Doing business

Current business situation

Kenya has grown economically to become one of the biggest and most diversified economies in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The main sectors contributing to economic growth are agriculture, building and construction, infrastructure development, manufacturing, transport and services, tourism, agriculture, mining as well as wholesale and retail trade. Since its independence in 1963, Kenya has followed a mixed economic development strategy aimed at attracting foreign direct investment. The government’s various economic reforms have concentrated on strengthening private investment.

Kenya has an estimated population of 45 million and is projected to grow to 60 million people by 2030. It is also a very young country with almost 45 per cent of Kenya’s population under the age of 15. The adult literacy rate in Kenya is 87 per cent and the population is well educated, English speaking, multi-lingual, with a strong entrepreneurial tradition.

The Government of Kenya in collaboration with private sector, civil society, development partners and other stakeholders, developed the Kenya Vision 2030 as the country’s new development blueprint covering the period 2008 to 2030. The vision aims to transform Kenya into a newly industrialising, middle-income country by the year 2030. The Vision is based on three pillars: the economic, the social and the political. Kenya has membership to the regional trading blocs of COMESA and the East Africa Community (EAC), and is a beneficiary country under the preferential trade enhancing schemes offered by the AGOA legislation of the United States (US) and the ACP-EU cooperation and various bilateral cooperation agreements.

Business culture

Kenya is a multicultural and multi-ethnic country. English is the most widely spoken foreign language and is the medium of instruction in primary and secondary schools and universities. Kiswahili is the local language. When introduced to someone for the first time, a short handshake is sufficient. Handshakes among people with a personal relationship are longer.

When greeting an elder, political leader or someone of higher status, it is a sign of respect to lower your eyes, grasp the right wrist with the left hand while shaking hands. After the handshake it is the norm to ask questions about the general well-being of the other person, their family or business in general. Rushing or skipping this part of the greeting process is poor etiquette.

Titles are important. People are generally addressed by their academic, professional or honorific title followed by their surname. Once a personal relationship has developed, you can address a person by their title and first name, first name alone, or nickname. Wait for the Kenyan to determine that your friendship has reached this level of intimacy. Kenyans often use metaphors, analogies and stories to make a point. They are uncomfortable with blunt statements. It is important to be alert in order to decipher the message between the lines. With this in mind, criticism should be delivered in private and given in a circumspect manner

Setting up in Kenya

A company incorporated outside Kenya may do business in Kenya through a registered branch. The process of registration requires the company to submit registration documents to the Registrar of Companies and once the process of registration is complete, the registrar will issue a Certificate of Compliance. Companies that may want to have representative or liaison offices are required to register using the same process. All businesses are required to obtain a personal identification number (PIN) which is the tax registration document, through the Kenya Revenue Authority. Subject to a few restrictions on owning shares in financial institutions and agricultural land, there are no restrictions on the percentage of equity that foreign nationals may hold in locally incorporated companies.

Banking and finance

Currently there are there are 43 licensed commercial banks in Kenya, 13 of which are foreign owned. Foreigners can open accounts with any commercial bank. Different banks offer different types of accounts to suit various needs and requirements. Most ATMs accept Visa cards.

Links and resources

Government, business and trade

Capital Markets Authority
Central Bank of Kenya
East African Community
Kenya Investment Authority
Kenya Revenue Authority
World Bank Doing Business Index: Kenya

News and media

Business Daily
The East African
The Standard

Please note: This list of websites and resources is not definitive. Inclusion in this list does not imply endorsement by Austrade. The information provided is a guide only. The content is for information and carries no warranty; as such, the addressee must exercise their own discretion in its use. Australia’s anti-bribery laws apply overseas and Austrade will not provide business related services to any party who breaches the law and will report credible evidence of any breach. For further information, please see foreign bribery information and awareness pack.