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Kenya: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Kenya

Western business practices prevail in Kenya. A formal handshake is the standard greeting, starting with the most senior person in the group, and shaking hands with each person present. It is customary to lower your gaze when greeting someone who is older or of a higher professional rank than you.

Traditionally, the business environment is still quite patriarchal, although this is changing as the country modernises. When addressing a local businessman, it is essential to use their surname and title unless you are invited to use their first name.

Suits are the expected attire for business meetings, though a shirt and tie will suffice in less formal situations. Kenyans are quite conservative and advance appointments are required for meetings. Call ahead if you are likely to be late.

Most businesspeople speak English and it is customary to exchange business cards. Small talk is important and it may take some time to get to the point of a meeting so be patient. The eldest person in the room is often designated as chairperson. When negotiating a price, some haggling is expected, but angry exchanges are to be avoided. Gift giving is common in business, however the gifts should be small and tasteful. Do not choose items with a high value as this may be seen as an attempted bribe.

Businesses and government offices in Kenya are open Monday to Friday from 0800/0900-1300 and 1400-1700. Some offices also are open on Saturdays from 0815 to noon.

Office Hours

Mon-Fri 0800/0900-1300 and 1400-1700.


Kenya is the economic, financial and transport hub of East Africa, and it maintains a liberalised external trade system which operates several state enterprises. The country's major industries include agriculture, fishing, forestry, mining, energy, manufacturing, tourism and financial services. The manufacturing sector produces cement, paper, textiles, rubber and metal products among other goods. Kenya is also one of the few African countries with a significant dairy industry.

Agriculture plays a critical role in the economy and accounts for almost 35% of the GDP in 2017. Tourism serves as another major sector, bringing in roughly US$1 billion annually, notwithstanding high visibility terrorist attacks and wildlife poaching in the past.

The country's government is mostly investment friendly and has enacted several regulatory reforms to simplify both foreign and local investment, including the creation of an export-processing zone – a geographic area where goods may be landed, stored, handled, reconfigured, re-exported and manufactured under specific customs regulation and normally not subject to customs duty. In comparison to Kenya’s neighbours, the country has a well-developed social and physical infrastructure, though corruption is still present.


USD$98.26 billion (2018)

Main exports

Coffee, tea and spices, live trees, plants and cut flowers, vegetables, clothing, fruits and nuts.

Main imports

Food and live animals, mineral fuels, crude materials, beverages and tobacco.

Main trading partners

Uganda, Pakistan, US, Netherlands, UK, Tanzania, UAE and China.

Keeping in Touch in Kenya


International calls can usually be made directly. Public telephones, operated by Telkom Kenya (, work with coins or with phone cards (which may be purchased from post offices or from international call services in major towns). Major hotels also offer an international phone service, but they usually charge more. In larger towns, private telecommunication centres offer international services. For local calls, it is useful to have plenty of small change available.

Mobile Phone

Roaming agreements exist with international mobile phone companies. Kenya has good mobile network coverage particularly in tourist destinations. The main network providers are Airtel (, Safaricom ( and Telkom ( Local SIM cards and top-up cards are available to buy everywhere. Data is cheap and speed is decent.


Wi-Fi is readily available in major cities and hotels, as well as in luxury game lodges.


Just like many other countries, there are state-owned and privately-owned TV and radio stations.
Newspapers: The Daily Nation enjoys the highest circulation in Kenya.
TV: Citizen TV, NTV, QTV, KTN, KBC are the biggest stations.
Radio: Radio Citizen, Radio Maisha and Jambo are the most popular radio stations.

In Nairobi and Mombasa there is a comprehensive choice of international newspapers and magazines sold in bookshops, airports, hotels and at pavement kiosks. Day-old copies of UK and other European newspapers are available.


Most towns have post offices run by the Postal Corporation of Kenya ( Post boxes are red. Stamps can usually be bought at post offices, stationers, souvenir shops and hotels. The service is generally reliable.

Post Office hours

Mon-Fri 0800-1700; Sat 0900-1200. Small branches close for an hour at lunchtime.

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