Focus On Kenya


Population: 40,863,000
Monetary unit: Kenyan shilling (K Sh)
Capital city: Nairobi
Major languages: Swahili; English
Major religions: Protestant/independent Christian c. 66%; Roman Catholic c. 23%; Muslim c. 8%; nonreligious c. 2%; traditional beliefs c. 1%
Ethnic composition: Kikuyu c. 21%; Luhya c. 14%; Luo c. 13%; Kalenjin c. 11%; Kamba c. 11%; Gusii c. 6%; Meru c. 5%; other c. 19%
Age breakdown: under 15, 43.1%; 15–29, 30.2%; 30–44, 15.2%; 45–59, 7.0%; 60–74, 3.5%; 75 and over, 1.0%
Life expectancy: male 54.3 years; female 54.2 years
Education: male 54.3 years; female 54.2 years
Urban/Rural split: urban 21.9%; rural 78.1%
Income per household (USD): N/A
Broadband internet users (%): -

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica


Kenya is an increasingly important market for multinationals looking to break into Africa, and in the past five years Nairobi has become established as a hub for the strategic communications into the continent. This has led to a rapid expansion of the Kenyan PR market, a development that is perhaps best  demonstrated by the listing of one PR firm, ScanGroup, on the Nairobi Stock Exchange.

Three factors are shaping this explosion in Kenyan PR. Firstly, pan-African skills are highly in demand. As more and more multinationals launch pan-African campaigns so they look for PR partners who understand the nuances of communications in countries as diverse as Botswana, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone. 

Secondly, PR education is evolving rapidly. Lavinniah Muthoni, PR lead East & Southern Africa at Microsoft, says: “The skills gap remains an issue. While both the University of Nairobi and Daystar University offer degrees in PR and communication, and many people are studying these subjects, few are actually prepared for the workforce. It is therefore vital for employers to offer skills development and workforce training.”


Finally, in a country where 65% of the population is under 25, social media is exploding in a big way. James Makau communications manager at CfC Stanbic Bank, says: ““The emergence of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook has been a game changer in the Kenyan market. PR practitioners have to keep pace with an increasingly tech-savvy audience, and a media landscape that many thought was still a decade away.”

In the coming years Kenya will only get more tuned into these new media as better and more affordable bandwidth access arrives via undersea telecommunications cable projects such as the West Africa Cable System, the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) and SEACOM.


Working There

In Association With:

Fabric Recruitment

The election of 2008 was a violent time for Kenya but, although many of the ethnic divisions which led to the violence still exist, things have settled down again since then.
With its newfound stability, a Western-friendly government and a manageable infrastructure, Kenya (and Nairobi in particular) is now considered a hub for business and development in eastern Africa. 
For the adventurous and determined expat it offers a wealth of new
experiences and opportunities.

Red Tape

Expats working in Kenya tend to be either highly-paid managers of multinational companies or development and NGO employees and volunteers. The country is a regional hub for a number of not-for-profit organisations that are working in eastern Africa and, subsequently, lots of expats find themselves in teaching or development positions. The tourism, IT and journalism sectors also offer opportunities for foreign nationals.

Although the economy is improving, unemployment levels in Kenya are fairly high and the government is protective of any jobs that Kenyans can, in theory, fill. This means that getting permission to work in the country can prove difficult and it's advisable to have a secure job offer in place before you arrive.
Visas and work permits

Your employer in Kenya is responsible for securing your work permit. These are only granted to foreigners if the company can prove the position couldn’t be filled by a Kenyan, which can be difficult to prove. Basically, you shouldn’t make plans relocate permanently until your future employer has secured the appropriate entry and work permits.

Thankfully, if a company is planning to hire from overseas they should have already gone through the process of proving the value of employing a foreigner to the government and you won’t need to be involved. 

Expats who want to be self-employed will have more difficulty obtaining a work visa, mainly because there’s no helpful employer to sort out the paperwork. The red tape that has to be navigated is notoriously time-consuming and expensive.
Residence permit

If you plan to stay in Kenya for more than six months then you’ll need to obtain a residence permit, which is only valid for one year and has to be updated every time your work contract is renewed. However, after the first renewal, it’s possible to request a residence permit that’s valid for up to five years at a time.

There are numerous types of entry permit;
depending on the work you’ll be doing (Class A to L). Check with your employer and the local Embassy to ensure you apply for the correct one.


