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Ghana

Executive Summary

Ghana’s economy had expanded at an average of seven percent per year since 2017 until the coronavirus pandemic reduced growth to 0.9 percent in 2020, according to the Ministry of Finance. Between 2017 and 2019, the fiscal deficit narrowed, inflation came down, and GDP growth rebounded, driven primarily by increases in oil production. The economy remains highly dependent on the export of primary commodities such as gold, cocoa, and oil, and consequently is vulnerable to slowdowns in the global economy and commodity price shocks. Growth is expected to rebound to 4.6 percent in 2021 from the shocks of COVID-19, according to the IMF, as a result of improved port activity, construction, imports, manufacturing, and credit to the private sector. In general, Ghana’s investment prospects remain favorable, as the Government of Ghana seeks to diversify and industrialize through agro-processing, mining, and manufacturing. It has made attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) a priority to support its industrialization plans and to overcome an annual infrastructure funding gap.

Remaining challenges to Ghana’s economy include high government debt, particularly energy sector debt, low internally generated revenue, and inefficient state-owned enterprises. Ghana has a population of 31 million, with over six million potential taxpayers, only 3.7 million of whom are actually registered to pay taxes. As Ghana seeks to move beyond dependence on foreign aid, it must develop a solid domestic revenue base. On the energy front, Ghana has enough installed power capacity to meet current demand, but it needs to make the cost of electricity more affordable through more effective management of its state-owned power distribution system.

Among the challenges hindering foreign direct investment are: costly and difficult financial services, lack of government transparency, corruption, under-developed infrastructure, a complex property market, costly and intermittent power and water supply, the high costs of cross-border trade, a burdensome bureaucracy, and an unskilled labor force. Enforcement of laws and policies is weak, even where good laws exist on the books. Public procurements are sometimes opaque, and there are often issues with delayed payments. In addition, there have been troubling trends in investment policy over the last six years, with the passage of local content regulations in the petroleum, power, and mining sectors that may discourage needed future investments.

Despite these challenges, Ghana’s abundant raw materials (gold, cocoa, and oil/gas), relative security, and political stability, as well as its hosting of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat make it stand out as one of the better locations for investment in sub-Saharan Africa. There is no discrimination against foreign-owned businesses. Investment laws protect investors against expropriation and nationalization and guarantee that investors can transfer profits out of the country, although international companies have reported high levels of corruption in dealing with Ghanaian government institutions. Among the most promising sectors are agribusiness and food processing; textiles and apparel; downstream oil, gas, and minerals processing; construction; and mining-related services subsectors.

The government has acknowledged the need to strengthen its enabling environment to attract FDI, and is taking steps to overhaul the regulatory system, improve the ease of doing business, and restore fiscal discipline.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 75 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 118 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 108 of 126 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 $1,602 https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $2,220 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Ghana has made increasing FDI a priority and acknowledges the importance of having an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. Officials are implementing some regulatory and other reforms to improve the ease of doing business and make investing in Ghana more attractive.

The 2013 Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC) Act requires the GIPC to register, monitor, and keep records of all business enterprises in Ghana. Sector-specific laws further regulate investments in minerals and mining, oil and gas, industries within Free Zones, banking, non-bank financial institutions, insurance, fishing, securities, telecommunications, energy, and real estate. Some sector-specific laws, such as in the oil and gas sector and the power sector, include local content requirements that could discourage international investment. Foreign investors are required to satisfy the provisions of the GIPC Act as well as the provisions of sector-specific laws. GIPC leadership has pledged to collaborate more closely with the private sector to address investor concerns, but there have been no significant changes to the laws. More information on investing in Ghana can be obtained from GIPC’s website, www.gipcghana.com .

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Most of Ghana’s major sectors are fully open to foreign capital participation.

U.S. investors in Ghana are treated the same as other foreign investors. All foreign investment projects must register with the GIPC. Foreign investments are subject to the following minimum capital requirements: USD 200,000 for joint ventures with a Ghanaian partner, who should have at least 10 percent of the equity; USD 500,000 for enterprises wholly owned by a non-Ghanaian; and USD 1 million for trading companies (firms that buy or sell imported goods or services) wholly owned by non-Ghanaian entities. The minimum capital requirement may be met in cash or capital goods relevant to the investment. Trading companies are also required to employ at least 20 skilled Ghanaian nationals.

Ghana’s investment code excludes foreign investors from participating in eight economic sectors: petty trading; the operation of taxi and car rental services with fleets of fewer than 25 vehicles; lotteries (excluding soccer pools); the operation of beauty salons and barber shops; printing of recharge scratch cards for subscribers to telecommunications services; production of exercise books and stationery; retail of finished pharmaceutical products; and the production, supply, and retail of drinking water in sealed pouches. Sectors where foreign investors are allowed limited market access include: telecommunications, banking, fishing, mining, petroleum, and real estate.

Real Estate

The 1992 Constitution recognized existing private and traditional titles to land. Given this mix of private and traditional land titles, land rights to any specific area of land can be opaque. Freehold acquisition of land is not permitted. There is an exception, however, for transfer of freehold title between family members for land held under the traditional system. Foreigners are allowed to enter into long-term leases of up to 50 years and the lease may be bought, sold, or renewed for consecutive terms. Ghanaian nationals are allowed to enter into 99-year leases. The Ghanaian government has been working since 2017 on developing a digital property address and land registration system to reduce land disputes and improve efficiency. (See “Protection of Property Rights p. 14)

Oil and Gas

The oil and gas sector is subject to a variety of state ownership and local content requirements. The Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act, 2016 (Act 919) mandates local participation. All entities seeking petroleum exploration licenses in Ghana must create a consortium in which the state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) holds a minimum 15 percent carried interest, and a local equity partner holds a minimum interest of five percent. The Petroleum Commission issues all licenses. Exploration licenses must also be approved by Parliament. Further, local content regulations specify in-country sourcing requirements with respect to the full range of goods, services, hiring, and training associated with petroleum operations. The regulations also require local equity participation for all suppliers and contractors. The Minister of Energy must approve all contracts, sub-contracts, and purchase orders above USD 100,000. Non-compliance with these regulations may result in a criminal penalty, including imprisonment for up to five years.

The Petroleum Commission applies registration fees and annual renewal fees on foreign oil and gas service providers, which, depending on a company’s annual revenues, range from USD 70,000 to USD 150,000, compared to fees of between USD 5,000 and USD 30,000 for local companies.

Mining

Per the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703), foreign investors are restricted from obtaining a small-scale mining license for mining operations less than or equal to an area of 25 acres (10 hectares). In 2019, the criminal penalty for non-compliance with these regulations was increased to a minimum prison sentence of 15 years and maximum of 25 years, from a maximum of five years, to discourage illegal small-scale mining. The Act mandates local participation, whereby the government acquires 10 percent equity in ventures at no cost in all mineral rights. In order to qualify for any mineral license, a non-Ghanaian company must be registered in Ghana, either as a branch office or a subsidiary that is incorporated under the Ghana Companies Act or Incorporated Private Partnership Act. Non-Ghanaians may apply for industrial mineral rights only if the proposed investment is USD 10 million or above.

The Minerals and Mining Act provides for a stability agreement, which protects the holder of a mining lease for a period of 15 years from future changes in law that may impose a financial burden on the license holder. When an investment exceeds USD 500 million, lease holders can negotiate a development agreement that contains elements of a stability agreement and more favorable fiscal terms. The Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act (Act 900) of 2015 requires the mining lease-holder to, “…pay royalty to the Republic at the rate and in the manner that may be prescribed.” The previous Act 703 capped the royalty rate at six percent. The Minerals Commission implements the law. In December 2020, Ghana passed the Minerals and Mining (Local Content and Local Participation) Regulations, 2020 (L.I. 2431) to expand the specific provisions under the mining regulations that require mining entities to procure goods and services from local sources. The Minerals Commission publishes a Local Procurement List, which identifies items that must be sourced from Ghanaian-owned companies, whose directors must all be Ghanaians.

Power Sector

In December 2017, Ghana introduced regulations requiring local content and local participation in the power sector. The Energy Commission (Local Content and Local Participation) (Electricity Supply Industry) Regulations, 2017 (L.I. 2354) specify minimum initial levels of local participation/ownership and 10-year targets:

Electricity Supply Activity Initial Level of Local Participation Target Level in 10 Years
Wholesale Power Supply 15 51
Renewable Energy Sector 15 51
Electricity Distribution 30 51
Electricity Transmission 15 49
Electricity Sales Service 80 100
Electricity Brokerage Service 80 100

The regulations also specify minimum and target levels of local content in engineering and procurement, construction, post-construction, services, management, operations, and staff. All persons engaged in or planning to engage in the supply of electricity are required to register with the ‘Electricity Supply Local Content and Local Participation Committee’ and satisfy the minimum local content and participation requirements within five years. Failure to comply with the requirements could result in a fine or imprisonment.

Insurance

The National Insurance Commission (NIC) imposes nationality requirements with respect to the board and senior management of locally incorporated insurance and reinsurance companies. At least two board members must be Ghanaians, and either the Chairman of the board or Chief Executive Officer (CEO) must be Ghanaian. In situations where the CEO is not Ghanaian, the NIC requires that the Chief Financial Officer be Ghanaian. Minimum initial capital investment in the insurance sector is 50 million Ghana cedis (approximately USD 9 million).

Telecommunications

Per the Electronic Communications Act of 2008, the National Communications Authority (NCA) regulates and manages the nation’s telecommunications and broadcast sectors. For 800 MHz spectrum licenses for mobile telecommunications services, Ghana restricts foreign participation to a joint venture or consortium that includes a minimum of 25 percent Ghanaian ownership. Applicants have two years to meet the requirement, and can list the 25 percent on the Ghana Stock Exchange. The first option to purchase stock is given to Ghanaians, but there are no restrictions on secondary trading.

Banking and Electronic Payment Service Providers

The Payment Systems and Services Act, 2019 (Act 987), establishes requirements for the licensing and authorization of electronic payment services. Act 987 ( https://www.bog.gov.gh/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Payment-Systems-and-Services-Act-2019-Act-987-.pdf ) imposes limitations on foreign investment and establishes residency requirements for company senior officials or members of the board of directors. Specifically, Act 987 mandates electronic payment services companies to have at least 30 percent Ghanaian ownership (either from a Ghanaian corporate or individual shareholder) and requires at least two of its three board directors, including its chief executive officer, be resident in Ghana.

There are no significant limits on foreign investment or differences in the treatment of foreign and national investors in other sectors of the economy.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Ghana has not conducted an investment policy review (IPR) through the OECD recently. UNCTAD last conducted an IPR in 2003.

The WTO last conducted a Trade Policy Review (TPR) in May 2014. The TPR concluded that the 2013 amendment to the investment law raised the minimum capital that foreigners must invest to levels above those specified in Ghana’s 1994 GATS horizontal commitments, and excluded new activities from foreign competition. However, it was determined that overall this would have minimal impact on dissuading future foreign investment due to the size of the companies traditionally seeking to do business within the country. An executive summary of the findings can be found at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp398_e.htm .

