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Kenya

Executive Summary

Kenya has a positive investment climate that has made it attractive to international firms seeking a location for regional or pan-African operations. The novel coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected the short-term economic outlook, but the country remains resilient in addressing the health and economic challenges. In July 2020 the U.S. and Kenya launched negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement, the first in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business report ranked Kenya 56 out of the 190 economies it reviewed – five spots higher than in 2019. Since 2014, Kenya has moved up 73 places on this index. Year-on-year, Kenya continues to improve its regulatory framework and its attractiveness as a destination for foreign direct investment (FDI). Despite this progress, U.S. businesses operating in Kenya still face aggressive tax collection attempts, burdensome bureaucratic processes, and significant delays in receiving necessary business licenses. Though corruption remains pervasive, Transparency International ranked Kenya 124 out of 180 countries in its 2020 Global Corruption Perception Index – an improvement of 13 spots compared to 2019.

Kenya has strong telecommunications infrastructure and a robust financial sector and is a developed logistics hub with extensive aviation connections throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia. In 2018, Kenya Airways initiated direct flights to New York City in the United States. Mombasa Port is the gateway for East Africa’s trade. Kenya’s membership in the East African Community (EAC), the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and other regional trade blocs provides it with preferential trade access to growing regional markets.

In 2017 and 2018 Kenya instituted broad reforms to improve its business environment, including passing the Tax Laws Amendment (2018) and the Finance Act (2018), which established new procedures and provisions related to taxes, eased the payment of taxes through the iTax platform, simplified registration procedures for small businesses, reduced the cost of construction permits, and established a “one-stop” border post system to expedite the movement of goods across borders. However, the Finance Act (2019) introduced taxes to non-resident ship owners, and the Finance Act 2020 enacted a Digital Service Tax (DST). The DST, which went into effect in January 2021, imposes a 1.5 percent tax on any transaction that occurs in Kenya through a “digital marketplace.” The oscillation between business reforms and conflicting taxation policies has raised uncertainty over the Government of Kenya’s (GOK) long-term plans for improving the investment climate.

Kenya’s macroeconomic fundamentals remain among the strongest in Africa, averaging five to six percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth since 2015 (excepting 2020 due to the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic), five percent inflation since 2015, improving infrastructure, and strong consumer demand from a growing middle class. There is relative political stability and President Uhuru Kenyatta has remained focused on his “Big Four” development agenda, seeking to provide universal healthcare coverage, establish national food and nutrition security, build 500,000 affordable new homes, and increase employment by growing the manufacturing sector.

The World Bank’s November 2020 Kenya Economic Update report noted that the ongoing locust invasion, COVID-19 pandemic, and drought conditions in certain parts of the country, pose near-term challenges to Kenya’s economic recovery, but also highlighted mitigating measures enacted by the GOK and Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) as positive developments. American companies continue to show strong interest to establish or expand their business presence and engagement in Kenya, especially following President Kenyatta’s August 2018, and February 2020 meetings with former-President Trump in Washington, D.C. Sectors offering the most opportunities for investors include: agro-processing, financial services, energy, extractives, transportation, infrastructure, retail, restaurants, technology, health care, and mobile banking.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 124 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report* 2020 56 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 86 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 $353 http://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $1,750 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Kenya has enjoyed a steadily improving environment for FDI. Foreign investors seeking to establish a presence in Kenya generally receive the same treatment as local investors, and multinational companies make up a large percentage of Kenya’s industrial sector. The government’s export promotion programs do not distinguish between goods produced by local or foreign-owned firms. The primary regulations governing FDI are found in the Investment Promotion Act (2004). Other important documents that provide the legal framework for FDI include the 2010 Constitution of Kenya, the Companies Ordinance, the Private Public Partnership Act (2013), the Foreign Investment Protection Act (1990), and the Companies Act (2015). GOK membership in the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) provides an opportunity to insure FDI against non-commercial risk. In November 2019, the Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest), the country’s official investment promotion agency, launched the Kenya Investment Policy (KIP) and the County Investment Handbook (CIH) ( http://www.invest.go.ke/publications/ ) which aim to increase foreign direct investment in the country. The KIP intends to guide laws being drafted to promote and facilitate investments in Kenya.

