Kenya is an independent republic which lies on the Indian Ocean coast and forms part of the East African Region. The capital city is Nairobi. Other major towns are Nakuru and Kisumu and the port of Mombasa.
The lingua franca is Kiswahili while English is the official language of communication. Bantu languages are the mother tongues of over 60% of the population. Kenya has a free market economy with an active stock exchange. The local currency is the Kenya shilling (KSh). (US$ / KSh – current exchange rate).
Employment in Kenya is largely dependent on the agricultural industry with Kenya being one of the world’s largest tea exporters. The horticultural and tourism industries are growing, becoming one of the country’s most important sources of foreign exchange.
Although the industrial sector is still small, it is a growing source of East African exports.
Since its deregulation in October 1994, the Kenya oil industry is one of the key elements in the economy of the country with a growing market for petroleum products. Shareholders in the oil refinery at Mombasa have announced plans to invest in upgrading the plant.
In addition to its oil industry, Kenya has an active chemicals industry, as well as being one of the larger markets in the lubricants industry of the East African region.
The mining industry in Kenya is limited but prospecting is continuing. Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility Kenya Power and Lighting Corporation.
Kenya’s foreign debt is high, but fortunately a large proportion is concessional debt. However, interest payments on domestic debt cause a serious depletion of government revenue.
Steps have been taken to implement the removal of import licensing, price controls, foreign exchange controls as well as fiscal and monetary restraint and the reduction of the private sector through privatisation and civil service downsizing. Through these processes the government hopes to bring about economic liberalisation and reform. Supported by the IMF and the World Bank, the economy grew until political violence, government inefficiency and corruption caused a decline. In January 1999 an advisory board to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority (KACA) was appointed but long term barriers to growth remain, including; inefficient dominance of key sectors by the government, endemic corruption and a high population growth rate.
The international time zone for Kenya is GMT +3 and the international dialling code is +254. More than 30 airlines fly to Kenya which has international airports at Nairobi and Mombassa. The opening of a new cargo centre at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport will increase cargo capacity and service a rapidly growing horticulture industry. The restructuring of Africa’s aviation industry will see Nairobi as one of the four centrally located hubs on the continent, consolidating passenger loads, increasing aircraft size and thus reducing air fares.
All visitors except nationals of Commonwealth and some West European countries require visas in order to visit Kenya.
Medical services in Kenya may be expensive and require advance payment. Vaccinations and medical insurance should be arranged prior to arrival. Due to the state of health, the immunisation status, location and the local disease situation; cholera, hepatitis A, malaria, Rift Valley Fever, schistosomiasis, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and yellow fever (regional) can occur in Kenya. Risk assessment is advised.
Effective personal protection, such as the use of N,N-diethylmetatoluamide (DEET) insect repellents, against mosquitoes is strongly recommended. The anti malaria drug, chloroquine, has been banned in Kenya. Travellers should use mefliam or doxycycline.
MBendi clients in this industry
Professional legal services to the international business person and investor are provided by Lex Africa, a network of leading African law firms affiliated to South Africa’s leading law firm, Werksmans Attorneys. For the benefit of foreign investors and business people, they have issued a Guide to Doing Business in Kenya.
Consulting and accounting services can be provided by the representative offices in the country of Ernst & Young and other international accounting firms; they should also be able to advise on other appropriate local service providers. Ernst & Young have compiled an investment guideto Kenya for potential investors.
International banking transactions can be carried out through the Central Bank of Kenya; Stanbic Bank Kenya Limited, an associate of the Standard Bank of South Africa Limited, which provides a wide range of commercial banking services; or numerous commercial banks, most affiliated to international banking groups. Thomas Cook and American Express also have offices in Kenya.
The African Resource Network, comprising some of Africa’s leading consultancies in their fields, provides a unique one-stop African information / intelligence / research / advisory service via the Internet to companies and business-people around the world with an interest in doing business in Africa.
A superior insurance service is provided by the local representative of AfriNet, risk managers and insurance brokers of Africa.
MIGA, a member of the World Bank Group, will be running investment forums in Mauritius on March 27-28 and in Dar-es-Salaam on April 3-7 where investors can learn about cross-border and privatisation investment opportunities in East Africa and get better acquainted with MIGA’s political risk insurance program and technical assistance activities to promote foreign direct investment. Investors will also be able to hear from government officials, and discuss project financing options with representatives of multilateral development banks and international financial institutions, including the International Finance Corporation (IFC). There is no charge for attending the forums.