Business Facilitation

Although registering a business is a relatively easy procedure and can be done online through the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) at https://egovonline.gegov.gov.gh/RGDPortalWeb/portal/RGDHome/eghana.portal  (this would be controlled by the new Office of the Registrar of Companies in 2021), businesses have noted that the process involved in establishing a business is lengthy and complex, and requires compliance with regulations and procedures of at least four other government agencies, including GIPC, Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Ghana Immigration Service, and the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 , it takes eight procedures and 13 days to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company (LLC) to engage in international trade in Ghana. In 2019, Ghana passed a new Companies Act, 2019 (Act 992), which among other things created a new independent office called the Office of the Registrar of Companies, responsible for the registration and regulation of all businesses. The new office is expected to be in place in 2021, and would separate the registration process for companies from the Registrar General’s Department; the latter would continue to serve as the government’s registrar for non-business transactions such as marriages. The new law also simplifies some registration processes by scrapping the issuance of a certificate to commence business and the requirement for a company to state business objectives, which limited the activities in which a company could engage. The law also expands the role of the company secretary, which now requires educational qualifications with some background in company law practice and administration or having been trained under a company secretary for at least three years. Foreign investors must obtain a certificate of capital importation, which can take 14 days. The local authorized bank must confirm the import of capital with the Bank of Ghana, which confirms the transaction to GIPC for investment registration purposes.

Per the GIPC Act, all foreign companies are required to register with GIPC after incorporation with the RGD. Registration can be completed online at http://www.gipcghana.com/ . While the registration process is designed to be completed within five business days, but there are often bureaucratic delays.

The Ghanaian business environment is unique, and guidance can be extremely helpful. In some cases, a foreign investment may enjoy certain tax benefits under the law or additional incentives if the project is deemed critical to the country’s development. Most companies or individuals considering investing in Ghana or trading with Ghanaian counterparts find it useful to consult with a local attorney or business facilitation company. The United States Embassy in Accra maintains a list of local attorneys, which is available through the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service ( https://2016.export.gov/ghana/contactus/index.asp ) or U.S. Citizen Services (https://gh.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/). Specific information about setting up a business is available at the GIPC website: http://www.gipcghana.com/invest-in-ghana/doing-business-in-ghana.html .

Ghana Investment Promotion Centre
Post: P. O. Box M193, Accra-Ghana
Note: Omit the (0) after the country code when dialing from abroad.
Telephone: +233 (0) 302 665 125, +233 (0) 302 665 126, +233 (0) 302 665 127, +233 (0) 302 665 128, +233 (0) 302 665 129, +233 (0) 244 318 254/ +233 (0) 244 318 252
Email: info@gipc.gov.gh
Website: www.gipcghana.com 

Note that mining or oil/gas sector companies are required to obtain licensing/approval from the following relevant bodies:

Petroleum Commission Head Office
Plot No. 4A, George Bush Highway, Accra, Ghana
P.O. Box CT 228 Cantonments, Accra, Ghana
Telephone: +233 (0) 302 953 392 | +233 (0) 302 953 393
Website: http://www.petrocom.gov.gh/ 

Minerals Commission
Minerals House, No. 12 Switchback Road, Cantonments, Accra
P. O. Box M 248
Telephone: +233 (0) 302 772 783 /+233 (0) 302 772 786 /+233 (0) 302 773 053
Website: http://www.mincom.gov.gh/ 

Outward Investment

Ghana has no specific outward investment policy. It has entered into bilateral treaties, however, with a number of countries to promote and protect foreign investment on a reciprocal basis. Some Ghanaian companies have established operations in other West African countries.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The Government of Ghana’s policies on trade liberalization and investment promotion are guiding its efforts to create a clear and transparent regulatory system.

Ghana does not have a standardized consultation process, but ministries and Parliament generally share the text or summary of proposed regulations and solicit comments directly from stakeholders or via public meetings and hearings. All laws that are currently in effect are printed by the Ghana Publishing Company, while the notice of publication of the law, bills or regulations are made in the Ghana Gazette (equivalent of the U.S. Federal Register). The non-profit Ghana Legal Information Institute ( HYPERLINK “https://ghalii.org/gh/gazette/GHGaz” https://ghalii.org/gh/gazette/GHGaz) re-publishes hard copies of the Ghana Gazette. The Government of Ghana does not publish draft regulations online, and the Parliament only publishes some draft bills ( https://www.parliament.gh/docs?type=Bills&OT ), which inhibits transparency in the approval of laws and regulations.

The Government of Ghana has established regulatory bodies such as the National Communications Authority, the National Petroleum Authority, the Petroleum Commission, the Energy Commission, and the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission to oversee activities in the telecommunications, downstream and upstream petroleum, electricity and natural gas, and water sectors. The creation of these bodies was a positive step, but the lack of resources and the bodies’ susceptibility to political influence undermine their ability to deliver the intended level of oversight.

The government launched a Business Regulatory Reform program in 2017, but implementation has been slow. The program aims to improve the ease of doing business, review all rules and regulations to identify and reduce unnecessary costs and requirements, establish an e-registry of all laws, establish a centralized public consultation web portal, provide regulatory relief for entrepreneurs, and eventually implement a regulatory impact analysis system. The government continues to work towards achieving these goals and in 2020 established the centralized public consultation web portal ( www.bcp.gov.gh ), the Ghana Business Regulatory Reforms platform. It is an interactive platform to allow policymakers to consult businesses and individuals in a transparent, inclusive, and timely manner on policy issues. Ghana adopted International Financial Reporting Standards in 2007 for all listed companies, government business enterprises, banks, insurance companies, security brokers, pension funds, and public utilities.

Ghana continues to improve on making information on debt obligations, including contingent and state-owned enterprise debt, publicly available. Information on the overall debt stock (including domestic and external) is presented in the Annual Debt Management Report, which is available on the Ministry of Finance website at https://www.mofep.gov.gh/investor-relations/annual-public-debt-report . However, information on contingent liabilities from state-owned enterprises is not explicit and is not consolidated in one report.

International Regulatory Considerations

Ghana has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since January 1995. Ghana issues its own standards for many products under the auspices of the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA). The GSA has promulgated more than 500 Ghanaian standards and adopted more than 2,000 international standards for certification purposes. The Ghanaian Food and Drugs Authority is responsible for enforcing standards for food, drugs, cosmetics, and health items. Ghana notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Ghana’s legal system is based on British common law and local customary law. Investors should note that the acquisition of real property is governed by both statutory and customary law. The judiciary comprises both lower courts and superior courts. The superior courts are the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, and the High Court and Regional Tribunals. Lawsuits are permitted and usually begin in the High Court. The High Court has jurisdiction in all matters, civil and criminal, other than those involving treason and some cases that involve the highest levels of the government – which go to the Supreme Court. There is a history of government intervention in the court system, although somewhat less so in commercial matters. The courts have entered judgments against the government. However, the courts have been slow in disposing of cases and at times face challenges in having their decisions enforced, largely due to resource constraints and institutional inefficiencies.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The GIPC Act codified the government’s desire to present foreign investors with a transparent foreign investment regulatory regime. GIPC regulates foreign investment in acquisitions, mergers, takeovers and new investments, as well as portfolio investment in stocks, bonds, and other securities traded on the Ghana Stock Exchange. The GIPC Act also specifies areas of investment reserved for Ghanaian citizens, and further delineates incentives and guarantees that relate to taxation, transfer of capital, profits and dividends, and guarantees against expropriation.

GIPC helps to facilitate the business registration process and provides economic, commercial, and investment information for companies and businesspeople interested in starting a business or investing in Ghana. GIPC provides assistance to enable investors to take advantage of relevant incentives. Registration can be completed online at www.gipcghana.com .

As detailed in the previous section on “Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment,” sector-specific laws regulate foreign participation/investment in telecommunications, banking, fishing, mining, petroleum, and real estate.

Ghana regulates the transfer of technologies not freely available in Ghana. According to the 1992 Technology Transfer Regulations, total management and technical fee levels higher than eight percent of net sales must be approved by GIPC. The regulations do not allow agreements that impose obligations to procure personnel, inputs, and equipment from the transferor or specific source. The duration of related contracts cannot exceed ten years and cannot be renewed for more than five years. Any provisions in the agreement inconsistent with Ghanaian regulations are unenforceable in Ghana.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Ghana is reportedly working on a new competition law to replace the existing legislation, the Protection Against Unfair Competition Act, 2000 (Act 589); however, the new bill is still under review.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Constitution sets out some exceptions and a clear procedure for the payment of compensation in allowable cases of expropriation or nationalization. Additionally, Ghana’s investment laws generally protect investors against expropriation and nationalization. The Government of Ghana may, however, expropriate property if it is required to protect national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, town and county planning, or to ensure the development or utilization of property in a manner to promote public benefit. In such cases, the GOG must provide prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation to the property owner, but the process for determining adequate compensation and making payments can be complicated and lengthy in practice. The Government of Ghana guarantees due process by allowing access to the High Court by any person who has an interest or right over the property.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Ghana is a member state of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention). Ghana is a signatory to the convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention).

There is a caveat for investment disputes arising from within the energy sector. The Government of Ghana has expressed a preference for handling disputes under the ad hoc arbitration rules of the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL Model Law).

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The United States has signed three bilateral agreements on trade and investment with Ghana: a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), OPIC Investment Incentive Agreement, and the Open Skies Agreement. These agreements contain provisions for investment as well as trade dispute mechanisms.

The Commercial Conciliation Center of the American Chamber of Commerce (Ghana) provides arbitration services on trade and investment issues for disputes regarding contracts with arbitration clauses.

There is interest in alternative dispute resolution, especially as it applies to commercial cases. Several lawyers provide arbitration and/or conciliation services. Arbitration decisions are enforceable provided they are registered in the courts.

In March 2005, the government established a commercial court with exclusive jurisdiction over all commercial matters. This court also handles disputes involving commercial arbitration and the enforcement of awards; intellectual property rights, including patents, copyrights and trademarks; commercial fraud; applications under the Companies Act; tax matters; and insurance and re-insurance cases. A distinctive feature of the commercial court is the use of mediation or other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, which are mandatory in the pre-trial settlement conference stage. Ghana also has a Financial and Economic Crimes Court, which is a specialized division of the High Court that handles high-profile corruption and economic crime cases.

Enforcement of foreign judgments in Ghana is based on the doctrine of reciprocity. On this basis, judgments from Brazil, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Senegal, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom are enforceable. Judgments from American courts are not currently enforceable in Ghana.

The GIPC, Free Zones, Labor, and Minerals and Mining Laws outline dispute settlement procedures and provide for arbitration when disputes cannot be settled by other means. They also provide for referral of disputes to arbitration in accordance with the rules of procedure of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), or within the framework of a bilateral agreement between Ghana and the investor’s country. The Alternative Dispute Resolution Act, 2010 (Act 798) provides for the settlement of disputes by mediation and customary arbitration, in addition to regular arbitration processes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Ghana does not have a bankruptcy statute. A new insolvency law, the Corporate Restructuring and Insolvency Act, 2020 (Act 1015), was passed to replace the Bodies Corporate (Official Liquidations) Act, 1963 (Act 180). The new law, unlike the previous one, provides for reorganization of a company before liquidation when it is unable to pay its debts, as well as cross-border insolvency rules. The new law does not have a U.S. Chapter 11-style bankruptcy provision, but allows for a process that puts the company under administration for restructuring. The new law complements the law for private liquidations under the Companies Act, 2019 (Act 992), but does not apply to businesses that are under specialized regulations such as banks and insurance companies.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Investment incentives differ slightly depending upon the law under which an investor operates. For example, while all investors operating under the Free Zone Act are entitled to a ten-year corporate tax holiday, investors operating under the GIPC law are not. Tax incentives vary depending upon the sector in which the investor is operating.