Investment Promotion Agency

KenInvest’s ( http://www.invest.go.ke/ ) mandate is to promote and facilitate investment by helping investors understand and navigate local Kenya’s bureaucracy and regulations. KenInvest helps investors obtain necessary licenses and developed eRegulations, an online database, to provide businesses with user-friendly access to Kenya’s investment-related regulations and procedures ( https://eregulations.invest.go.ke/?l=en ).

KenInvest prioritizes investment retention and maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors. All proposed legislation must pass through a period of public consultation, which includes an opportunity for investors to offer feedback. Private sector representatives can serve as board members on Kenya’s state-owned enterprises. Since 2013, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), the country’s primary alliance of private sector business associations, has had bi-annual round table meetings with President Kenyatta and his cabinet. President Kenyatta also chairs a cabinet-level committee focused on improving the business environment. The American Chamber of Commerce has also increasingly engaged the GOK on issues regarding Kenya’s business environment.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The government provides the right for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity. To encourage foreign investment, in 2015, the GOK repealed regulations that imposed a 75 percent foreign ownership limit for firms listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, allowing such firms to be 100 percent foreign owned. However, also in 2015, the government established regulations requiring Kenyan ownership of at least 15 percent of the share capital of derivative exchanges, through which derivatives, such as options and futures, can be traded.

Kenya’s National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) policy guidelines, published in August 2020, increased the requirement for Kenyan ownership in foreign ICT companies from 20 to 30 percent, and broadened its applicability within the telecommunications, postal, courier, and broadcasting industries. Affected companies have 3 years to comply with the new requirement. The Mining Act (2016) restricts foreign participation in the mining sector. The Mining Act reserves mineral acquisition rights to Kenyan companies and requires 60 percent Kenyan ownership of mineral dealerships and artisanal mining companies. The Private Security Regulations Act (2016) restricts foreign participation in the private security sector by requiring at least 25 percent Kenyan ownership of private security firms. The National Construction Authority Act (2011) and the 2014 National Construction Authority regulations impose local content restrictions on “foreign contractors,” defined as companies incorporated outside Kenya or with more than 50 percent ownership by non-Kenyan citizens. The act requires foreign contractors enter into subcontracts or joint ventures assuring that at least 30 percent of the contract work is done by local firms and locally unavailable skills transferred to a local person. The Kenya Insurance Act (2010) limits foreign capital investment in insurance companies to two-thirds, with no single person holding more than a 25 percent ownership share.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In 2019, the World Trade Organization conducted a trade policy review for the East Africa Community (EAC), of which Kenya is a member ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp484_e.htm ).

Business Facilitation

In 2011, the GOK established KenTrade to address trading partners’ concerns regarding the complexity of trade regulations and procedures. KenTrade’s mandate is to facilitate cross-border trade and to implement the National Electronic Single Window System. In 2017, KenTrade launched InfoTrade Kenya (infotrade.gov.ke), which provides a host of investment products and services to prospective investors. The site documents the process of exporting and importing by product, by steps, by paperwork, and by individuals, including contact information for officials responsible for relevant permits or approvals.

In February 2019, Kenya implemented a new Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS) that includes automated valuation benchmarking, release of green-channel cargo, importer validation and declaration, and linkage with iTax. The iCMS enables customs officers to efficiently manage revenue and security related risks for imports, exports and goods on transit and transshipment.

The Movable Property Security Rights Bill (2017) enhanced the ability of individuals to secure financing through movable assets, including using intellectual property rights as collateral. The Nairobi International Financial Centre (NIFC) Act (2017) seeks to provide a legal framework to facilitate and support the development of an efficient and competitive financial services sector in Kenya. The act created the Nairobi International Financial Centre Authority to establish and maintain an efficient financial services sector to attract and retain FID. The Kenya Trade Remedies Act (2017) provides the legal and institutional framework for Kenya’s application of trade remedies consistent with World Trade Organization (WTO) law, which requires a domestic institution to receive complaints and undertake investigations in line with WTO Agreements. To date, however, Kenya has implemented only 7.5 percent of its commitments under the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, which it ratified in 2015. In 2020, Kenya launched the Kenya Trade Remedies Agency to investigate and enforce anti-dumping, countervailing duty, and trade safeguards, to protect domestic industries from unfair trade practices.

The Companies (Amendment) Act (2017) clarified ambiguities in the original act and ensures compliance with global trends and best practices. The act amended provisions on the extent of directors’ liabilities and disclosures and strengthens investor protections. The amendment eliminated the requirements for small enterprises to hire secretaries, have lawyers register their firms, and to hold annual general meetings, reducing regulatory compliance and operational costs.