100 Kenyan shillings = 1.0 US
dollars or 0.6 British pounds.

Average costs (in Kenyan Shillings – Ksh)

· Meal out for one person: 1,000

· Pint of beer: 100

· Going to watch a film: 300

· Maid service, per month: 10,000-15,000

The cost of living in Kenya is less than it is in much of Europe or the US, but it's still higher than you might expect. Access to certain Western-quality amenities - such as private healthcare, international schools and comfortable homes - can severely increase your costs. And there are a range of additional expenses that you may not have factored in; like paying for drinking water and home security.

That being said, many expats are able to negotiate employment packages that cover the main costs, such as accommodation, buying or hiring a car, medical care and international school fees for their children.


Kenyan people like to haggle so, if you learn how and where to employ this skill, you're likely to pay less for everyday things. However, the bigger supermarkets and shopping malls don't allow haggling and items tend to have higher prices. This is partly because imported items cost more but is also due to the local conviction that all foreigners are rich and can therefore afford to pay more for groceries.

The largest grocery market in Nairobi, Nakumat, is similar to a western supermarket and you can find almost anything there.  Local fruits and vegetables are plentiful and delicious.

Accommodation in Kenya can be pricey (roughly equivalent to UK prices); and if you haven’t got an employment package that covers this cost for you, then it’s likely to be a significant monthly outgoing.

Most expats opt to rent a place to live and there’s plenty of choice; from stand-alone houses with their own land, to garden villas, downtown apartment blocks, and four-bedroom units in expat complexes. Most expats end up renting property in Nairobi.

Rental agreements are taken on a one or two-year basis and require 4 to 6 weeks rent as a deposit. Before you finalise anything, make sure you check for availability of water, electricity and phone as access to these resources is limited in some areas.

Accommodation in a town house complex in the suburbs is currently as much as Ksh 250,000 to Ksh 300,000 per month; although you can sometimes find good deals for around Ksh 150,000 if you look for long enough.

Monthly rent for housing closer to the Central
Business District in Nairobi (where many expats work) is nearer to Ksh 35,000 to Ksh 50,000 per month, depending on size and quality.

When planning your housing budget, bear in mind that utility bills can be pricey. Water can be particularly costly if your pipes aren’t connected to the main supply. It’s also common for expats in Kenya to employ gardeners and domestic help, which – although an affordable luxury – should be factored into your monthly expenses.

Utilities will be approximately Ksh 10,000 per month; satellite television will be another Ksh
5,000 on top of that.

An added expense that expats may not be used to is private security. Expats that opt to live in an individual house will need to employ at least one security guard. It’s best to enlist the services of one of the many security firms, who’ll provide you with a back-up system, panic buttons and intruder alarms. This service can cost up Ksh 80,000 per month but is vital if you wish to feel totally safe in your own home.

If you plan to live on a compound surrounded by other houses, then the security costs are shared between all the residents.


It’s worth checking your tax situation with your employer so as to avoid being taxed twice. Kenya has double taxation treaties with a number of countries, which protect some expats from being taxed on their income in Kenya as well as in their home country. 

Income tax returns need to be filed by foreign nationals working in Kenya by the 30th of June each year but recent improvements mean that these can now be submitted online.

Private healthcare

Private health insurance is an absolute necessity in Kenya. Without it, healthcare costs are as expensive as in Western countries and covering the costs for emergency care is practically impossible. 

Some employers will provide insurance as part of your employment package but, if not, you should obtain suitable Expatriate Health Insurance before arriving in the country. Make sure you’re covered for emergency medical evacuations as seriously ill patients are usually flown to South Africa where the medical care is more advanced.

There are plenty of health insurance providers in Nairobi and prices are about Ksh 30,000 to Ksh 40,000 per year for moderate coverage schemes. 

Culture Snapshot

There are about 40 different ethnic groupings in Kenya and each one has its own unique culture. This basically means that Kenya doesn't have one main cultural identity.
Its many-sided culture is expressed in different forms, ranging from its people and language, food, music and dance, art, theatre, literature and ethnic values.


Kenyans dress quite conservatively, particularly in a business context. Kenyan men wear shirts and long trousers, often with a blazer. Women wear long trousers or skirts that fall below the knee. This conservative dressing is even more obvious at the coast, where the majority of the Muslim Kenyans live. But, you won't get into trouble for wearing shorts and T-shirts and Kenyans are far too polite to say anything to you!