All investment-specific laws contain some incentives. The GIPC law allows for import and tax exemptions for plant inputs, machinery, and parts imported for the purpose of the investment. Chapters 82, 84, 85, and 89 of the Customs Harmonized Commodity and Tariff Code zero-rate these production items. In 2015, the Government of Ghana imposed a new five percent import duty on some items that were previously zero-rated to conform to the new Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) common external tariff.

The Ghanaian tax system is replete with tax concessions that considerably reduce the effective tax rate. The minimum incentives are specified in the GIPC law and are not applied in an ad hoc or arbitrary manner. Once an investor has been registered under the GIPC law, the investor is entitled to the incentives provided by law. The government has discretion to grant an investor additional customs duty exemptions and tax incentives beyond the minimum stated in the law. The GIPC website ( http://www.gipcghana.com/ ) provides a thorough description of available incentive programs. The law also guarantees an investor all the tax incentives provided for under Ghanaian law. For example, rental income from commercial and residential property is exempt from tax for the first five years after construction. Similarly, income from a company selling or leasing out premises is income tax exempt for the first five years of operation. Rural banks and cattle ranching are exempt from income tax for ten years and pay eight percent thereafter.

The corporate tax rate is 25 percent, and this applies to all sectors, except income from non-traditional exports (eight percent tax rate), companies principally engaged in the hotel industry (22 percent rate), and oil and gas exploration companies (35 percent tax rate). For some sectors there are temporary tax holidays. These sectors include Free Zone enterprises and developers (0 percent for the first ten years and 15 percent thereafter); real estate development and rental (0 percent for the first five years and 25 percent thereafter); agro-processing companies (0 percent for the first five years, after which the tax rate ranges from 0 percent to 25 percent depending on the location of the company in Ghana), and waste processing companies (0 percent for seven years and 25 percent thereafter). In December 2019, to attract investments under the Ghana Automotive Development Policy, corporate tax holidays among other import duty and value-added tax exemptions were granted to manufacturers or assemblers of semi-knocked-down vehicles (0 percent for three years) and complete-knocked down vehicles (0 percent for ten years). Tax rebates are also offered in the form of incentives based on location. A capital allowance in the form of accelerated depreciation is applicable in all sectors except banking, finance, commerce, insurance, mining, and petroleum. Under the Income Tax Act, 2015 (Act 896), all businesses can carry forward tax losses for at least three years.

Ghana has no discriminatory or excessively burdensome visa requirements. While ECOWAS nationals do not require a visa to enter Ghana, they need a work and residence permit to live and work in Ghana. The current fees for work and residence permit for ECOWAS nationals is USD 500 while that for non-ECOWAS nationals is USD 1,000. A foreign investor who invests under the GIPC Act is automatically entitled to a specific number of visas/work permits based on the size of the investment. When an investment of USD 50,000 but not more than USD 250,000 or its equivalent is made in convertible currency or machinery and equipment, the enterprise can obtain a visa/work permit for one expatriate employee. An investment of USD 250,000, but not more than USD 500,000, entitles the enterprise to two visas/work permits. An investment of USD 500,000, but not more than USD 700,000, allows the enterprise to bring in three expatriate employees. An investment of more than USD 700,000 allows an enterprise to bring in four expatriate employees. An enterprise may apply for extra visas or work permits, but the investor must justify why a foreigner must be employed rather than a Ghanaian. There are no restrictions on the issuance of work and residence permits to Free Zone investors and employees. Overall, the process of issuing work permits is not very transparent.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Free Trade Zones (called Free Zones in Ghana) were first established in May 1996, with one near Tema Steelworks, Ltd., in the Greater Accra Region, and two other sites located at Mpintsin and Ashiem near Takoradi in the Western Region. The seaports of Tema and Takoradi, as well as the Kotoka International Airport in Accra and all the lands related to these areas, are part of the Free Zone. The law also permits the establishment of single factory zones outside or within the areas mentioned above. Under the law, a company qualifies to be a Free Zone company if it exports more than 70 percent of its products. Among the incentives for Free Zone companies are a ten-year corporate tax holiday and zero import duty.

To make it easier for Free Zone developers to acquire the various licenses and permits to operate, the Ghana Free Zones Authority ( www.gfzb.gov.gh ) provides a “one-stop approval service” to assist in the completion of all formalities. A lack of resources has limited the effectiveness of the Authority. Foreign employees of Free Zone businesses require work and residence permits.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

In most sectors, Ghana does not have performance requirements for establishing, maintaining, and expanding a business. Investors are not required to purchase from local sources or employ prescribed levels of local content, except in the mining sector, the upstream petroleum sector, and the power sector, which are subject to substantial local content requirements. Similar legislation is being drafted for the downstream petroleum sector, and a National Local Content Policy is being debated by Cabinet that may extend to a broad array of sectors of the economy, but there is no clear timeline for its approval.

Generally, investors are not required to export a specified percentage of their output, except for Free Zone enterprises which, in accordance with the Free Zone Act, must export at least 70 percent of their products. Government officials have intimated that local content requirements should be applied to sectors other than petroleum, power, and mining, but no local content regulations have been promulgated for other sectors.

As detailed earlier in this report, there are a few areas where the GOG does impose performance requirements, including the mining, oil and gas, insurance, and telecommunications sectors.

Data Storage and Access

The Government of Ghana does not follow a forced localization policy in which foreign investors must use domestic content in goods or technology. In addition, there are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance (backdoors into hardware and software or turn over keys for encryption). Section 50 of the Payment Systems and Services Act, 2019 (Act 987), however, requires electronic payment systems service providers to allow the Bank of Ghana to inspect the “premises, equipment, computer hardware, software, any communication system, books of accounts, and any other document or electronic information which the Bank of Ghana may require in relation to the system.” During the coronavirus outbreak, to achieve its goal of contact tracing, the government issued Executive Instrument E.I. 63 that requires all telecommunication network operators to make available to the National Communications Authority (NCA) Common Platform mobile users location log and roaming files, caller or called numbers, Merchant Codes (of mobile money vendors), Mobile Station International Subscriber Directory Number Codes, International Mobile Equipment Identity Codes and site location. Executive Instrument 63 is being challenged in court.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The legal system recognizes and enforces secured interest in property. The process to get clear title over land is difficult, complicated, and lengthy. It is important to conduct a thorough search at the Lands Commission to ascertain the identity of the true owner of any land being offered for sale. Investors should be aware that land records can be incomplete or non-existent and, therefore, clear title may be impossible to establish. Ghana passed a new land law, Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036), which revised, harmonized, and consolidated laws on land to ensure sustainable land administration and management. The new law makes it possible to transfer and create or register interests in land by electronic means to speed up conveyancing, supports decentralized land service delivery, and includes provisions relating to property rights of spouses by ensuring that spouses are deemed to be party to the interest in land that is jointly acquired during the marriage. These changes are expected to improve accessibility and secured tenure.

Mortgages exist, although there are only a few thousand due to factors such as land ownership issues and scarcity of long-term finance. Mortgages are regulated by the Home Mortgages Finance Act, 2008 (Act 770), which has enhanced the process of foreclosure. A mortgage must be registered under the Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036), a requirement that is mandatory for it to take effect. Registration with the Land Title Registry is a reliable system of recording the transaction.

Intellectual Property Rights

The protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is an evolving area of law in Ghana. There has been progress in recent years to afford protection under both local and international law. Ghana is a party to the Universal Copyright Convention, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PTC), the Singapore Trademark Law Treaty (STLT), and the Madrid Protocol Concerning the International Registration of Marks. Ghana is also a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the English-speaking African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). In 2004, Ghana’s Parliament ratified the WIPO internet treaties, namely the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performance and Phonograms Treaty. Ghana also amended six IPR laws to comply with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), including: copyrights, trademarks, patents, layout-designs (topographies) of integrated circuits, geographical indications, and industrial designs. Except for the copyright law, implementing regulations necessary for fully effective promulgation have not been passed.

The Government of Ghana launched a National Intellectual Property Policy and Strategy in January 2016, which aimed to strengthen the legal framework for protection, administration, and enforcement of IPR and promote innovation and awareness, although progress on implementation stalled. Enforcement remains weak, and piracy of intellectual property continues. Although precise statistics are not available for many sectors, counterfeit computer software is regularly available at street markets, and counterfeit pharmaceuticals have found their way into public hospitals. Counterfeit products have also been discovered in such disparate sectors as industrial epoxy, cosmetics, drinking spirits, and household cleaning products. Based on cases where it has been possible to trace the origin of counterfeit goods, most have been found to have been produced outside the region, usually in Asia. IPR holders have access to local courts for redress of grievances, although the few trademark, patent, and copyright infringement cases that U.S. companies have filed in Ghana have reportedly moved through the legal system slowly.

Ghana is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

Resources for Rights Holders

Please contact the following at Mission Accra if you have further questions regarding IPR issues:

Shona Carter
Economic Officer
U.S. Embassy, Economic Section
No. 24 Fourth Circular Road, Cantonments, Accra, Ghana
Tel: +233(0) 302 741 000 (Omit the (0) after the area code when dialing from abroad)
Email: AccraICS@state.gov

The United States Embassy in Accra maintains a list of local attorneys, which is available through the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service ( https://2016.export.gov/ghana/contactus/index.asp ) or U.S. Citizen Services (https://gh.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/).

American Chamber of Commerce Ghana
5th Crescent Street, Asylum Down
P.O. Box CT2869, Cantonments-Accra, Ghana
Tel: +233 (0) 302 247 562/ +233 (0) 307 011 862 (Omit the (0) after the area code when dialing from abroad)
Email: info@amchamghana.org
Website: http://www.amchamghana.org/. 

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ 

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Private sector growth in Ghana is constrained by financing challenges. Businesses continue to face difficulty raising capital on the local market. While credit to the private sector has increased in nominal terms, levels as percentage of GDP have remained stagnant over the last decade, and high government borrowing has driven interest rates above 21 percent and crowded out private investment.

Capital markets and portfolio investment are gradually evolving. The longest-term domestic bonds are 15 years, with Eurobonds ranging up to 41-year maturities. Foreign investors are permitted to participate in auctions of bonds only with maturities of two years or longer. In November 2020, foreign investors held about 17.9 percent (valued at USD 4.6 billion) of the total outstanding domestic securities. In 2015, the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) added the Ghana Fixed-Income Market (GFIM), a specialized platform for secondary trading in debt instruments to improve liquidity.

The rapid accumulation of debt over the last decade, and particularly the past three years, has raised debt sustainability concerns. Ghana received debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative in 2004, and began issuing Eurobonds in 2007. In February 2020, Ghana sold sub-Saharan Africa’s longest-ever Eurobond as part of a $3 billion deal with a tenor of 41 years. In 2020, total public debt, roughly evenly split between external and domestic, stood at approximately 76 percent of GDP, partly as a result of the economic shock of COVID-19 as revenue declined and expenditures spiked.

The Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE) has 31 listed companies, four government bonds, and one corporate bond. Both foreign and local companies are allowed to list on the GSE. The Securities and Exchange Commission regulates activities on the Exchange. There is an eight percent tax on dividend income. Foreigners are permitted to trade stocks listed on the GSE without restriction. There are no capital controls on the flow of retained earnings, capital gains, dividends, or interest payments. The GSE composite index (GGSECI) has exhibited mixed performance.