The Business Registration Services (BRS) Act (2015) established the Business Registration Service, a state corporation, to ensure effective administration of laws related to the incorporation, registration, operation, and management, of companies, partnerships, and firms. The BRS also devolves certain business registration services to county governments, such as registration of business names and promoting local business ideas/legal entities- reducing registration costs. The Companies Act (2015) covers the registration and management of both public and private corporations.

In 2014, the GOK established a Business Environment Delivery Unit to address investors’ concerns. The unit focuses on reducing the bureaucratic steps required to establish and do business. Its website ( http://www.businesslicense.or.ke/ ) offers online business registration and provides detailed information regarding business licenses and permits, including requirements, fees, application forms, and contact details for the respective regulatory agencies. In 2013, the GOK initiated the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities program, requiring all public procurement entities to set aside a minimum of 30 percent of their annual procurement spending facilitate the participation of youth, women, and persons with disabilities ( https://agpo.go.ke/ ).

Kenya’s iGuide, an investment guide to Kenya ( http://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/kenya/about# , developed by UNCTAD and the International Chamber of Commerce, provides investors with up-to-date information on business costs, licensing requirements, opportunities, and conditions in developing countries. Kenya is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures.

Outward Investment

The GOK does not promote or incentivize outward investment. Despite this, Kenya is evolving into an outward investor in tourism, manufacturing, retail, finance, education, and media. Kenya’s outward investment has primarily been in the EAC, due to the preferential access afforded to member countries, and in a select few central African countries. The EAC allows free movement of capital among its six member states – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Kenya provides both fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to foreign investors ( http://www.invest.go.ke/starting-a-business-in-kenya/investment-incentives/ ). The minimum foreign investment to qualify for GOK investment incentives is USD 100,000. Investment Certificate benefits, including entry permits for expatriates, are outlined in the Investment Promotion Act (2004).

The government allows all locally-financed materials and equipment for use in construction or refurbishment of tourist hotels to be zero-rated for purposes of VAT calculation – excluding motor vehicles and goods for regular repair and maintenance. The National Treasury principal secretary, however, must approve such purchases. In a measure to boost the tourism industry, one-week employee vacations paid by employers are a tax-deductible expense. In 2018, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) exempted from VAT certain facilities and machinery used in the manufacturing of goods under Section 84 of the East African Community Common External Tariff Handbook. VAT refund claims must be submitted within 12 months of purchase.

The government’s Manufacturing Under Bond (MUB) program encourages manufacturing for export. The program provides a 100 percent tax deduction on plant machinery and equipment and raw materials imported for production of goods for export. The program is also open to Kenyan companies producing goods that can be imported duty-free, goods for supply to the armed forces, or to an approved aid-funded project. Investors in manufacturing metal products and the hospitality services sectors are able to deduct from their taxes a large portion of the cost of buildings and capital machinery.

The Finance Act (2014) amended the Income Tax Act (1974) to reintroduce capital gains tax on transfer of property. Under this provision, gains derived from the sale or transfer of property by an individual or company are subject to a five percent tax. Capital gains on the sale or transfer of property related to the oil and gas industry are subject to a 37.5 percent tax. The Finance Act (2014) also reintroduced the withholding VAT system by government ministries, departments, and agencies. The system excludes the Railway Development Levy (RDL) imports for persons, goods, and projects; the implementation of an official aid-funded project; diplomatic missions and institutions or organizations gazetted under the Privileges and Immunities Act (2014).

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Kenya’s Export Processing Zones (EPZ) and Special Economic Zones (SEZ) offer special incentives for firms operating within their boundaries. By the end of 2019, Kenya had 74 EPZs, with 137 companies and 60,383 workers contributing KES 77.1 billion (about USD 713 million) to the Kenyan economy. Companies operating within an EPZ benefit from the following tax benefits: a 10-year corporate-tax holiday and a 25 percent tax thereafter; a 10-year withholding tax holiday; stamp duty exemption; 100 percent tax deduction on initial investment applied over 20 years; and VAT exemption on industrial inputs.

About 54 percent of EPZ products are exported to the United States under AGOA. The majority of the exports are textiles – Kenya’s third largest export behind tea and horticulture – and more recently handicrafts. Eighty percent of Kenya’s textiles and apparel originate from EPZ-based firms. Approximately 50 percent of the companies operating in the EPZs are fully-owned by foreigners – mainly from India – while the rest are locally owned or joint ventures with foreigners.

