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Investing in Kenya: Registration of a company or office in Kenya

Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) into Kenya are increasing at a steady rate given the continued streamlining of registration and set up processes by the new government. After a long hiatus of bad governance, the democratically elected government of Narc moved with a lot of speed to remove most of the red tape that previously marked investment road into Kenya. It required an investor a total of 21 business licenses and registrations to be able to do business in the country.

All these licenses would be from separate ministries and local authorities and one had to hop from one place to the other. It was almost criminal to think FDI in Kenya in those days Not only was this time consuming and tedious but it was also very expensive. Put in the scourge of corrupt officials and it was a sure dead-on-your-tracks scourge. Most investment attempts by foreigners became a cropper before they even started when they came to realize it might cost them more in under the table dealings than it would to actually put down their money to invest.

Now the process has been highly reduced by cutting off all the unnecessary bureaucratic processes in an effort to make investment a one stop shop. The introduction of the Kenya Investment Authority (KIA) marked the centralization of investment procedures within the government. Kenya is now among the easiest country to invest in, in regards to establishment of companies by foreign investors. The KIA developed a simple step by step manual to investment in Kenya which simplified the procedures to a 5 step process.

This includes:-

1. Fill the "One Stop" KIA application Form.
2. Engage legal advice in Kenya.
3. Register your business
4. Submit KIA form + Certificate of Incorporation + Articles and memorandum
of association to KIA
5. Issuance of The Investment License

Business Types you can register in Kenya

The principal types of business enterprises in Kenya are:

1. Registered Companies (Private and Public)
2. Branch offices of companies registered outside Kenya
3. Partnerships
4. Sole Proprietorships
5. Co-operatives

Companies are registered as limited liability companies as in 1 and 2 above, and regulated by the Companies Act (Cap 486). Kenya's legal system is based on English law and practice. A wide range of legal services are locally available.

Company Registration
The initial step in forming a company is to register the proposed company name with the Registrar of Companies at the Attorney General's Chambers in Nairobi. The Memorandum and Articles of Association should be filed with the Registrar of Companies who, upon satisfaction, issues the Certificate of Incorporation.

Opening a branch office of an overseas company
An overseas company wishing to open a branch office in Kenya should deliver the following to the Registrar of Companies:

A certified copy of the Charter, Statutes or Memorandum and Articles of
Association of the Company, or other instruments defining the constitution of the
A list of the directors and secretary of the company, giving full names, nationality
and other directorships of companies in Kenya;
A statement of all existing charges entered into by the company affecting properties
in Kenya;
Names and postal addresses of one or more persons resident in Kenya, authorised
to accept, on behalf of the company, service of notices required to be served on the
Full address of the registered or principal office of the company in its home
country; and,
Full address of place of business in Kenya.

Both private and public companies may allot shares for considerations other than cash. Companies need to inform the Registrar of Companies of such allotments and submit a written contract constituting the title of the allottee.

Patents and Trade Marks
Patents are regulated by the Industrial Property Act and administered by the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), while trademarks are regulated by the Trade and Service Marks Act (Cap 506) and administered by the Registrar of Trademarks at KIPI. The duration of trademarks is seven years from the date of filing and renewable every 14 years.

Work permits
The Government allows investors to have key expatriate staff in senior management positions or where locals with specific skills are not available. Work permits for such expatriates are issued by the Immigration Department and are valid for one to two years, renewable on application.

Import and export procedures
There is no import licensing except for a few items restricted for security, health or environmental reasons detailed in the Imports, Exports and Essential Supplies Act (Cap 502).

During the Budget for Fiscal Year 2001/02 the Minister agreed to waive the 2.75% Import Declaration Form (IDF) fees applicable on imported goods used for manufacturing goods for exports under the Tax Remission for Export Office (TREO) scheme. Manufactures under the TREO will however have to pay Kshs. 5,000 which is processing fees.

For assistance on Kenya Business travel and making investments in Kenya visit

Robert Muhuhu

About the Author: Robert is a tour consultant in Kenya and has planned business and vacation safaris for over 10,000 tourists in the East African region. He is a tour operation- major and involved in National tourism policy development in Kenya.

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