Money and Banking System

Banks in Ghana are relatively small, with the largest in the country in terms of operating assets, Ecobank Ghana Ltd., holding assets of about USD 2.1 billion in 2019. The Central Bank increased the minimum capital requirement for commercial banks from 120 million Ghana cedis (USD 22 million) to 400 million (USD 70 million), effective December 2018, as part of a broader effort to strengthen the banking industry. As a result of the reforms and subsequent closures and mergers of some banks, the number of commercial banks dropped from 36 to 23. Eight are domestically controlled, and the remaining 15 are foreign controlled. In total, there are nearly 1,500 branches distributed across the sixteen regions of the country.

Overall, the banking industry in Ghana is well capitalized with a capital adequacy ratio of 19.8 percent as of December 2020, above the 11.5 percent prudential and statutory requirement. The non-performing loans ratio increased from 14.3 percent in December 2019 to 14.5 percent as of December 2020. Lending in foreign currencies to unhedged borrowers poses a risk, and widely varying standards in loan classification and provisioning may be masking weaknesses in bank balance sheets. The BoG has almost completed actions to address weaknesses in the non-bank deposit-taking institutions sector (e.g., microfinance, savings and loan, and rural banks) and has also issued new guidelines to strengthen corporate governance regulations in the banks.

Recent developments in the non-banking financial sector indicate increased diversification, including new rules and regulations governing the trading of Exchange Traded Funds. Non-banking financial institutions such as leasing companies, building societies, and village savings and loan associations have increased access to finance for underserved populations, as have rural and mobile banking. Currently, Ghana has no “cross-shareholding” or “stable shareholder” arrangements used by private firms to restrict foreign investment through mergers and acquisitions, although, as noted above, the Payments Systems and Services Act, 2019 (Act 987), does require a 30 percent Ghanaian company or Ghanaian holding by any electronic payments service provider, including banks or special deposit-taking institutions.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Ghana operates a managed-float exchange rate regime. The Ghana cedi can be exchanged for dollars and major currencies. Investors may convert and transfer funds associated with investments, provided there is documentation of how the funds were acquired. Ghana’s investment laws guarantee that investors can transfer the following transactions in convertible currency out of Ghana: dividends or net profits attributable to an investment; loan service payments where a foreign loan has been obtained; fees and charges with respect to technology transfer agreements registered under the GIPC Act; and the remittance of proceeds from the sale or liquidation of an enterprise or any interest attributable to the investment. Companies have not reported challenges or delays in remitting investment returns. For details, please consult the GIPC Act ( http://www.gipcghana.com ) and the Foreign Exchange Act guidelines ( http://www.sec.gov.gh ). Persons arriving in or departing from Ghana are permitted to carry up to USD 10,000.00 without declaration; any greater amount must be declared.

Ghana’s foreign exchange reserve needs are largely met through cocoa, gold, and oil exports; government securities; foreign assistance; and private remittances.

Remittance Policies

There is a single formal system for transferring currency out of the country through the banking system. The Foreign Exchange Act, 2006 (Act 723) provides the legal framework for the management of foreign exchange transactions in Ghana. It fully liberalized capital account transactions, including allowing foreigners to buy certain securities in Ghana. It also removed the requirement for the Bank of Ghana (the central bank) to approve offshore loans. Payments or transfer of foreign currency can be made only through banks or institutions licensed to do money transfers. There is no limit on capital transfers as long as the transferee can identify the source of capital.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Ghana’s only sovereign wealth fund is the Ghana Petroleum Fund (GPF), which is funded by oil profits and flows to the Ghana Heritage Fund and Ghana Stabilization Fund. The Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA), 2011 (Act 815), spells out how revenues from oil and gas should be spent and includes transparency provisions for reporting by government agencies, as well as an independent oversight group, the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC). Section 48 of the PRMA requires the Fund to publish an audited annual report by the Ghana Audit Service. The Fund’s management meets the legal obligations. Management of the Ghana Petroleum Fund is a joint responsibility between the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Ghana. The minister develops the investment policy for the GPF, and is responsible for the overall management of GPF funds, consults regularly with the Investment Advisory Committee and Bank of Ghana Governor before making any decisions related to investment strategy or management of GPF funds. The minister is also in charge of establishing a management agreement with the Bank of Ghana for the oversight of the funds. The Bank of Ghana is responsible for the day-to-day operational management of the Petroleum Reserve Accounts (PRAs) under the terms of Operation Management Agreement.

For additional information regarding Ghana Petroleum Fund, please visit the 2019 Petroleum Annual Report at: https://www.mofep.gov.gh/publications/petroleum-reports .

8. Responsible Business Conduct

There is no specific responsible business conduct (RBC) law in Ghana, and the government has no action plan regarding OECD RBC guidelines.

Ghana has been a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative since 2010. The government also enrolled in the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights in 2014.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is gaining more attention among Ghanaian companies. The Ghana Club 100 is a ranking of the top performing companies, as determined by GIPC. It is based on several criteria, with a 10 percent weight assigned to corporate social responsibility, including philanthropy. Companies have noted that Ghanaian consumers are not generally interested in the CSR activities of private companies, with the exception of the extractive industries (whose CSR efforts seem to attract consumer, government, and media attention). In particular, there is a widespread expectation that extractive sector companies will involve themselves in substantial philanthropic activities in the communities in which they have operations.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Corruption in Ghana is comparatively less prevalent than in most other countries in the region, according to Transparency International’s Perception of Corruption Index, but remains a serious problem, scoring 45 on a scale of 100 and ranking 75 out of 180 countries in 2020. The government has a relatively strong anti-corruption legal framework in place, but enforcement of existing laws is rare and inconsistent. Corruption in government institutions is pervasive. The Government of Ghana has vowed to combat corruption and has taken some steps to promote better transparency and accountability. These include establishing an Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) in 2017 to investigate and prosecute corruption cases and passing a Right to Information Act, 2019 (Act 989) (similar to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act) to increase transparency. The OSP has been without a Special Prosecutor since late 2020 and has still not prosecuted a significant anti-corruption case. In addition, the Auditor-General was placed on accrued annual leave in mid-2020 and then removed from office in March 2021 after a controversy related to his date of birth and mandatory retirement age.

Businesses have noted that bribery is most pervasive in the judicial system and across public services. Companies report that bribes are often exchanged in return for favorable judicial decisions. Large corruption cases are prosecuted, but proceedings are lengthy and convictions are slow. A 2015 exposé captured video of judges and other judicial officials extorting bribes from litigants to manipulate the justice system. Thirty-four judges were implicated, and 25 were dismissed following the revelations, though none have been criminally prosecuted.

The Public Procurement (Amendment) Act, 2016 (Act 914) was passed to address the shortcomings identified over a decade of implementation of the original 2003 law aimed at harmonizing the many public procurement guidelines used in the country and to bring public procurement into conformity with WTO standards. Nevertheless, complete transparency is lacking in locally funded contracts. There continue to be allegations of corruption in the tender process, and the government has in the past set aside international tender awards in the name of alleged national interest. The Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) provided for stiffer sanctions and penalties for breaches, but its effectiveness in stemming corruption has yet to be demonstrated. In 2016, Ghana amended the company registration law (which has been retained in the new Companies Act, 2019 (Act 992)) to include the disclosure of beneficial owners. In September 2020, Ghana deployed a Central Beneficial Ownership Register to collect and maintain a national database on beneficial owners for all companies operating in Ghana. The law requires each person who creates a company in Ghana to report the identities of the company’s beneficial owners on the Beneficial Ownership Declaration form at the Registrar-General’s Department (RGD). Existing companies are also required to provide this information by the end of June 2021. There are different types of thresholds for reporting beneficial owners, depending on the sector the company belongs to and the type of person the beneficial owner is. For the general threshold, a person who has direct or indirect interest of 10 percent or more in a company must be registered as a beneficial owner. A Politically Exposed Person (PEP) in Ghana who has any shares or any form of control over a company in any sector must be registered as a beneficial owner, while for a foreign PEP, shares must be five percent or more. For companies in the extractive industry, financial institutions, and businesses operating in sectors listed as high risk by the RGD, the threshold for reporting beneficial owners is five percent. Failure to comply with the requirements may attract a fine of up to 6,000 cedis (USD 1,050) or two years in prison, or both.

The 1992 Constitution established the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). Among other things, the Commission is charged with investigating alleged and suspected corruption and the misappropriation of public funds by officials. The Commission is also authorized to take appropriate steps, including providing reports to the Attorney General and the Auditor-General in response to such investigations. The effectiveness of the Commission, however, is hampered by a lack of resources, as it conducts few investigations leading to prosecutions. CHRAJ issued guidelines on conflict of interest to public sector workers in 2006, and issued a new Code of Conduct for Public Officers in Ghana with guidelines on conflicts of interest in 2009. CHRAJ also developed a National Anti-Corruption Action Plan that Parliament approved in July 2014, but many of its provisions have not been implemented due to lack of resources. In November 2015, then-President John Mahama fired the CHRAJ Commissioner after she was investigated for misappropriating public funds.

In 1998, the Government of Ghana also established an anti-corruption institution, called the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), to investigate corrupt practices involving both private and public institutions. The SFO’s name was changed to the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) in 2010, and its functions were expanded to include crimes such as money laundering and other organized crimes. EOCO is empowered to initiate prosecutions and to recover proceeds from criminal activities. The government passed a “Whistle Blower” law in July 2006, intended to encourage Ghanaian citizens to volunteer information on corrupt practices to appropriate government agencies.

Like most other African countries, Ghana is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery.

The most common commercial fraud scams are procurement offers tied to alleged Ghanaian government or, more frequently, ECOWAS programs. U.S. companies frequently report being contacted by an unknown Ghanaian firm claiming to be an authorized agent of an official government procurement agency. Foreign firms that express an interest in being included in potential procurements are lured into paying a series of fees to have their companies registered or products qualified for sale in Ghana or the West Africa region. U.S. companies receiving offers from West Africa from unknown sources should contact the U.S. Commercial Service in Ghana ( https://www.trade.gov/ghana ), use extreme caution, and conduct significant due diligence prior to pursuing these offers. American firms can request background checks on companies with whom they wish to do business by purchasing the U.S. Commercial Service’s International Company Profile (ICP). Requests for ICPs should be made through the nearest United States Export Assistance Center (USEAC), which can be found at https://www.trade.gov. For more information about the U. S. Commercial Service office at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana, visit www.export.gov/ghana .

Resources to Report Corruption

Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ)
Old Parliament House, High Street, Accra
Postal Address: Box AC 489, Accra
Omit the (0) after the area code when dialing from abroad: Phone: +233 (0) 242 211 534
Email: info@chraj.gov.gh
Website: http://www.chraj.gov.gh 

Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO)
Behind Old Parliament House, Accra
Omit the (0) after the area code when dialing from abroad:
Tel +233 (0) 302 665559, +233 (0) 302 634 363
Email: eoco@eoco.org.gh
Website: www.eoco.org.gh

10. Political and Security Environment

Ghana offers a relatively stable and predictable political environment for American investors, and has a solid democratic tradition. In December 2020, Ghana completed its eighth consecutive peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections and transfer of power since 1992, with power transferred between the two main political parties three times during that period. On December 7, 2020 New Patriotic Party (NPP) candidate (and incumbent) Nana Akufo-Addo was re-elected over the National Democratic Congress (NDC) candidate, former President John Mahama. The NDC disputed the 2020 presidential election result. The Supreme Court heard the case and ruled that Akufo-Addo had, indeed, won the election. There were isolated cases of violence during the election but no widespread civil disturbances. The next general elections are scheduled for December 7, 2024.

