbiu Koinange became the first indigenous Kenyan to receive University education by obtaining a Masters degree in education at Columbia University in the United States of America.

University education opportunities for Africans in Kenya improved after 1949 following the establishment of Makerere University, which was linked to the University of London and produced its first graduates in 1953.

In 1954, the Royal Technical College (Now Nairobi University)  was started. Like Makerere, it was admitting students from all over east Africa. It started offering degree courses in 1961. That same year, it was  renamed the Royal College Nairobi. It became a university college in 1963.

The University College (Dar Es Salam) was established at the same time as the Royal Technical College of East Africa.

In 1963, Makerere, Dar Es Salam and Royal College Nairobi were merged to form the University of East Africa. They however separated in 1977 when the east African Community collapsed. As a result, each of the three became a fully fledged university, which greatly increased the number of Kenyan University students.


  • They taught in the “Bush” schools that were set up by the Missionaries.
  • They started independent schools and colleges e.g. Githunguri Teachers college.
  • They raised money through the Local Native Councils and established schools. Ø They started schools to protect certain African cultural practices like circumcision and Polygamy.
  • They demanded quality education.
  • The Africans who had converted to Islam taught in the Madrasa.


The following measures were adopted by the government to promote health in colonial Kenya:

  • Protection of Christian Missionaries in their Health Promotion activities.
  • Provision of finances to eradicate Malaria and other diseases.
  • Enactment of Health Ordinances such as the Public health Ordinance of 1921.
  • Establishment of the Development and Research Authority (DARA) for improvement of health services.
  • Establishment of the Bureau of Medical Research in 1949.
  • Establishment of public health centres and hospitals.


Initially, medical services in colonial Kenya were meant for Europeans only since they concerned themselves with diseases that affected Europeans such as Plague, Malaria and Sleeping Sickness.

In earnest, medical services started with the merger of the railways and protectorate medical services in 1903. In 1907, Doctor J W Arthur of the Church of Scotland set up a medical mission at Thogoto as the C.M.S started medical work at Buxton High School in Mombasa. In 1909, A R Barlow opened a Mission hospital in Nyeri.


  • Eradication of diseases such as Smallpox, Malaria and Sleeping Sickness.
  • Training of medical personnel to handle Western medicine.
  • Improvement of health and hygiene for Africans and Asians in towns.

Following a medical report by Professor William J.  Simpson, focus was centred on sanitary conditions in east Africa and more government support for medical services. However, the First World War broke out before the implementation of the report.

During the First World War, many Africans died of Typhoid Fever, Malaria, Dysentery, Influenza and the 1918 famine. To arrest this situation, the colonial government, with the support of Missionaries, undertook training of Africans as medical helpers. Medical training centres such as Thogoto, Kikuyu, Chogoria, Meru, saint Lukas Kilifi and Alliance Medical College were set up.

In 1921, the Medical department, empowered by the Public Health Ordinance, assumed responsibility over and embarked on using preventive rather than curative measures in the whole country besides providing for the building of a new medical school.

In 1949, the Bureau of Medical Research was set up as an agency of the East African High Commission. In 1951, what is now  Kenyatta National Hospital started training female nurses, supported by well wishers and mobile clinics. Medical facilities and health education in rural areas grew and expanded rapidly. By 1962, there were over 100 rural health centres in the country.


At first, Africans disliked and feared Western medicine, particularly its way of operative treatment. For example:

  • when the government introduced vaccination campaigns, some Africans saw it as a form of torture and went into hiding. They had to be induced with food or other attractive European goods in order to accept it and similar treatment.
  • Africans were not willing to be trained as nurses due to their superstitious beliefs e.g. the taboo against touching a dead body.
  • The existence of traditional medicine men endowed with a wealth of knowledge in herbal medicine undermined Western medical and healthcare programs.

Soon, Africans realized the importance of European medicine and started cooperating with the government in its Healthcare programs such as inoculation measures.


  • construction of dispensaries and other Child-Welfare centres.
  • Addressing people on Hygiene and prevention of diseases.
  • Introduction of Western medicine to cure diseases like Leprosy and Yellow fever.
  • Introduction of vaccines to prevent diseases.
  • Training of medical personnel to provide health services.
  • Demolishing structures that harboured rats, especially in urban centres.
  • Dissemination of information (spreading of education) on the control and treatment of diseases like Malaria, Plague, Smallpox, Typhoid fever and Dysentery, which were great killers. ü Money for medical care, obtained from local taxes and rates through the Local Native Councils.


  • They provided medication in the rural areas as the African medicine people provided services.
  • African orderlies were trained in Mission stations, especially at the Church of Scotland Mission in Thogoto.
  • Some other Africans were trained by the government as medical orderlies.
  • Africans cleared bushes, killed rats and drained swamps as part of compulsory community work.
  • African Chiefs were instrumental, especially in the construction of dispensaries and other Child-Welfare centres as well as addressing people on hygiene and prevention of diseases. In spite of all these, many people relied and still depend on traditional medicine as a significant alternative or compliment in health provision.


The following economic developments took place in colonial Kenya:

  • Transport and communication systems were developed e.g. the construction of railways and roads.
  • Settler farming, which promoted agricultural production for export and local consumption.
  • Africans were encouraged to grow some cash crops such as cotton and later tea and coffee. ü Introduction of money and establishment of the banking industry to facilitate economic transactions.
  • Development of local and international trade and commerce.
  • Establishment of food processing industries, which promoted the expansion of agricultural activities.
  • Exploitation of mineral resources in the country e.g. soda Ash in Magadi and gold in Kakamega.
  • Development of urban centres such as Nairobi, Nakuru and Kisumu.
  • Introduction of exotic breeds of livestock.
  • Development of the Tourism industry e.g. establishment of game-reserves and parks. ü Establishment of research stations and centres to improve farming methods and livestock breeds.
  • Development of the fishing industry through use of better fishing methods. ü Establishment of cooperatives and farmers associations.
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