Most Kenyans are Christians, although many mix it with traditional religious beliefs. For example, you'll probably encounter a widespread belief in witchcraft. Witches are thought to cause illnesses and bad luck in love or money.

Tea time!

You'll soon discover that, in Kenya, anytime is tea time! Spiced Chai tea is a popular choice and is served at mealtimes and also during Kenya's regular afternoon tea break. It's likely that tea time is a custom borrowed from Kenya's British colonial past.

Things to do

With spectacular game parks dotted all over the country and a stunning Indian Ocean coastline to explore, there's plenty for expats to see and do. There's also a sense of freedom, a relaxed pace of life, great international schools and an almost perfect climate.

Obviously, you’ll have the unrivalled opportunity to go on safari. Kenya enjoys the reputation of being the safari country of Africa and has an enormous variety of landscapes and wildlife between its national parks.

You could also take the time to visit an ancient tribe. A number of the ones in Kenya have lived more or less the same way for thousands of
years. The Masai are possibly the most famous tribe and, nowadays, they earn extra cash by receiving tourists for a 'cultural' visit. You can meet the eldermen, hear about their way of life, have a cup of chai tea and watch them perform traditional dances.

For the energetic expats, the diving and snorkelling possibilities are endless. For example, Watamu National Park on the coast is
highly rated. The reef is in excellent condition and there are huge numbers of colourful
and unusual exotic fish and harmless whale sharks.

Business culture in Kenya

Business culture in Kenya is governed by ‘harambee’, a concept involving mutual assistance, responsibility and community spirit; respect for family, community and ancestors are integral to the way of life.

It follows that business success is closely correlated with interpersonal success. So, to be successful in business it’s vital to invest time in getting to know people in order to build good working relationships.

Kenya is largely a hierarchical society in which deference to older members is quite rigid. Senior employees will seldom discuss decisions with those lower down the ladder. Social standing is also important to Kenyans and you should always use a person’s official title when you talk to them.
Crime rates

Quite a lot has been made of crime rates in Kenya, particularly in the capital city of Nairobi,
where the city has even been nicknamed ‘Nairobbery’. However, the crimes that take place tend to be opportunistic, fairly unsophisticated and pretty much comparable
to crime levels in other cities around the world where there are similar levels of social inequality.

For the majority of people, frequent road traffic accidents are more of a worry than serious crime. According to some media figures,
muggings and car-jackings are on the increase, but these are reported to be rarely violent.


Kenya has a tropical climate, with hot and humid conditions along the coast, a temperate
inland climate and very dry conditions in the northern parts of the country. 

The country enjoys plenty of sunshine all year round and you’ll probably only ever need summer clothes and light jumpers. A blissful change for expats from the northern hemisphere!

There is a long rainy season between April and
June and a short rainy season from October to December. The rainfall is sometimes heavy and often falls in the afternoons and evenings.

Many expats find the huge range of diverse cultures in Kenya disconcerting and choose to live entirely enclosed within expat compounds. However, living in these communities can create a feeling of segregation when, in fact, Kenyans are cheerful and friendly and enjoy meeting new people.




There is a clear media split depending on whether the campaign targets a rural or urban audience. For rural campaigns the focus is very much on radio. Fredrick Otieno is marketing manager at Diageo, looking after Smirnoff, Smirnoff Ice and Johnnie Walker in Kenya.


He says: “Radio is still very influential and important in Kenya. It is widely accessible and increasingly so with smartphone usage. It is a forum for national discussion.” He points to Citizen FM, Capital FM and the Nation Media Group as the most important radio brands.


In print the key titles are The Daily Nation, The Standard, The Star, Business Daily and The East African which is also a regional paper that covers East African community news. Citizen TV, KTN, NTV, K24 and KBC are the main broadcasting houses in Kenya.


Major Brands

The most important sector for PR is telecommunications with brands like SafariCom, Airtel, Orange and YU leading the way. They are closely followed by drinks companies like East African Breweries and Coca-Cola, and then the FMCG businesses like Unilever and BAT.


Other notable sectors are banking which includes Equity Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank, transport which is dominated by Kenya Airways, political parties which for the most part means PNU and ODM, and oil companies like National OilKenol Kobil and Shell.



Until recently there were only three or four notable PR agencies, but in the past few  years staff have left to set up on their own, and several of the international groups have entered the market.


During the Spring/Summer of 2011, there was a shuffle of accounts with Kenya Airways moving from Gina Din to Ogilvy, and KCB and Samsung both moving from Scangroup to Gina Din.


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