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.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Kenya’s regulatory system is relatively transparent and continues to improve. Proposed laws and regulations pertaining to business and investment are published in draft form for public input and stakeholder deliberation before their passage into law ( http://www.kenyalaw.org/ ; http://www.parliament.go.ke/the-national-assembly/house-business/bills-tracker ). Kenya’s business registration and licensing systems are fully digitized and transparent while computerization of other government processes, aimed at increasing transparency and efficiency, and reducing corruption, is ongoing.

The 2010 Kenyan Constitution requires government to incorporate public participation before officials and agencies make certain decisions. The draft Public Participation Bill (2019) aims to provide the general framework for such public participation. The Ministry of Devolution has produced a guide for counties on how to carry out public participation; many counties have enacted their own laws on public participation. The Environmental Management and Coordination Act (1999) incorporates the principles of sustainable development, including public participation in environmental management. The Public Finance Management Act mandates public participation in the budget cycle. The Land Act, Water Act, and Fair Administrative Action Act (2015) also include provisions providing for public participation in agency actions.

Kenya also has regulations to promote inclusion and fair competition when applying for tenders. Executive Order No. 2 of 2018 emphasizes publication of all procurement information including tender notices, contracts awarded, name of suppliers and their directors. The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority publishes this information on the Public Procurement Information Portal, enhancing transparency and accountability (https://www.tenders.go.ke/website). However, the directive is yet to be fully implemented as not all state agencies provide their tender details to the portal.

Many GOK laws grant significant discretionary and approval powers to government agency administrators, which can create uncertainty among investors. While some government agencies have amended laws or published clear guidelines for decision-making criteria, others have lagged in making their transactions transparent. Work permit processing remains a problem, with overlapping and sometimes contradictory regulations. American companies have complained about delays and non-issuance of permits that appear compliant with known regulations.

International Regulatory Considerations

Kenya is a member of the EAC, and generally applies EAC policies to trade and investment. Kenya operates under the EAC Custom Union Act (2004) and decisions regarding tariffs on imports from non-EAC countries are made by the EAC Secretariat. The U.S. government engages with Kenya on trade and investment issues bilaterally and through the U.S.-EAC Trade and Investment Partnership. Kenya also is a member of COMESA and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

According to the Africa Regional Integration Index Report 2019, Kenya is the second most integrated country in Africa and a leader in regional integration policies within the EAC and COMESA regional blocs, with strong performance on regional infrastructure, productive integration, free movement of people, and financial and macro-economic integration. The GOK maintains a Department of EAC Integration under the Ministry of East Africa and Regional Development. Kenya generally adheres to international regulatory standards. It is a member of the WTO and provides notification of draft technical regulations to the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Kenya maintains a TBT National Enquiry Point at http://notifyke.kebs.org . Additional information on Kenya’s WTO participation can be found at https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/countries_e/kenya_e.htm .

Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms. Publicly listed companies adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) that have been developed and issued in the public interest by the International Accounting Standards Board. The board is an independent, non-profit organization that is the standard-setting body of the IFRS Foundation. Kenya is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Kenya’s legal system is based on English Common Law, and its constitution establishes an independent judiciary with a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Constitutional Court, High Court, and Environment and Land Court. Subordinate courts include: Magistrates, Kadhis (Muslim succession and inheritance), Courts Martial, the Employment and Labor Relations Court, and the Milimani Commercial Courts – the latter two have jurisdiction over economic and commercial matters. In 2016, Kenya’s judiciary instituted the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Courts, focused on corruption and economic crimes. There is no systematic executive or other interference in the court system that affects foreign investors, however, the courts often face allegations of corruption, as well as political manipulation, in the form of unjustified budget cuts, which significantly impact the judiciary’s ability to fulfill its mandate. Delayed confirmation of judges nominated by the Judicial Service Commission result in an understaffed judiciary and prolonged delays in cases coming to trial and receiving judgments. The COVID-19 pandemic has also increased case backlogs, as courts reduced operations and turned to virtual hearings, particularly for non-urgent cases.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act (2012) provides for the enforcement of judgments given in other countries that accord reciprocal treatment to judgments given in Kenya. Kenya has entered into reciprocal enforcement agreements with Australia, the United Kingdom, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Seychelles. Outside of such an agreement, a foreign judgment is not enforceable in Kenyan courts except by filing a suit on the judgment. Foreign advocates may practice as an advocate in Kenya for the purposes of a specified suit or matter if appointed to do so by the Attorney General. However, foreign advocates are not permitted to practice in Kenya unless they have paid to the Registrar of the High Court of Kenya the prescribed admission fee. Additionally, they are not permitted to practice unless a Kenyan advocate instructs and accompanies them to court. The regulations or enforcement actions are appealable and are adjudicated in the national court system.

The 2018 amendment to the Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) Act expanded its scope to include protection of intellectual property rights, including those not registered in Kenya. The amended law empowered ACA inspectors to investigate and seize monetary gains from counterfeit goods. The 2019 amendment to the 2001 Copyright Act (established when the country had less than one percent internet penetration), formed the independent Copyright Tribunal, ratified the Marrakesh Treaty, recognized artificial intelligence generated works, established protections for internet service providers related to digital advertising, developed a register of copyrighted works by Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO), and protected digital rights through procedures for take down notices.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

The Competition Act of 2010 created the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK). The law was amended in 2019 to clarify the law with regard to abuse of buyer power and empower the CAK to investigate alleged abuses of buyer power. The competition law prohibits restrictive trade practices, abuse of dominant position, and abuse of buyer power, and it grants the CAK the authority to review mergers and acquisitions and investigate and take action against unwarranted concentrations of economic power. All mergers and acquisitions require the CAK’s authorization before they are finalized. The CAK also investigates and enforces consumer-protection related issues. In 2014, the CAK established a KES one million (approximately USD 10,000) filing fee for mergers and acquisitions valued between one and KES 50 billion (up to approximately USD 500 million). The CAK charges KES two million (approximately USD 20,000) for larger transactions. Company acquisitions are possible if the share buy-out is more than 90 percent, although such transactions seldom occur in practice.

Expropriation and Compensation

The constitution guarantees protection from expropriation, except in cases of eminent domain or security concerns, and all cases are subject to the payment of prompt and fair compensation. The Land Acquisition Act (2010) governs due process and compensation related to eminent domain land acquisitions; however, land rights remain contentious and resolving land disputes is often a lengthy process. However, there are cases where government measures could be deemed indirect expropriation that may impact foreign investment. Some companies reported instances whereby foreign investors faced uncertainty regarding lease renewals because county governments were attempting to confiscate some or all of the project property.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Kenya is a member of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention, and the 1958 New York Convention on the Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. International companies may opt to seek international well-established dispute resolution at the ICSID. Regarding the arbitration of property issues, the Foreign Investments Protection Act (2014) cites Article 75 of Kenya’s constitution, which provides that “[e]very person having an interest or right in or over property which is compulsorily taken possession of or whose interest in or right over any property is compulsorily acquired shall have a right of direct access to the High Court.” In 2020, Kenya prevailed in an ICSID international arbitration case against a U.S./Canadian geothermal company, over a geothermal exploration license revocation dispute.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

There have been very few investment disputes involving U.S. and international companies in Kenya. Commercial disputes, including those involving government tenders, are more common. The National Land Commission (NLC) settles land related disputes; the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board settles procurement and tender related disputes; and the Tax Appeals Tribunal settles tax disputes. However, private companies have criticized these institutions as having weak institutional capacity, inadequate transparency, and slow to resolve disputes. Due to the resources and time required to settle a dispute through the Kenyan courts, parties often prefer to seek alternative dispute resolution options.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The government does accept binding international arbitration of investment disputes with foreign investors. The Kenyan Arbitration Act (1995) as amended in 2010 is based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law. Legislation introduced in 2013 established the Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration (NCIA), which serves as an independent, non- profit international organization for commercial arbitration and may offer a quicker alternative than the court system. In 2014, the Kenya Revenue Authority launched an Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism aimed at providing taxpayers with an alternative, fast-track avenue for resolving tax disputes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Insolvency Act (2015) modernized the legal framework for bankruptcies. Its provisions generally correspond to those of the United Nations’ Model Law on Cross Border Insolvency. The act promotes fair and efficient administration of cross-border insolvencies to protect the interests of all creditors and other interested persons, including the debtor. The act repeals the Bankruptcy Act (2012) and updates the legal structure relating to insolvency of natural persons, incorporated, and unincorporated bodies. Section 720 of the Insolvency Act (2015) grants the force of law in Kenya to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law model law on cross border insolvency.

Creditors’ rights are comparable to those in other common law countries, and monetary judgments are typically made in KES. The Insolvency Act (2015) increased the rights of borrowers and prioritizes the revival of distressed firms. The law states that a debtor will automatically be discharged from debt after three years. Bankruptcy is not criminalized in Kenya. The World Bank Group’s 2020 Doing Business report ranked Kenya 50 out of 190 countries in the “resolving insolvency” category, an improvement of six spots compared to 2019.

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.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The constitution prohibits foreigners or foreign owned firms from owning freehold interest in land in Kenya. However, unless classified as agricultural, there are no restrictions on foreign-owned companies leasing land or real estate. The cumbersome and opaque process to acquire land raises concerns about security of title, particularly given past abuses related to the distribution and redistribution of public land. The Land (Extension and Renewal of Leases) Regulations (2017) prohibited automatic lease renewals and tied renewals to the economic output of the land, requiring renewals to be beneficial to the economy. If legally purchased property remains unoccupied, the property ownership can revert to other occupiers, including squatters.

The constitution, and subsequent land legislation, created the National Land Commission (NLC), an independent government body mandated to review historical land injustices and provide oversight of government land policy and management. The creation of the NLC also introduced coordination and jurisdictional confusion between the NLC and the Ministry of Lands. In 2015, President Kenyatta commissioned the National Titling Center and promised to significantly increase the number of title deeds. From 2013 to 2018, an additional 4.5 million title deeds have been issued, however 70 percent of land in Kenya remains untitled. Due to corruption at the NLC, land grabbing, enabled by the issuance of multiple title registrations, remains prevalent. Ownership of property legally purchased but unoccupied can revert to other parties.

Mortgages and liens exist in Kenya, but the recording system is unreliable – Kenya has only about 27,993 recorded mortgages as of 2019 in a country of 47.6 million people – and there are complaints that property rights and interests are seldom enforced. The legal infrastructure around land ownership and registration has changed in recent years, and land issues have delayed several major infrastructure projects. The 2010 Kenyan Constitution required all existing land leases to convert from 999 years to 99 years, giving the state the power to review leasehold land at the expiry of the 99 years, deny lease renewal, or confiscate the land if it determines the land had not been used productively. In 2010, the constitution also converted foreign-owned freehold interests into 99-year leases at a nominal “peppercorn rate” sufficient to satisfy the requirements for the creation of a legal contract. However, the implementation of this amendment remains somewhat ambiguous. In July 2020, the Ministry of Lands and Physical planning released draft electronic land registration regulations to guide land transactions.

Intellectual Property Rights

The major intellectual property enforcement issues in Kenya related to counterfeit products are corruption, lack of enforcement of penalties, insufficient investigations, and seizures of counterfeit goods, limited cooperation between the private sector and law enforcement agencies, and reluctance of brand owners to file a complaint with the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA). The prevalence of “gray market” products – genuine products that enter the country illegally without paying import duties – also presents a challenge, especially in the mobile phone and computer sectors. Copyright piracy and the use of unlicensed software are also common. However, reflecting the improvement in Kenya’s legal framework and enforcement mechanisms for intellectual property rights protections, the 2020 International Property Rights Index, which assess intellectual and physical property rights, increased Kenya’s score from 4.3 in 2010 to 5.0, out of a possible 10, in 2020.