While EPZs aim to encourage production for export, Special Economic Zones (SEZ) are designed to boost local economies by offering benefits for goods that are consumed domestically and for export. SEZs allow for a wider range of commercial ventures, including primary activities such as farming, fishing, and forestry. The 2016 Special Economic Zones Regulations state that the Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZA) maintain an open investment environment to facilitate and encourage business by establishing simple, flexible, and transparent procedures for investor registration. The 2019 draft regulations include customs duty exemptions for goods and services in the SEZs and no trade related restrictions on the importation of goods and services into the SEZs. The rules also empower county governments to set aside public land to establish industrial zones.

Companies operating in the SEZs receive the following benefits: all SEZ produced goods and services are exempted from VAT; the corporate tax rate for enterprises, developers, and operators reduced from 30 percent to 10 percent for the first 10 years and 15 percent for the next 10 years; exemption from taxes and duties payable under the Customs and Excise Act (2014), the Income Tax Act (1974), the EAC Customs Management Act (2004), and stamp duty; and exemption from county-level advertisement and license fees. There are currently SEZs in Mombasa (2,000 sq. km), Lamu (700 sq. km), Kisumu (700 sq. km), Naivasha (1,000 acres), Machakos (100 acres) and private developments designated as SEZs include Tatu City (5,000 acres) and Northlands (11,576 acres) in Kiambu. The Third Medium Term Plan of Kenya’s Vision 2030 economic development agenda calls for a feasibility study for an SEZ at Dongo Kundu in Mombasa, and the GOK is also considering establishing an SEZ near the Olkaria geothermal power plant.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The GOK mandates local employment in the category of unskilled labor. The Kenyan government regularly issues permits for key senior managers and personnel with special skills not available locally. For other skilled labor, any enterprise, whether local or foreign, may recruit from outside if the required skills are not available in Kenya. However, firms seeking to hire expatriates must demonstrate that they conducted an exhaustive search to find persons with the requisite skills in Kenya and were unable to find any such persons. The Ministry of EAC and Regional Development, however, has noted plans to replace this requirement with an official inventory of skills that are not available in Kenya. A work permit can cost up to KES 400,000 (approximately USD 4,000).

The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (2015) offers preferences to firms owned by Kenyan citizens and to products manufactured or mined in Kenya. The “Buy Kenya, Build Kenya” policy mandates that 40 percent of the value of each GOK procurement be sourced locally. Tenders funded entirely by the government, with a value of less than KES 50 million (approximately USD 500,000), are reserved for Kenyan firms and goods. If the procuring entity seeks to contract with non-Kenyan firms or procure foreign goods, the act requires a report detailing evidence of an inability to procure locally. The act also calls for at least 30 percent of government procurement contracts to go to firms owned by women, youth, and persons with disabilities. The act further reserves 20 percent of county procurement tenders to residents of that county.

The Finance Act (2017) amends the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal (PPAD) Act (2015) to introduce Specially Permitted Procurement as an alternative method of acquiring public goods and services. The new method permits state agencies to bypass existing public procurement laws under specific circumstances. Procuring entities are allowed to use this method where market conditions or behavior do not allow effective application of the 10 methods outlined in the Public Procurement and Disposal Act. The act gives the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary the authority to prescribe the procedure for carrying out specially permitted procurement. The 2020 PPAD regulations exempt government to government (G2G Exemption) procurements from PPAD Act requirements. G2G Exemption procurements must: provide a plan for local technology transfer; reserve 50 percent of the positions for Kenyans; and locally source 40 percent of inputs.

