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Finding work in Kenya

Those looking for a change in lifestyle, a good salary and an excellent life/work balance will want to discover what Kenya has to offer. Here’s a taster…

Most expats will have already secured work before arriving in Kenya. Secured contracts are the most popular route to gaining employment in the country.

If you have a visa, there’s nothing to stop you looking for work in the country. Word of mouth is the most common route and there are numerous expat forums where you can glean useful information about prospective job openings. Freelancers must have a solid contract so that they can apply for a work permit. You can always try LinkedIn to help you land a job: type in the keywords related to your profession and choose Kenya as the location.

Industry in Kenya

Once you’re allowed to live and work in Kenya, the dream can start. The country has a strong economy and the Economist Intelligence Unit stated that this is set to grow by 5.7% between 2019 and 2022. Sectors including agriculture, the service economy and industry are all expected to expand. Increased investment from China and Dubai, among other countries, highlights the global importance of Kenya and increased confidence in its economic future. In 2016, Kenya was rated as the ninth highest country in Africa, from a total of 28, to attract foreign investment.

Investors in Dubai are specifically interested in the areas of agriculture, tourism, construction, real estate and investment in Kenya’s ports. Logistics is another area of interest to outside investors. This news brings with it increased opportunities for expats.

IT is an expanding industry in the country, and many major international companies have a base in Kenya. Blackberry, Bosch and Intel all have their African headquarters based in Nairobi. With a GDP worth USD $70.53 billion in 2016, and the ICT sector accounting for a large proportion of this figure, the expansion of this area is set to increase. In 2016 Kenya had 39.7 million mobile subscribers — with 95% of these on prepaid contracts - and 4G is being rolled out across the country under the Orange brand. In 2017, 41 out of Kenya’s 47 counties were already connected to broadband and this connectivity is expanding. For a current list of all IT companies operating in Kenya, this list provided by is useful. If you have the qualifications and feel like an adventure, then Kenya can afford you the opportunity.

There are numerous other international companies that have branches in Kenya, including BASF (Baden Aniline and Soda Factory), Coca Cola, Toyota and General Electric. However, according to a local blog, these companies tend to employ expats who are already working for them in another destination.

Oil was discovered off the coast of Kenya in 2012 but infrastructure problems have led to a delay in mining production, and Kenya still has to import most of its crude. The French are also active in the region, and oil giant Total is involved in a plan to send Kenya’s oil through a Tanzanian/Ugandan pipeline. With reserves estimated to be at around 750 million barrels, and oil refineries on the horizon, this would cut down Kenya’s shipping costs which currently stand at USD $50 million per year.

Working for an NGO

Most expats relocate to the country with a job already secured unless they are planning to start their own business or work as a freelancer. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the United Nations and a host of aid agencies are also based in Kenya. It’s best to contact these organisations from your own country before taking the plunge and moving to East Africa.

There is a wide range of jobs for expats in Kenya. Some enter the country having secured a role as a volunteer with organisations including Habitat for Humanity — these schemes can be short term and the volunteer will have to pay a fee in order to make the trip with the charity to Kenya. The main areas of expertise for NGOs range from environmental protection, poverty alleviation and supporting small-scale enterprises to promoting the rights and well-being of the disabled and counselling on population control. If you want to see if you have the skills needed by these organisations, then researching these organisations will help.

Working for your own company

Expats who want to own their business in Kenya must have the relevant work permit, Class H, which allows a non-Kenyan to have shares in a registered business. To register your company, you’ll need to have two directors, two shareholders and an address in the country. The agricultural property sector doesn’t allow foreign shareholders, and if you’re thinking of setting up a telecommunications company, 30% of your shareholders will have to be Kenyan.

Your business will also have to be able to show that it has US$100,000 in a local bank account. There are many agencies that will undertake the arduous process of company registration and permit application on your behalf. This will help speed up the process, but on the downside, you’ll have to pay their fees.

Once you’ve found a job in Kenya, it’s important to brush up on your business etiquette — it may be quite different from what you’re used to. Read our guide here.

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