The Presidential Task Force on Parastatal Reforms (2013) proposed that the three intellectual property agencies – the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), the KECOBO and the Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) – be merged into one government-owned entity, the Intellectual Property Office of Kenya. A task force on the merger, comprising staff from KIPI, ACA, KECOBO, and the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development is drafting the instruments of the merger, including consolidating intellectual property laws, and updating the legal framework and processes.

To combat the import of counterfeits, the Ministry of Industrialization and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) decreed in 2009 that all locally manufactured goods must have a KEBS import standardization mark (ISM). Several categories of imported goods, specifically food products, electronics, and medicines, must have an ISM. Under this program, U.S. consumer-ready products may enter Kenya without altering the U.S. label, but must also have an ISM. Once the product qualifies for Confirmation of Conformity, KEBS issues the ISMs for free. KEBS and the Anti-Counterfeit Agency conduct random seizures of counterfeit imports, but do not maintain a clear database of their seizures.

Kenya is not included on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local intellectual property offices, please see the World Intellectual Property Organization’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

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.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The Environmental Management and Coordination Act (1999) establishes a legal and institutional framework for responsible environment management, while the Factories Act (1951) safeguards labor rights in industries. The Mining Act (2016) directs holders of mineral rights to develop comprehensive community development agreements that ensure socially responsible investment and resource extraction, and establish preferential hiring standards for residents of nearby communities. The legal system, however, has remained slow to prosecute violations of these policies.

The GOK is not a signatory to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct, and it is not yet an Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) implementing country or a Voluntary Principles Initiative signatory. Nonetheless, good examples of corporate social responsibility (CSR) abound as major foreign enterprises drive CSR efforts by applying international standards relating to human rights, business ethics, environmental policies, community development, and corporate governance.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

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.

South Africa

Executive Summary

South Africa boasts the most advanced, broad-based economy on the African continent. The investment climate is fortified by stable institutions, an independent judiciary, and a robust legal sector committed to upholding the rule of law; a free press and investigative reporting; a mature financial and services sector; good infrastructure; and experienced local partners.

In dealing with the legacy of apartheid, South African laws, policies, and reforms seek economic transformation to accelerate the participation of and opportunities for historically disadvantaged South Africans. The government views its role as the primary driver of development and aims to promote greater industrialization, often employing tariffs and other trade measures that support domestic industry while negatively impacting foreign trade partners. President Ramaphosa’s October 2020 Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan unveiled the latest domestic support target: the substitution of 20% of imported goods in 42 categories with domestic production within 5 years. Other government initiatives to accelerate transformation include labor laws to achieve proportional racial, gender, and disability representation in workplaces and prescriptive government procurement requirements such as equity stakes and employment thresholds for historically disadvantaged South Africans.

South Africa continued to fight its way back from a “lost decade” in which economic growth stagnated, hovering at zero percent pre-COVID-19, largely due to corruption and economic mismanagement. South Africa suffered a four-quarter technical recession in 2019 and 2020 with economic growth registering only 0.2 percent growth for the entire year of 2019 and contracting 7 percent in 2020. As a result, Moody’s rating agency downgraded South Africa’s sovereign debt to sub-investment grade. S&P and Fitch ratings agencies made their initial sovereign debt downgrades to sub-investment grade earlier.

As the country continues to grapple with these challenges, it implemented one of the strictest economic and social lockdown regimes in the world at a significant cost to its economy. In a 2020 survey of over 2,000 South African businesses conducted by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), over eight percent of respondents permanently ceased trading, while over 36 percent indicated short-term layoffs. South Africa had a -7 percent rate of GDP growth for the year and the official unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 32.5 percent. Other challenges include: creating policy certainty; reinforcing regulatory oversight; making state-owned enterprises (SOEs) profitable rather than recipients of government money; weeding out widespread corruption; reducing violent crime; tackling labor unrest; improving basic infrastructure and government service delivery; creating more jobs while reducing the size of the state; and increasing the supply of appropriately-skilled labor.

Despite structural challenges, South Africa remains a destination conducive to U.S. investment as a comparatively low-risk location in Africa, the fastest growing consumer market in the world. Google (US) invested approximately USD 140 million and PepsiCo invested over USD 1 billion in 2020. Ford announced a USD 1.6 billion investment, including the expansion of its Gauteng province manufacturing plant in January 2021.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 69 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 84 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 60 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 $7.8 Billion https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $6,040 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

The Government of South Africa is generally open to foreign investment to drive economic growth, improve international competitiveness, and access foreign markets. The Department of Trade and Industry and Competition’s (the DTIC) Trade and Investment South Africa (TISA) division assists foreign investors. It actively courts manufacturing in sectors where it believes South Africa has a competitive advantage. It favors sectors that are labor intensive and with the potential for local supply chain development. The DTIC publishes the “Investor’s Handbook” on its website: www.the DTIC.gov.za  and TISA provides investment support through One Stop Shops in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and online at http://www.investsa.gov.za/one-stop-shop/  (see Business Facilitation). The 2018 Competition Amendment Bill introduced a government review mechanism for FDI in certain sectors on national security grounds, including energy, mining, banking, insurance, and defense (see section on Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment). The private sector has expressed concern about the politicization of mergers and acquisitions.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Currently there is no limitation on foreign private ownership. South Africa’s efforts to re-integrate historically disadvantaged South Africans into the economy have led to policies that could disadvantage foreign and some locally owned companies. The Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act of 2013 (B-BBEE), and associated codes of good practice, requires levels of company ownership and participation by black South Africans to obtain bidding preferences on government tenders and contracts. The DTIC created an alternative equity equivalence (EE) program for multinational or foreign owned companies to allow them to score on the ownership requirements under the law, but many view the terms as onerous and restrictive. Only eight multinationals, primarily in the technology sector, participate in the EE program. The government also is considering a new Equity Employment Bill that will set a numerical threshold, purportedly at the discretion of each Ministry, for employment based on race, gender and disability, over and above other B-BBEE criteria.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization published a Trade Policy Review for the Southern African Customs Union, which South Africa joined in 2015. OECD published an Economic Survey on South Africa, with investment-related information in 2020. UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has not conducted investment policy reviews for South Africa. https://www.oecd.org/economy/surveys/South-africa-2020-Overview_E.pdf

Business Facilitation

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business report, South Africa’s rank in ease of doing business in 2020 was 84 of 190, down from 82 in 2019. It ranks 139th for starting a business, 5 points lower than in 2019. In South Africa, it takes an average of 40 days to complete the process. South Africa ranks 145 of 190 countries on trading across borders.

The DTIC has established One Stop Shops (OSS) to simplify administrative procedures and guidelines for foreign companies wishing to invest in South Africa in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg. OSS are supposed to have officials from government entities that handle regulation, permits and licensing, infrastructure, finance, and incentives, with a view to reducing lengthy bureaucratic procedures, reducing bottlenecks, and providing post-investment services. Some users of the OSS complain that some of the inter-governmental offices are not staffed, so finding a representative for certain transactions may be difficult. The virtual OSS web site is: http://www.investsa.gov.za/one-stop-shop/ .

The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) issues business registrations, and publishes a step-by-step guide and allows for online registration at ( http://www.cipc.co.za/index.php/register-your-business/companies/ ), through a self-service terminal, or through a collaborating private bank. New businesses must also request through the South African Revenue Service (SARS) an income tax reference number for turnover tax (small companies), corporate tax, employer contributions for PAYE (income tax), and skills development levy (applicable to most companies). The smallest informal companies may not be required to register with CIPC but must register with the tax authorities. Companies must also register with the Department of Labour (DoL) – www.labour.gov.za  – to contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and a compensation fund for occupational injuries. DoL registration may take up to 30 days but may be done concurrently with other registrations.

Outward Investment

South Africa does not incentivize outward investments. South Africa’s stock foreign direct investments in the United States in 2019 totaled USD 4.1 billion (latest figures available), a 5.1 percent increase from 2018. The largest outward direct investment of a South African company was a gas liquefaction plant in the State of Louisiana by Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and NASDAQ dual-listed petrochemical company SASOL. There are some restrictions on outward investment, such as a R1 billion (USD 83 million) limit per year on outward flows per company. Larger investments must be approved by the South African Reserve Bank and at least 10 percent of the foreign target entities’ voting rights must be obtained through the investment. https://www.resbank.co.za/RegulationAndSupervision/FinancialSurveillanceAndExchangeControl/FAQs/Pages/Corporates.aspx 

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

South African laws and regulations are generally published in draft form for stakeholder comment. However, foreign stakeholders have expressed concern over the adequacy of notice and the government’s willingness to address comments. Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms. The DTIC is responsible for business-related regulations. It develops and reviews regulatory systems in the areas of competition, standards, consumer protection, company and intellectual property registration and protections, as well as other subjects in the public interest. It also oversees the work of national and provincial regulatory agencies mandated to assist the DTIC in creating and managing competitive and socially responsible business and consumer regulations. The DTIC publishes a list of Bills and Acts that govern its work at: http://www.theDTIC.gov.za/legislation/legislation-and-business-regulation/?hilite=%27IDZ%27 

South Africa’s Consumer Protection Act (2008) reinforces various consumer rights, including right of product choice, right to fair contract terms, and right of product quality. The law’s impact varies by industry, and businesses have adjusted their operations accordingly. A brochure summarizing the Consumer Protection Act can be found at: http://www.theDTIC.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/CP_Brochure.pdf . Similarly, the National Credit Act of 2005 aims to promote a fair and non-discriminatory marketplace for access to consumer credit and for that purpose to provide the general regulation of consumer credit and improves standards of consumer information. A brochure summarizing the National Credit Act can be found at: http://www.theDTIC.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/NCA_Brochure.pdf

International Regulatory Considerations

South Africa is a member of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which commenced trading in January 2021. It is a signatory to the SADC-EAC-COMESA Tripartite FTA and a member of the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), which has a common external tariff and tariff-free trade between its five members (South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, and Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland). South Africa has free trade agreements with the Southern African Development Community (SADC); the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) between South Africa and the European Union (EU); the EFTA-SACU Free Trade Agreement between SACU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland; and the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the SADC EPA States (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini, Lesotho, and Mozambique) and the EU and its Member States. SACU and Mozambique (SACUM) and the United Kington (UK) signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in September 2019.

South Africa is a member of the WTO. While it notifies some draft technical regulations to the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), it is often after implementation. In November 2017, South Africa ratified the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, implementing many of its commitments, including some Category B notifications. The South African Government is not party to the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA).