The Data Protection Act (DPA) (2019) restricts the transfer of data in and out of Kenya without consent from the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) and the data owner, functionally requiring data localization. Entities seeking to transfer data out of Kenya must demonstrate to the DPC that the destination for the data has sufficient security and protection measures in place. The 2019 DPA gives discretion to the Ministry of Information Communication Technology Cabinet Secretary to prescribe localization requirements for data centers or servers, including strategic interests, protection of government revenue, and “certain nature of strategic processing.” The DPA authorizes the DPC to investigate data breaches and issue administrative fines of up to USD 50,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 10 years, depending on the severity of the breach.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Though relatively small by Western standards, Kenya’s capital markets are the deepest and most sophisticated in East Africa. The 2020 Morgan Stanley Capital International Emerging and Frontier Markets Index, which assesses equity opportunity in 27 emerging economies, ranked the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) as the best performing exchange in sub-Saharan Africa over the last decade. The NSE operates under the jurisdiction of the Capital Markets Authority of Kenya. It is a full member of the World Federation of Exchanges, a founding member of the African Securities Exchanges Association (ASEA) and the East African Securities Exchanges Association (EASEA). The NSE is a member of the Association of Futures Markets and is a partner exchange in the United Nations-led Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative. Reflecting international confidence in the NSE, it has always had significant foreign investor participation. In July 2019, the NSE launched a derivatives market that facilitates trading in future contracts on the Kenyan market. The bond market is underdeveloped and dominated by trading in government debt securities. The government’s domestic debt market, however, is deep and liquid. Long-term corporate bond issuances are uncommon, limiting long-term investment capital.

In November 2019, Kenya repealed the interest rate capping law passed in 2016, which had slowed private sector credit growth. There are no restrictions on foreign investors seeking credit in the domestic financial market. Kenya’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems generally align with international norms. In 2017, the Kenya National Treasury launched the world’s first mobile phone-based retail government bond, locally dubbed M-Akiba. M-Akiba has generated over 500,000 accounts for the Central Depository and Settlement Corporation, and The National Treasury has made initial dividend payments to bond holders.

The African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA) 2014-2019 report on venture capital performance in Africa ranked Kenya as having the second most developed venture capitalist ecosystem in sub-Saharan Africa. The report also noted that over 20 percent of the venture capital deals in Kenya, from 2014-2019, were initiated by companies headquartered outside Africa.

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) is working with regulators in EAC member states through the Capital Market Development Committee (CMDC) and East African Securities Regulatory Authorities (EASRA) on a regional integration initiative and has successfully introduced cross-listing of equity shares. The combined use of both the Central Depository and Settlement Corporation (CDSC) and an automated trading system has aligned the Kenyan securities market with globally accepted standards. Kenya is a full (ordinary) member of the International Organization of Securities Commissions Money and Banking System.

Kenya has accepted the International Monetary Fund’s Article VIII obligation and does not provide restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.

Money and Banking System

In 2020, the Kenyan banking sector included 41 commercial banks, one mortgage finance company, 14 microfinance banks, nine representative offices of foreign banks, eight non-operating bank holdings, 69 foreign exchange bureaus, 19 money remittance providers, and three credit reference bureaus, which are licensed and regulated by the CBK. Fifteen of Kenya’s commercial banks are foreign owned. Major international banks operating in Kenya include Citibank, Absa Bank (formerly Barclays Bank Africa), Bank of India, Standard Bank, and Standard Chartered. The 12 commercial banks listed banks on the Nairobi Securities Exchange owned 89 percent of the country’s banking assets in 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected Kenya’s banking sector. According to the CBK, 32 out of 41 commercial banks restructured loans to accommodate affected borrowers. Non-performing loans (NPLs) reached 14.1 percent by the end of 2020 – a two percent increase year-on-year – and are continuing to rise.

In March 2017, following the collapse of Imperial Bank and Dubai Bank, the CBK lifted its 2015 moratorium on licensing new banks. The CBK’s decision to restart licensing signaled a return of stability in the Kenyan banking sector. In 2018, Societé Generale (France) also set up a representative office in Nairobi. Foreign banks can apply for license to set up operations in Kenya and are guided by the CBK’s 2013 Prudential Guidelines.

In November 2019, the GOK repealed the interest rate capping law through an amendment to the Banking Act. This amendment has enabled financial institutions to use market-based pricing for their credit products. While this change has slightly increased the cost of borrowing for some clients, it effectively ensures the private sector uninterrupted access to credit.

The percentage of Kenya’s total population with access to financial services through conventional or mobile banking platforms is approximately 80 percent. According to the World Bank, M-Pesa, Kenya’s largest mobile banking platform, processes more transactions within Kenya each year than Western Union does globally. The 2017 National ICT Masterplan envisages the sector contributing at least 10 percent of GDP, up from 4.7 percent in 2015. Several mobile money platforms have achieved international interoperability, allowing the Kenyan diaspora to conduct financial transactions in Kenya from abroad.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange Policies

Kenya has no restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with investment. Kenyan law requires persons entering the country carrying amounts greater than KES 1,000,000 (approximately USD 10,000), or the equivalent in foreign currencies, to declare their cash holdings to the customs authority to deter money laundering and financing of terrorist organizations. Kenya is an open economy with a liberalized capital account and a floating exchange rate. The CBK engages in volatility controls aimed at smoothing temporary market fluctuations. In 2020, the average exchange rate was KES 106.45/USD according to CBK statistics. The foreign exchange rate fluctuated by nine percent from December 2019 to December 2020.

