While there is solid potential for U.S. goods and services in Kenya, Kenya is a developing country with a complex market. The U.S. exporter should keep certain factors in mind to achieve maximum success, with logistics and safety key among these.
Within the context of Kenya’s political and business culture, which differ in many respects from those of the U.S., the U.S and Kenya have enjoyed a stable relationship for many decades. The principles of customary business courtesy, especially replying promptly to requests for price quotations and orders, are a prerequisite for exporting success. In general, Kenyan business executives are sophisticated, informal, and open. The use of first names at an early stage of a business relationship is acceptable. Friendship and mutual trust are highly valued, and once an American has earned this trust, a productive working relationship can usually be obtained.
Given the competitive market, and increasing international experience and growing prevalence of expatriated Kenyans doing business in Kenya and often returning to Kenya to live and work, Kenyan firms have significant expertise in international business. Kenyan buyers appreciate quality and service, and, if justified, are willing to pay a premium if they are convinced of a product's overall superiority. The market, however, remains very price sensitive. It is not uncommon to receive an inquiry to compare prices among suppliers. Care must be taken to ensure that delivery dates are closely adhered to and that after-sales service is promptly honored. While it is natural to assume the client understands the product well, it is important to communicate any known limitations or variations from similar products in the market to reduce the chances of misunderstandings, or failed business relationship. As there are numerous factors that may interfere with prompt shipment, U.S. exporters should allow for additional shipping time to Kenya and ensure the Kenyan buyer is continuously updated on changes in shipping schedules and routing. Since Kenyan wholesalers and retailers generally do a lower volume of business than their American counterparts, U.S. firms should be prepared to sell smaller quantities than is normal in the U.S. It is recommended to have on your contact list, consolidators who could potentially fulfill shipment of smaller orders by consolidating them with other shipments destined for Kenya. Experience in shipping to Kenya would be necessary when selecting such firms.
U.S. firms should maintain close contact with distributors and customers to exchange information and ideas. Local distributors/representatives can serve as an excellent source of local market information and as appraisers of product market acceptance. In most instances, mail, fax, or telephone communications are sufficient, but the understanding developed through periodic personal visits is the best way to keep distributors apprised of new developments and to resolve problems quickly. Prompt acknowledgment of correspondence by fax or e-mail is mandatory.
If the market size and demand warrants, U.S. marketers should seriously consider warehousing in Kenya for speedy supply and service of customers. Local assembly of complete knock down kits, especially for electrical and electronic goods, is recommended; this has proven viable in the Kenyan market and also has an import duty advantage. As would be the case in most markets, vigorous and sustained promotion is often needed to launch products. Products must be adapted to both technical requirements and to consumer preferences, as well as to meet Kenyan Government regulations. The GOK wants to ensure that all imports conform to the stipulated technical specifications; any flaws detected could result in the withdrawal of the product from the market, prosecution of the manufacturer and the retailer/importer, or both. It is not sufficient to merely label a product in conformity with national requirements to achieve successful market penetration. Consumers must be attracted to the product by the label and packaging as well as ease of use. Where possible, a website detailing product value, features, dimensions and shipping weight would be an added advantage. It is more common now for Kenyan buyers to undertake a due diligence or search online for more information on products.
The U.S. maintains a travel warning on Kenya due to the threat of terrorism and violent crime. For information on the travel advisory, visit http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1151.html
A passport is required and all visitors require visas. The Kenyan single entry visa fee is currently USD 25. Business and other visas should be obtained in advance, although airport visas are available. Travelers who opt to obtain an airport visa should expect delays upon arrival. There is a fee for the business visa, whether obtained in advance or at the airport. Evidence of yellow fever immunization may be requested.
Travelers may obtain the latest information on visas as well as any additional details regarding entry requirements from the Embassy of Kenya, 2249 R Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 387-6101, or the Kenyan Consulates General in Los Angeles and New York City. Persons outside the United States should contact the nearest Kenyan Embassy or Consulate. http://www.kenyaembassy.com/
Upon arrival in Kenya, visitors are asked to register with the U.S. Embassy’s Consular section and receive the latest updates on safety and security. Online registration may be completed at http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/tips/registration/registration_1186.html
Consular Services: Consular Section U.S. Embassy Nairobi is a full service Consular section with notaries, visa services for persons wishing to travel to the United States and American Citizen Services.