Legal System and Judicial Independence

South Africa has a strong legal system composed of civil law inherited from the Dutch, common law inherited from the British, and African customary law. Generally, South Africa follows English law in criminal and civil procedure, company law, constitutional law, and the law of evidence, but follows Roman-Dutch common law in contract law, law of delict (torts), law of persons, and family law. South African company law regulates corporations, including external companies, non-profit, and for-profit companies (including state-owned enterprises). Funded by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, South Africa has district and magistrate courts across 350 districts and high courts for each of the provinces. Cases from Limpopo and Mpumalanga are heard in Gauteng. The Supreme Court of Appeals hears appeals, and its decisions may only be overruled by the Constitutional Court. South Africa has multiple specialized courts, including the Competition Appeal Court, Electoral Court, Land Claims Court, the Labor and Labor Appeal Courts, and Tax Courts to handle disputes between taxpayers and SARS. Rulings are subject to the same appeals process as other courts.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The February 2019 ratification of the Competition Amendment Bill (CAB) introduced, among other revisions, section 18A that mandates the President create an as-of-yet-unestablished committee comprised of 28 Ministers and officials chosen by the President to evaluate and intervene in a merger or acquisition by a foreign acquiring firm on the basis of protecting national security interests. The law also states that the President must identify and publish in the Gazette, the South African equivalent of the U.S. Federal Register, a list of national security interests including the markets, industries, goods or services, sectors or regions for mergers involving a foreign acquiring firm.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

The Competition Commission, separate from the above committee, is empowered to investigate, control, and evaluate restrictive business practices, abuse of dominant positions, and review mergers to achieve equity and efficiency. Its public website is www.compcom.co.za . The Competition Tribunal has jurisdiction throughout South Africa and adjudicates competition matters in accordance with the CAB. While the Commission is the investigation and enforcement agency, the Tribunal is the adjudicative body, very much like a court.

Expropriation and Compensation

Racially discriminatory property laws and land allocations during the colonial and apartheid periods resulted in highly distorted patterns of land ownership and property distribution in South Africa. Given land reform’s slow and mixed success, the National Assembly (Parliament) passed a motion in February 2018 to investigate amending the constitution (specifically Section 25, the “property clause”) to allow for land expropriation without compensation (EWC). Some politicians, think-tanks, and academics argue that Section 25 already allows for EWC in certain cases, while others insist that amendments are required to implement EWC more broadly. Parliament tasked an ad hoc Constitutional Review Committee composed of parliamentarians from various political parties to report back on whether to amend the constitution to allow EWC, and if so, how it should be done. In December 2018, the National Assembly adopted the committee’s report recommending a constitutional amendment. Following elections in May 2019 the new Parliament created an ad hoc Committee to Initiate and Introduce Legislation to Amend Section 25 of the Constitution. The Committee drafted constitutional amendment language explicitly allowing for EWC and accepted public comments on the draft language through March 2021. Parliament awaits the committee’s submission after granting a series of extensions to complete its work. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds parliamentary majority (267 votes) to pass, as well as the support of six out of the nine provinces in the National Council of Provinces. Because no single political party holds such a majority, a two-third vote can only be achieved with the support of two or more political parties. Academics foresee EWC test cases in the next year primarily targeted at abandoned buildings in urban areas, informal settlements in peri-urban areas, and property with labor tenants in rural areas.

In October 2020, the Government of South Africa also published a draft expropriation bill in its Gazette, which would introduce the EWC concept into its legal system. The application of the draft’s provisions could conflict with South Africa’s commitments to international investors under its remaining investment protection treaties as well as its obligations under customary international law. Submissions closed in February 2021.

Existing expropriation law, including The Expropriation Act of 1975 (Act) and the Expropriation Act Amendment of 1992, entitles the government to expropriate private property for reasons of public necessity or utility. The decision is an administrative one. Compensation should be the fair market value of the property as agreed between the buyer and seller, or determined by the court per Section 25 of the Constitution.

In 2018, the government operationalized the 2014 Property Valuation Act that creates the office of Valuer-General charged with the valuation of property that has been identified for land reform or acquisition or disposal. The Act gives the government the option to expropriate property based on a formulation in the Constitution termed “just and equitable compensation.”

The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002 (MPRDA), enacted in 2004, gave the state ownership of South Africa’s mineral and petroleum resources. It replaced private ownership with a system of licenses controlled by the government and issued by the Department of Mineral Resources. Under the MPRDA, investors who held pre-existing rights were granted the opportunity to apply for licenses, provided they met the licensing criteria, including the achievement of certain B-BBEE objectives. Parliament passed amendment to the MPRDA in 2014 but the President never signed them. In August 2018, the Minister for the Department of Mineral Resources, Gwede Mantashe, called for the recall of the amendments so that oil and gas could be separated out into a new bill. He also announced the B-BBEE provisions in the new Mining Charter would not apply during exploration but would start once commodities were found and mining commenced. In November 2019, the newly merged Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) published draft regulations to the MPRDA. In December 2019, the DMRE published the Draft Upstream Petroleum Resources Development Bill for public comment. Parliament continues to review this legislation. Oil and gas exploration and production is currently regulated under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002 (MPRDA), but the new Bill will repeal and replace the relevant sections pertaining to upstream petroleum activities in the MPRDA.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

South Africa is a member of the New York Convention of 1958 on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration awards as implemented through the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards Act, No. 40 of 1977 . It is not a member of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States or the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The 2015 Promotion of Investment Act removes the option for investor state dispute settlement through international courts typically afforded through bilateral investment treaties (BITs). Instead, investors disputing an action taken by the South African government must request the DTIC to facilitate the resolution by appointing a mediator. A foreign investor may also approach any competent court, independent tribunal, or statutory body within South Africa for the resolution of the dispute. Dispute resolution can be a time-intensive process in South Africa. If the matter is urgent, and the presiding judge agrees, an interim decision can be taken within days while the appeal process can take months or years. If the matter is a dispute of law and is not urgent, it may proceed by application or motion to be solved within months. Where there is a dispute of fact, the matter is referred to trial, which may take several years so there is a growing preference for Alternative Dispute Resolution.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Arbitration Act of 1965, which does not distinguish between domestic and international arbitration and is not based on UNCITRAL model law, governs arbitration in South Africa. South African courts retain discretion to hear a dispute over a contract using the law of a foreign jurisdiction. However, the South African court will interpret the contract with the law of the country or jurisdiction provided for in the contract. South Africa recognizes the International Chamber of Commerce, which supervises the resolution of transnational commercial disputes. It applies commercial and bankruptcy laws with consistency and has an independent, objective court system for enforcing property and contractual rights. Alternative Dispute Resolution is increasingly popular in South Africa for many reasons, including the confidentiality which can be imposed on the evidence, case documents, and the judgment. South Africa’s new Companies Act also provides a mechanism for Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Bankruptcy Regulations

South Africa’s bankruptcy regime grants many rights to debtors, including rejection of overly burdensome contracts, avoiding preferential transactions, and the ability to obtain credit during insolvency proceedings. South Africa ranks 68 out of 190 countries for resolving insolvency according to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report, a drop from its 2019 ranking of 65.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The Public Investment Corporation SOC Limited (PIC) is an asset management firm wholly owned by the government of South Africa and is governed by the Public Investment Corporation Act, 2004 . PIC’s clients are mostly public sector entities, including the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), among others. The PIC runs a diversified investment portfolio including listed equities, real estate, capital market, private equity, and impact investing. The PIC has been known to jointly finance foreign direct investment if the project will create social returns, primarily in the form of new employment opportunities for South Africans. South Africa also offers various investment incentives targeted at specific sectors or types of business activities, including tax allowances to support in the automotive sector and rebates for film and television production. More information regarding incentive programs may be found at: http://www.thedtic.gov.za/financial-and-non-financial-support/incentives/ 

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

South Africa designated its first Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) in 2001. IDZs offer duty-free import of production-related materials and zero VAT on materials sourced from South Africa, along with the right to sell in South Africa upon payment of normal import duties on finished goods. Expedited services and other logistical arrangements may be provided for small to medium-sized enterprises or for new foreign direct investment. Co-funding for infrastructure development is available from the DTIC. There are no exemptions from other laws or regulations, such as environmental and labor laws. The Manufacturing Development Board licenses IDZ enterprises in collaboration with the South African Revenue Service (SARS), which handles IDZ customs matters. IDZ operators may be public, private, or a combination of both. There are currently five IDZs in South Africa: Coega IDZ, Richards Bay IDZ, Dube Trade Port, East London IDZ, and Saldanha Bay IDZ. South Africa also has Special Economic Zones (SEZs) focused on industrial development. The SEZs encompass the IDZs but also provide scope for economic activity beyond export-driven industry to include innovation centers and regional development. There are six SEZs in South Africa: Atlantis SEZ, Nkomazi SEZ, Maliti-A-Phofung SEZ, Musina/Makhado SEZ, Tshwane SEZ, and O.R. Tambo SEZ. The broader SEZ incentives strategy allows for 15 percent Corporate Tax as opposed to the current 28 percent, Building Tax Allowance, Employment Tax Incentive, Customs Controlled Area (VAT exemption and duty free), and Accelerated 12i Tax Allowance. For more detailed information on SEZs, please see: http://www.theDTIC.gov.za/sectors-and-services-2/industrial-development/special-economic-zones/?hilite=%27SEZ%27 

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Employment and Investor Requirements

Foreign investors who establish a business or invest in existing businesses in South Africa must show within twelve months of establishing the business that at least 60 percent of the total permanent staff are South African citizens or permanent residents. The Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) program measures employment equity, management control, and ownership by historically disadvantaged South Africans for companies which do business with the government or bid on government tenders. Companies may consider the B-BBEE scores of their sub-contractors and suppliers, as their scores can sometimes contribute to or detract from the contracting company’s B-BBEE score.

A business visa is required for foreign investors or business owners. To qualify for a visa, investors must invest a prescribed financial capital contribution equivalent to R2.5 million (USD 178,000) and have at least R5 million (USD 356,000) in cash and capital available. The capital requirements may be reduced or waived if the investment qualifies under one of the following types of industries/businesses: information and communication technology; clothing and textile manufacturing; chemicals and bio-technology; agro-processing; metals and minerals refinement; automotive manufacturing; tourism; and crafts. The documentation required for obtaining a business visa is onerous and includes, among other requirements, a letter of recommendation from the DTIC regarding the feasibility of the business and its contribution to the national interest, and various certificates issued by a chartered or professional South African accountant. U.S. citizens have found the process lengthy, confusing, and difficult. Requirements frequently change mid-process. Many U.S. citizens use facilitation services.

In February 2021, the Minister of Home Affairs published the 2021 Critical Skills List for public comment, updating the 2014 version. This list forms the basis for granting business visas. Stakeholders are concerned that the list eliminates highly skilled jobs for which it is difficult to find local labor, particularly in ICT and engineering, which may have a negative impact on investment.

Goods, Technology, and Data Treatment

The government incentivizes the use of local content in goods and technology. The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), which the government enacted in 2013 and which will enter fully into force in July 2021, regulates how personal information may be processed and under which conditions data may be transferred outside of South Africa. POPIA created an Information Regulator (IR) to draft and enforce regulations., Detailed guidance concerning transnational data transfers is scheduled to be released before July 2021. The IR acknowledges POPIA’s implementation will create substantial compliance costs for tech firms.

Investment Performance Requirements

There are no performance requirements on investments.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The South African legal system protects and facilitates the acquisition and disposition of all property rights (e.g., land, buildings, and mortgages). Deeds must be registered at the Deeds Office. Banks usually register mortgages as security when providing finance for the purchase of property. Foreigners may purchase and own immovable property in South Africa without any restrictions, as foreigners are generally subject to the same laws as South African nationals. Foreign companies and trusts are also permitted to own property in South Africa if they are registered in South Africa as an external company. South Africa ranks 108 of 190 countries in registering property according to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report.

Intellectual Property Rights

South Africa enforces intellectual property rights through civil and criminal procedures. It is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and in the process of acceding to the Madrid Protocol. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ . It is also a signatory to the WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS).

Owners of patents and trademarks may license them locally, but when a patent license entails the payment of royalties to a non-resident licensor, the DTIC must approve the royalty agreement. Patents are granted for twenty years, usually with no option to renew. Trademarks are valid for an initial period of ten years, renewable for ten-year periods. A patent or trademark holder pays an annual fee to preserve ownership rights. All agreements relating to payment for applicable rights are subject to SARB approval. A royalty of up to four percent is the standard for consumer goods and up to six percent for intermediate and finished capital goods.

