Kenya is a wonderful country for children, with a long-list of activities to occupy and enthral younger people. In Nairobi, they can feed giraffes at the Giraffe Centre or pet and ‘adopt’ orphaned baby elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. The Nairobi Railway Museum is a favourite destination for local school students on field trips. Alongside a wide range of shops and boutiques, Nairobi’s ubiquitous modern malls also boast family-friendly cafés, playgrounds, bowling centres, miniature golf ranges, and movie theatres. Holidays to wildlife reserves, or to the beach, offer chances of a lifetime to view some of the world’s most famous creatures in the wild. For snorkelling, swims, and boat rides, visit National Marine Reserves in Malindi or Watamu.
Art, Culture, and Entertainment
Nairobi may not have the same established entertainment venues as other cities of comparable size, but there are still regular performances, exhibitions, and shows at the British Council, the Alliance Francaise, and the Goethe Institute. Film festivals are held in cooperation with East African film-makers and cinema enthusiasts. Cultural institutes are generally excellent locales for expats who are interested in the contemporary arts scene. There are also several semi-professional and amateur societies for the performing arts. Contemporary art galleries include the Shifteye Gallery, the Kuona Trust, the Circle Art Gallery, and the Godown.
Shopping in Nairobi
Expatriates will find almost all of the items they would buy at home available in Nairobi’s shopping centres, at prices comparable to Western markets. Many new shopping malls have appeared in Nairobi in recent years, and some older ones have been upgraded to serve the growing middle class and expat communities. Westgate, Sarit Centre, Junction, Galleria, and Yaya Center stock everything from global brands to local items. The Village Market, located near the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi, is very popular with expats who work in the diplomatic and NGO fields. Various independent arts and crafts businesses offer a selection of goods, and buying from local artists is important as it serves to support the local economy. Nairobi has numerous large supermarket chains and gourmet food shops. However, expats should not overlook local produce markets for the best deals on fresh fruit and vegetables bought directly from farmers to support local economies.
Kenya is justifiably world famous for its natural beauty and wildlife. The animals range from the ‘Big Five’ – elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo, lion, and leopard – to numerous antelopes including the world’s smallest, the dik dik, and even to strange species like the rock hyrax, related to the elephant but only the size of a rabbit. To enjoy the wild game, various National Parks could be visited including the Nairobi National Park, located just 12 kilometres from downtown Nairobi, Mount Kenya National Park, Kora National Park, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Sibiloi National Park, and Amboseli National Park. Large areas of land owned by local communities have been turned into wildlife ‘conservancies’, where financial and social benefits flow directly from tourism to local people.
Ease of Doing Business
Dealing with Kenyan clients is not a complicated task. While meetings are formal, they tend to take place in a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. Kenya climbed 21 positions in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index for 2017, to rank 92nd out of 190 countries. That included jumps of 34 positions for ‘Starting a Business’, 21 positions for ‘Getting Electricity’, 25 positions in ‘Protecting Minority Investors’, and 48 positions for ‘Resolving Insolvency’.
- Greetings: There is strong preference for handshakes. Use surnames in conversations
- Dress code: Formal or business attire for all meetings
- Venue for meetings: Most official meetings are held in offices. Meetings are also held in hotels and coffee lounges which offer good ambience for business talks
- Arranging meetings: Most business people prefer to give tentative time and venue for appointments which is later confirmed by their aides
- Business relationship building: Building relationships and networking is key to securing business deals because most business deals are awarded through merit and lobbying
- Communication in meetings: English is the formal language of business but foreigners practicing a little Kiswahili will be welcomed warmly
- Negotiation skills: Kenyans are price sensitive and they like negotiating for discounts of 10 per cent to 25 per cent of the selling price depending on the quantity purchased. Factor this in your pricing
- Gifting: Kenyans often like to give visitors small items representing the country’s national heritage.
- Ethnic consideration: Kenyans are generally warm people with diverse cultural background and very helpful and open to foreigners
Even though there are many business opportunities for trade and investment, the following prevailing challenges are a major hindrance to full exploitation of these opportunities.
- Corruption: 70 per cent of businesses report requests for bribes seeking necessary documents
- Insecurity: Insurgent groups have increased risks to the travel and tourism industries, although the risks have diminished
- Counterfeiting: It is a source of unfair competition and reduces markets for genuine products.
- Poor infrastructure: Poor road networks hinders access to markets, and increases costs which harms competitiveness. Traffic jams in Nairobi stall productivity and delay meetings
- High cost of inputs: High production costs due to factors such as energy impede trade
- Bureaucracy: At central and county levels, ponderous bureaucracy slows business decisions
- Unclear licensing regimes: A lack of clear policy on licensing procedures means both central and county governments issue overlapping business licenses and permits, with duplicate costs
- Access to work permits: Strict immigration rules make it difficult for investors to employ non-Kenyan technical staff who are unavailable locally thus limiting growth of such businesses
- Skills training gaps: There is a gap between the demand and supply of skilled workers. Training institutions and the private sector need to work more closely together