U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should be advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following links.
State Department Visa Website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/
U.S. Embassy-Nairobi’s Consular Section: http://nairobi.usembassy.gov/visas.html
Kenya has a well developed telecommunications infrastructure that is easy to access and low cost. Roaming services are available for majority of the major networks worldwide, and blackberry roaming services are also available on 3 of the 4 networks in Kenya (Safaricom, Airtel, Orange Telkom). While roaming is the most convenient it can be significantly expensive.
A pre-paid local line can be purchased for as little as US 25cents even at the airport, and top up cards purchased in denominations as low as Kshs. 20 (US 25 cents) up to Kshs. 1,000 (USD 12.5). Calling the U.S. from local networks is now an incredibly low fee of U.S. 3.75 cents per minute of talk time.
The government now requires all sim cards/lines owners/users to be registered in order for the card to function. This same mobile line can be used to purchase data bundles to enable one to communicate and stay in touch on email, Skype or other web based service. Select networks have 3G enabled (Safaricom –active, Airtel – active, Orange Telkom - Active).
Other telecommunications services such as Fax, Telegraphs are still available, however part of a generation of technologies slowly being phased out.
Taxis and rental automobiles are available in large towns and cities. Traffic moves on the left-hand side of the road. For safety reasons, visiting American business executives should not use the informal “matatu” bus system or trains. If possible, taxis should be hired via concierge services at hotels or through reputable travel agents.
Kenya has two major international airports: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi and Moi in Mombasa. Inland passengers and freight are conveyed by the road and rail network. Passenger travel by train is not recommended. Taxis are available at the airport, and we would recommend getting a taxi from the various Taxi companies with an office outside the arrivals.
The official languages of Kenya are English and Kiswahili. However, many different languages and dialects are spoken throughout the country. The commercial language is English. Language barriers pose few problems, but in legal documents it is important to have lawyers who can interpret distinctions between American English and Kenyan English.
Adequate medical services are available in Nairobi and, to a lesser extent, in Mombasa. Malaria is not prevalent at high elevations, but precautions must be taken in lower areas, especially in the coastal and lake basin regions. Americans traveling to Kenya are advised to carry with them malaria prophylaxis. Residents should follow a strict sanitary regime in washing and preparing food. Other precautions should be taken to avoid contracting endemic tropical diseases such as yellow fever. Measles, polio and rabies have also recently become prevalent.
The U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section can provide visitors with a list of qualified local physicians. If a pharmacy recommends a substitute prescription other than the one prescribed by a U.S. physician, please consult with one of the doctors on the Embassy’s list.
U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs in particular do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Physicians and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face serious financial difficulties.
Visitors should check with insurance companies to confirm whether a policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the U.S. can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Visitors should ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether a patient will be reimbursed later for expenses that he/she incurs. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/tips_1232.html
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline at telephone: 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC Internet home page at www.cdc.gov.
Most of the year, Kenya is UTC/GMT +3, or three hours ahead of London and eight hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Accordingly, 8:00 a.m. on the West Coast of the U.S. and 11:00 a.m. on the East Coast is 7:00 p.m. in Kenya.
A 40-hour workweek is the norm for offices and factories. Typical office working hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with lunch from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Banking hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Most retail stores are open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. There are several supermarkets that are open 24hrs, and most shopping malls will have some shops open till 8pm.
The following are the official statutory holidays when most commercial offices are closed:
New Year's Day January 1
Good Friday March 29
Easter Monday April 1
Labor Day May 1
Madaraka Day June 1
Id-Ul-Fitr August 8 * Subject to confirmation
Mashujaa Day October 20 (Observed on Monday 21 October)
Jamhuri Day December 12
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26
Kenyan law limits the period of temporary importation to be consistent with the purposes for which goods have been imported. For instance, the temporary importation period for goods imported for exhibition purposes shall be limited to the period of the exhibition. However, the Minister for Finance may extend the period of temporary importation beyond twelve months upon application depending on the merit of each case. Such extensions are best requested before the expiry date to avoid inconvenience.
American Citizens Registration Form: https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/
Bureau of Consular Affairs home page – http://travel.state.gov/
Consular Information Sheet for Kenya – http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1151.html
Centers for Disease Control – www.cdc.gov
State Department Visa Website - http://nairobi.usembassy.gov/visas.html
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