Literary, musical, and artistic works, as well as cinematographic films and sound recordings, are eligible for protection under the Copyright Act of 1978. New designs may be registered under the Designs Act of 1967, which grants copyrights for five years. The Counterfeit Goods Act of 1997 provides additional protection to owners of trademarks, copyrights, and certain marks under the Merchandise Marks Act of 1941. The Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Act of 1997 amended the Merchandise Marks Act of 1941, the Performers’ Protection Act of 1967, the Patents Act of 1978, the Copyright Act of 1978, the Trademarks Act of 1993, and the Designs Act of 1993 to bring South African intellectual property legislation into line with TRIPS.

To modernize its IPR regime further, the DTIC introduced the Copyright Amendment Bill (CB) and the Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill (PPA). The controversial bills remain under Parliamentary review after being returned by the President in June 2020 on constitutional grounds. Stakeholders have raised several concerns, including the CB bill’s application of “fair use,” and clauses in both bills that allow the DTIC Minister to set royalty rates for visual artistic work or equitable renumeration for direct or indirect uses of copyrighted works. Additional changes to South Africa’s IPR regime are under consideration through a draft DTIC policy document, Phase 1 of the Intellectual Property Policy of the Republic of South Africa.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

South Africa recognizes the importance of foreign capital in financing persistent current account and budget deficits, and South Africa’s financial markets are regarded as some of the most sophisticated among emerging markets. A sound legal and regulatory framework governs financial institutions and transactions. The fully independent South African Reserve Bank (SARB) regulates a wide range of commercial, retail and investment banking services according to international best practices, such as Basel III, and participates in international forums such as the Financial Stability Board and G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) serves as the front-line regulator for listed firms but is supervised by the Financial Services Board (FSB). The FSB also oversees other non-banking financial services, including other collective investment schemes, retirement funds and a diversified insurance industry. The South African government has committed to tabling a Twin Peaks regulatory architecture to provide a clear demarcation of supervisory responsibilities and consumer accountability and to consolidate banking and non-banking regulation.

South Africa has access to deep pools of capital from local and foreign investors that provides sufficient scope for entry and exit of large positions. Financial sector assets amount to almost three times the country’s GDP, and the JSE is the largest on the continent with capitalization of approximately USD 670 billion and 335 companies listed on the main, alternative, and other smaller boards as of January 2021. Non-bank financial institutions (NBFI) hold about two thirds of financial assets. The liquidity and depth provided by NBFIs make these markets attractive to foreign investors, who hold more than a third of equities and government bonds, including sizeable positions in local-currency bonds. A well-developed derivative market and a currency that is widely traded as a proxy for emerging market risk allows investors considerable scope to hedge positions with interest rate and foreign exchange derivatives.

SARB’s exchange control policies permit authorized currency dealers, to buy and borrow foreign currency freely on behalf of domestic and foreign clients. The size of transactions is not limited, but dealers must report all transactions to SARB. Non-residents may purchase securities without restriction and freely transfer capital in and out of South Africa. Local individual and institutional investors are limited to holding 25 percent of their capital outside of South Africa.

Banks, NBFIs, and other financial intermediaries are skilled at assessing risk and allocating credit based on market conditions. Foreign investors may borrow freely on the local market. In recent years, the South African auditing profession has suffered significant reputational damage with allegations that two large foreign firms aided, and abetted irregular client management practices linked to the previous administration, or engaged in delinquent oversight of listed client companies. South Africa’s WEF competitiveness rating for auditing and reporting fell from number one in the world in 2016, to number 60 in 2019.

Money and Banking System

South African banks are well capitalized and comply with international banking standards. There are 19 registered banks in South Africa and 15 branches of foreign banks. Twenty-nine foreign banks have approved local representative offices. Five banks – Standard, ABSA, First Rand (FNB), Capitec, and Nedbank – dominate the sector, accounting for over 85 percent of the country’s banking assets, which total over USD 390 billion. SARB regulates the sector according to the Bank Act of 1990. There are three alternatives for foreign banks to establish local operations, all of which require SARB approval: separate company, branch, or representative office. The criteria for the registration of a foreign bank are the same as for domestic banks. Foreign banks must include additional information, such as holding company approval, a letter of “comfort and understanding” from the holding company, and a letter of no objection from the foreign bank’s home regulatory authority. More information on the banking industry may be found at www.banking.org.za .

The Financial Services Board (FSB) governs South Africa’s non-bank financial services industry (see website: www.fsb.co.za/ ). The FSB regulates insurance companies, pension funds, unit trusts (i.e., mutual funds), participation bond schemes, portfolio management, and the financial markets. The JSE Securities Exchange SA (JSE), the sixteenth largest exchange in the world measured by market capitalization, enjoys the global reputation of being one of the best regulated. Market capitalization stood at USD 670 billion as of January 2021, with 335 firms listed. The Bond Exchange of South Africa (BESA) is licensed under the Financial Markets Control Act. Membership includes banks, insurers, investors, stockbrokers, and independent intermediaries. The exchange consists principally of bonds issued by government, state-owned enterprises, and private corporations. The JSE acquired BESA in 2009. More information on financial markets may be found at www.jse.co.za . Non-residents can finance 100 percent of their investment through local borrowing. A finance ratio of 1:1 also applies to emigrants, the acquisition of residential properties by non-residents, and financial transactions such as portfolio investments, securities lending and hedging by non-residents.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The SARB Exchange Control Department administers foreign exchange policy. An authorized foreign exchange dealer, normally one of the large commercial banks, must handle international commercial transactions and report every purchase of foreign exchange, irrespective of the amount. Generally, there are only limited delays in the conversion and transfer of funds. Due to South Africa’s relatively closed exchange system, no private player, however large, can hedge large quantities of Rand for more than five years. While non-residents may freely transfer capital in and out of South Africa, transactions must be reported to authorities. Non-residents may purchase local securities without restriction. To facilitate repatriation of capital and profits, foreign investors should ensure an authorized dealer endorses their share certificates as “non-resident.” Foreign investors should also be sure to maintain an accurate record of investment.

Remittance Policies

Subsidiaries and branches of foreign companies in South Africa are considered South African entities, treated legally as South African companies, and subject to SARB’s exchange control. South African companies generally may freely remit to non-residents repayment of capital investments; dividends and branch profits (provided such transfers are made from trading profits and are financed without resorting to excessive local borrowing); interest payments (provided the rate is reasonable); and payment of royalties or similar fees for the use of know-how, patents, designs, trademarks or similar property (subject to SARB prior approval).

While South African companies may invest in other countries, SARB approval/notification is required for investments over R500 million (USD 33.5 million). South African individuals may freely invest in foreign firms listed on South African stock exchanges. Individual South African taxpayers in good standing may make investments up to a total of R4 million (USD 266,000) in other countries. As of 2010, South African banks are permitted to commit up to 25 percent of their capital in direct and indirect foreign liabilities. In addition, mutual and other investment funds can invest up to 25 percent of their retail assets in other countries. Pension plans and insurance funds may invest 25 percent of their retail assets in other countries.

Before accepting or repaying a foreign loan, South African residents must obtain SARB approval. SARB must also approve the payment of royalties and license fees to non-residents when no local manufacturing is involved. DTIC must approve the payment of royalties related to patents on manufacturing processes and products. Upon proof of invoice, South African companies may pay fees for foreign management and other services provided such fees are not calculated as a percentage of sales, profits, purchases, or income.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Although the President and the Finance Minister announced in February 2020 the aim to create a Sovereign Wealth Fund, no action has been taken.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) is well-developed in South Africa, driven in part by the socio-economic development element of B-BBEE policy as firms have largely aligned their RBC activities to B-BBEE requirements. The B-BBEE target is one percent of net profit after tax spent on RBC, and at least 75 percent of the RBC activity must benefit historically disadvantaged South Africans and is directed primarily towards non-profit organizations involved in education, social and community development, and health.

The South African mining sector follows the rule of law and encourages adherence to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. South Africa is a founding member of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) aimed at preventing conflict diamonds from entering the market. It does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). South African mining, labor and security legislation seek to embody the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. Mining laws and regulations allow for the accounting of all revenues from the extractive sector in the form of mining taxes, royalties, fees, dividends, and duties.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

South Africa has a robust anti-corruption framework, but laws are inadequately enforced, and public sector accountability is low. High-level political interference has undermined the country’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). “State capture”, a term used to describe systemic corruption of the state’s decision-making processes by private interests, is synonymous with the administration of former president Jacob Zuma. In response to widespread calls for accountability, President Ramaphosa launched four separate judicial commissions of inquiry to investigate corruption, fraud, and maladministration, including in the Public Investment Corporation, South African Revenue Service, and the NPA which have revealed pervasive networks of corruption across all levels of government.

The Department of Public Service and Administration coordinates government initiatives against corruption, and South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations focuses on organized crime, economic crimes, and corruption. The Office of the Public Protector, a constitutionally mandated body, investigates government abuse and mismanagement. The Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (PCCA) officially criminalizes corruption in public and private sectors and codifies specific offenses (such as extortion and money laundering), making it easier for courts to enforce the legislation. Applying to both domestic and foreign organizations doing business in the country, the PCCA covers receiving or offering bribes, influencing witnesses and tampering with evidence in ongoing investigations, obstruction of justice, contracts, procuring and withdrawal of tenders, and conflict of interests, among other areas. Inconsistently implemented, the PCCA lacks whistleblower protections. The Promotion of Access to Information Act and the Public Finance Management Act call for increased access to public information and review of government expenditures.

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

South Africa is a signatory to the Anticorruption Convention and the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery. South Africa is also a party to the SADC Protocol Against Corruption, which seeks to facilitate and regulate cooperation in matters of corruption amongst Member States and foster development and harmonization of policies and domestic legislation related to corruption. The Protocol defines ‘acts of corruption,’ preventative measures, jurisdiction of Member States, as well as extradition. http://www.sadc.int/files/7913/5292/8361/Protocol_Against_Corruption2001.pdf

Resources to Report Corruption

To report corruption to the government:

Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Public Protector
Office of the Public Protector, South Africa
175 Lunnon Street, Hillcrest Office Park, Pretoria 0083
Anti-Corruption Hotline: +27 80 011 2040 or +27 12 366 7000
http://www.pprotect.org 
or customerservice@pprotect.org 

Or for a non-government agency:

David Lewis
Executive Director
Corruption Watch
87 De Korte Street, Braamfontein/Johannesburg 2001 +27 80 002 3456 or +27 11 242 3900
+27 80 002 3456 or +27 11 242 3900
http://www.corruptionwatch.org.za/content/make-your-complaint 
info@corruptionwatch.org.za 

10. Political and Security Environment

South Africa has strong institutions and is relatively stable, but it also has a history of politically motivated violence and civil disturbance. Violent protests against the lack of effective government service delivery are common. Killings of, and by, mostly low-level political and organized crime rivals occur regularly. In May 2018, President Ramaphosa set up an inter-ministerial committee in the security cluster to serve as a national task force on political killings. The task force includes the Police Minister‚ State Security Minister‚ Justice Minister‚ National Prosecuting Authority, and the National Police Commissioner. The task force ordered multiple arrests, including of high-profile officials, in what appears to be a crackdown on political killings. Criminal threats and labor-related unrest have impacted U.S. companies in the past.

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