Doing Business In Kenya

  1. Doing Business 2013 (DB 2012) ranks Kenya 121st out of 185 economies. The overall score has declined by 4 points compared to last year, reflecting a 19 point drop in the Enforcing Contracts indicator.
  2. According to the latest Enterprise Surveys (2007), the top there obstacles to running a business in Kenya include Tax Rates, Access to Finance and Practices of the Informal Sector.
  3. Among the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa covered by the Investing Across Sectors indicators, Kenya restricts foreign ownership in more sectors than most other economies. Foreign capital participation in telecommunications is limited to a maximum of 70%. However, the law provides foreign investors with a grace period of 3 years to build up the required domestic capital contribution of 30%.
  4. Kenya’s economic freedom score is 57.5, making its economy the 103rd freest in the 2012 Index. Its score is virtually unchanged from last year, with gains in monetary freedom and the control of government spending offset by a significant loss of trade freedom. Kenya is ranked 13th out of 46 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, and its overall score is below the world average.

Source: World Bank


Visa Information

Visas are now required by almost all visitors to Kenya, including Europeans, Australians, New Zealanders, Americans and Canadians, although citizens from a few smaller Commonwealth countries are exempt. Visas (US$50/€40/UK£30) are valid for three months from the date of entry and can be obtained on arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. Tourist visas can be extended for a further three-month period.
It’s also possible to get visas from Kenyan diplomatic missions overseas, but you should apply well in advance, especially if you’re doing it by mail. Visas are usually valid for entry within three months of the date of issue. Applications for Kenyan visas are simple and straightforward in Tanzania and Uganda, and payment is accepted in local currency. Visas can also be issued on arrival at the land borders with Uganda and Tanzania.
Under the East African partnership system, visiting Tanzania or Uganda and returning to Kenya does not invalidate a single-entry Kenyan visa, so there’s no need to get a multiple-entry visa unless you plan to go further afield. The same applies to single-entry Tanzanian and Ugandan visas, though you do still need a separate visa for each country you plan to visit. Always check the latest entry requirements with embassies before travel.
It’s always best to smarten up a bit if you’re arriving by air; requests for evidence of ‘sufficient funds’ are usually linked to snap judgments about your appearance. If it’s fairly obvious that you aren’t intending to stay and work, you’ll generally be given the benefit of the doubt.
Visa Extensions
Visas can be renewed at immigration offices during normal office hours, and extensions are usually issued on a same-day basis. Staff at the immigration offices are generally friendly and helpful, but the process takes a while. You’ll need two passport photos for a three-month extension, and prices tend to vary widely depending on the office and the whims of the immigration officials. You also need to fill out a form registering as an alien if you’re going to be staying more than 90 days. Immigration offices are only open Monday to Friday; note that the smaller offices may sometimes refer travellers back to Nairobi or Mombasa for visa extensions.
Local immigration offices include the following:
Kisumu (1st fl, Reinsurance Plaza, cnr Jomo Kenyatta Hwy & Oginga Odinga Rd)
Lamu (042-633032; off Kenyatta Rd) Travellers are sometimes referred to Mombasa.
Malindi (042-20149; Mama Ngina Rd)
Mombasa (041-311745; Uhuru ni Kari Bldg, Mama Ngina Dr)
Nairobi (020-222022; Nyayo House, cnr Kenyatta Ave & Uhuru Hwy; 8.30am-12.30pm & 2-3.30pm Mon-Fri)
Visas for Onward Travel
Since Nairobi is a common gateway city to East Africa and the city centre is easy to get around, many travellers spend some time here picking up visas for other countries that they intend to visit. If you are going to do this you need to plan ahead and call the embassy to confirm the hours that visa applications are received (these change frequently in Nairobi). Most embassies will want you to pay visa fees in US dollars.
Just because a country has an embassy or consulate here, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can get that country’s visa. The borders with Somalia and Sudan are both closed, so you’ll have to go to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia if you want a Sudanese visa, and Somali visas are unlikely to be available for the foreseeable future.
For Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda, three-month visas are readily available in Nairobi and cost US$50 for most nationalities. Two passport photos are required for applications and visas can usually be issued the same day.

Business Etiquette

Communication Style

Direct and frank communication is not the norm in Kenya. Kenyans will always attempt to qualify what they say so that the message is delivered in a sensitive way. This comes down to wanting to protect people’s face and the relationship. If the relationship is intimate the communication style will become more direct. For newly established and more formal relationships, diplomacy will be of utmost importance. 
In their attempt not to cause problems, Kenyans often use metaphors, analogies and stories to make a point. They are uncomfortable with blunt statements. If you are from a culture that prizes directness, you may wish to moderate your delivery style. It is also up to you to read between the lines and decipher what may really being said. With this in mind, criticism should be delivered in private and given in a circumspect manner. 
Kenyans may gesture for emphasis when speaking. Loud voices are generally only used during disagreements in business situations, although in rural areas, louder speaking tones are the norm. Showing anger is considered a sign of mental instability. Kenyans pride themselves on their emotional control and expect the same in others. 
Since maintaining honor and dignity are paramount, Kenyans may offer what they believe is the expected response rather than say something that might embarrass the other person. They often go out of their way to keep from doing something that could bring shame to another person. They expect business colleagues and superiors to inquire about their family before beginning a business discussion. 

Meeting and Greeting

• Handshakes are the most common greeting in business. 
• When being introduced to someone for the first time, the handshake is short, while handshakes among people with a personal relationship are longer. 
• It is a sign of respect to lower your eyes when greeting someone of a higher status or someone who is obviously older than you. 
• Men should wait for a woman to extend her and first. 
• To rush a greeting is extremely rude. Take the time to inquire about the other person’s general well-being, family, and business in general. 
• Titles are important. Use the honorific title plus any academic or professional title and the surname. 
• Wait to be invited before moving to a first name basis. 
• Business cards are exchanged without formal ritual. 
• Present and receive business cards with two hands. 

Business Meetings

Meeting schedules may be structured or not at all depending upon the ownership of the company. In British or Indian owned companies, agendas will be used and followed. 

As relationships are important in Kenya, devote time to small talk in order to get to know your hosts and vice-versa. It is a good idea to allow your Kenyan hosts determine when it is time to begin the business discussion. 
Meetings seldom have scheduled ending times since what matters is finishing the meeting in a satisfactory manner to all concerned. In fact, Kenyans are amused at the concept of an ending time, since they believe the meeting only ends when all parties are finished. 
Kenyans value tradition. Therefore, it is a good idea to provide a historical framework or context when attempting to introduce a new idea or process. They may ask questions until they feel comfortable and are able to proceed satisfactorily. 

General Business Hours