Remittance Policies

Kenya’s Foreign Investment Protection Act (FIPA) guarantees foreign investors’ right to capital repatriation and remittance of dividends and interest to foreign investors, who are free to convert and repatriate profits including un-capitalized retained profits (proceeds of an investment after payment of the relevant taxes and the principal and interest associated with any loan).

Foreign currency is readily available from commercial banks and foreign exchange bureaus and can be freely bought and sold by local and foreign investors. The Central Bank of Kenya Act (2014), however, states that all foreign exchange dealers are required to obtain and retain appropriate documents for all transactions above the equivalent of KES 1,000,000 (approximately USD 10,000). Kenya has 15 money remittance providers as at 2020 following the operationalization of money remittance regulations in April 2013.

The State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement listed Kenya as a country of primary concern for money laundering and financial crimes. The inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removed Kenya from its “Watchlist” in 2014, noting the country’s progress in creating the legal and institutional framework to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

In 2019, the National Treasury published the Kenya Sovereign Wealth Fund policy and the draft Kenya Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill (2019), both of which remain pending. The fund would receive income from any future privatization proceeds, dividends from state corporations, oil and gas, and minerals revenues due to the national government, revenue from other natural resources, and funds from any other source. The Kenya Information and Communications Act (2009) provides for the establishment of a Universal Service Fund (USF). The purpose of the USF is to fund national projects that have significant impact on the availability and accessibility of ICT services in rural, remote, and poor urban areas. In 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, the USF committee partnered with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development to digitize the education curriculum for online learning.

9. Corruption

Corruption is pervasive and entrenched in Kenya. Transparency International’s (TI) 2020 Global Corruption Perception Index ranked Kenya 137 out of 180 countries, an improvement of 13 places compared to 2019. However, Kenya’s score of (28 remained below the sub-Saharan Africa average of 32. TI cited lack of political will, limited progress in prosecuting corruption cases, and the slow pace of reform in key sectors as the primary drivers of Kenya’s relatively low ranking. Corruption has been an impediment to FDI, with local media reporting allegations of high-level corruption related to health, energy, ICT, and infrastructure contracts. Numerous reports have alleged that corruption influenced the outcome of government tenders, and some U.S. firms assert that compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act significantly undermines their chances of winning public procurements.

In 2018, President Kenyatta began a public campaign against corruption. While GOK agencies mandated to fight corruption have been inconsistent in coordinating activities, particularly regarding cases against senior officials, cabinet and other senior-level arrests in 2019 and 2020 suggested a renewed commitment by the GOK to fight corruption. In 2020, the judiciary convicted a member of parliament to 67 years in jail or a fine of KES 707 million (approximately USD 7 million) for defrauding the government of KES 297 million (approximately USD 2.9 million). The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), in 2019, secured 44 corruption-related convictions, the highest number of convictions in a single year in Kenya’s history. The EACC also recovered assets totaling more than USD 28 million in 2019 – more than the previous five years combined. Despite these efforts, much work remains to battle corruption in Kenya.

Relevant legislation and regulations include the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act (2003), the Public Officers Ethics Act (2003), the Code of Ethics Act for Public Servants (2004), the Public Procurement and Disposal Act (2010), the Leadership and Integrity Act (2012), and the Bribery Act (2016). The Access to Information Act (2016) also provides mechanisms through which private citizens can obtain information on government activities; however, government agencies’ compliance with this act remains inconsistent. The EACC monitors and enforces compliance with the above legislation.

The Leadership and Integrity Act (2012) requires public officers to register potential conflicts of interest with the relevant commissions. The law identifies interests that public officials must register, including directorships in public or private companies, remunerated employment, securities holdings, and contracts for supply of goods or services, among others. The law requires candidates seeking appointment to non-elective public offices to declare their wealth, political affiliations, and relationships with other senior public officers. This requirement is in addition to background screening on education, tax compliance, leadership, and integrity.

