Kenya - Country Commercial Guide
Investment Climate Statement

The Investment Climate Statement Chapter of the CCG is provided by the State Department. Any questions on the ICS can be directed to EB-ICS-DL@state.gov.

Last published date: 2021-12-06

The U.S. Department of State Investment Climate Statements provide information on the business climates of more than 170 economies and are prepared by economic officers stationed in embassies and posts around the world.  They analyze a variety of economies that are or could be markets for U.S. businesses.

Topics include Openness to Investment, Legal and Regulatory systems, Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property Rights, Transparency, Performance Requirements, State-Owned Enterprises, Responsible Business Conduct, and Corruption.

These statements highlight persistent barriers to further U.S. investment.  Addressing these barriers would expand high-quality, private sector-led investment in infrastructure, further women’s economic empowerment, and facilitate a healthy business environment for the digital economy.  To access the ICS, visit the U.S. Department of State Investment Climate Statements website.

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.