The law requires that all public officials, and their spouses and dependent children under age 18, declare their income, assets, and liabilities every two years. Information contained in these declarations is not publicly available, and requests to obtain and publish this information must be approved by the relevant commission. Any person who publishes or makes public information contained in a public officer’s declarations without permission may be subject to fine or imprisonment.

The Access to Information Act (2016) requires government entities, and private entities doing business with the government, to proactively disclose certain information, such as government contracts, and comply with citizens’ requests for government information. The act also provides a mechanism to request a review of the government’s failure to disclose requested information, along with penalties for failures to disclose. The act exempts certain information from disclosure on grounds of national security. However, the GOK has yet to issue the act’s implementing regulations and compliance remains inconsistent.

The private sector-supported Bribery Act (2016) stiffened penalties for corruption in public tendering and requires private firms participating in such tenders to sign a code of ethics and develop measures to prevent bribery. Both the constitution and the Access to Information Act (2016) provide protections to NGOs, investigative journalism, and individuals involved in investigating corruption. The Witness Protection Act (2006) establishes protections for witnesses in criminal cases and created an independent Witness Protection Agency. A draft Whistleblowers Protection Bill has been stalled in Parliament since 2016.

President Kenyatta directed government ministries, departments, and agencies to publish all information related to government procurement to enhance transparency and combat corruption. While compliance is improving, it is not yet universal. The information is published on ( https://tenders.go.ke/website/contracts/Index ) website.

Kenya is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and in 2016 published the results of a peer review process on UNCAC compliance: ( https://www.unodc.org/documents/treaties/UNCAC/CountryVisitFinalReports/2015_09_28_Kenya_Final_Country_Report.pdf ). Kenya is also a signatory to the UN Anticorruption Convention and the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery, and a member of the Open Government Partnership. Kenya is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Kenya is also a signatory to the East African Community’s Protocol on Preventing and Combating Corruption.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:

Rev. Eliud Wabukala (Ret.)
Chairperson and Commissioner
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission
P.O. Box 61130 00200 Nairobi, Kenya
Phones: +254 (0)20-271-7318, (0)20-310-722, (0)729-888-881/2/3

Report corruption online: https://eacc.go.ke/default/report-corruption/ 

Contact at “watchdog” organization:

Sheila Masinde
Executive Director
Transparency International Kenya
Phone: +254 (0)722-296-589
Report corruption online: https://www.tikenya.org/ 

10. Political and Security Environment

Kenya’s 2017 national election was marred by violence, which claimed the lives of nearly 100 Kenyans, a contentious political atmosphere, which pitted the ruling Jubilee Party against the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA), as well as political interference and attacks on key institutions by both sides. In November 2017, the Kenyan Supreme Court unanimously upheld the October 2017 repeat presidential election results and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win in an election boycotted by NASA leader Raila Odinga. In March 2018, President Kenyatta and Odinga publicly shook hands and pledged to work together to heal the political, social, and economic divides highlighted by the election. In November 2020, the Building Bridges Initiative, established by President Kenyatta in May 2018 as part of his pledge to work with Odinga, issued its final report recommending reforms to address nine areas: lack of a national ethos; responsibilities and rights of citizenship; ethnic antagonism and competition; divisive elections; inclusivity; shared prosperity; corruption; devolution; and safety and security. The report included a constitutional amendment bill that may be considered in a national referendum in 2021.

The United States’ Travel Advisory for Kenya advises U.S. citizens to exercise increased caution due to the threat of crime and terrorism, and not to travel to counties bordering Somalia and to certain coastal areas due to terrorism. Due to the high risk of crime, it is common for private businesses and residences to have 24-hour guard services and well-fortified property perimeters.

Instability in Somalia has heightened concerns of terrorist attacks, leading businesses and public institutions nationwide to increase their security measures. Tensions flare occasionally within and between ethnic communities. Regional conflict, most notably in Ethiopia, Somalia, and South Sudan, sometimes have spill-over effects in Kenya. There could be an increase in refugees entering Kenya due to drought and instability in neighboring countries, adding to the already large refugee population in the country.

Kenya and its neighbors are working together to mitigate threats of terrorism and insecurity through African-led initiatives such as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the nascent Eastern African Standby Force (EASF). Despite attacks against Kenyan forces in Kenya and Somalia, the GOK has maintained its commitment to promoting peace and stability in Somalia.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future