foreign company registration /setup

setting up a company in Kenya

When setting up a company you may want to consider these factors:

  1. Business Factors

Generally, Kenya requires that foreigners wanting to own, or run a business in Kenya to obtain a work permit from the Ministry of Immigration. The type of permit applied for will depend on whether the foreigner will be an owner of the business or simply an employee (to be elaborated further below).

In deciding on whether to invest in Kenya, you may also want to consider the following when making your decision :-

  • The industry and type of business that will be conducted
    • Nationality of the headquarters / individuals (s)
    • Presence of existing trade agreements or relationships
  • Location

Location will be another factor. Separate cities and regions may have different rules, costs and availability. It is always recommended to seek advice from relevant professionals, such as business or legal advisors, accountants and others depending on your needs.

Your Options

There are three types of business forms available to foreign companies in Kenya. Each of these business forms has distinct advantages and disadvantages, as well as differing scope of business activities, registration requirements and minimum capital requirements. In most cases it will depend on the degree of commitment a company has to Kenya and the planned business activity.

When setting up a company in Kenya, you have the following options:-

  • Corporation
  • Branch Office
  • Representative Office

This article provides a general guideline for foreign businesses on entering Kenya for business purposes. In particular, it looks at common pathways to establishing a business presence in Kenya, generally through a corporation, branch office or liaison office. In addition, various economic, tax and regulatory factors are provided throughout as a source of useful information to assist those who will enter the Kenyan economy. The guide also looks at some immigration requirements such as obtaining appropriate visa status.



In Kenya, there are two main types of corporations (registered companies) that can be set up:

  • Private limited corporation
  • Public limited corporation

Private limited companies

Branch office

Foreign corporations operating in Kenya can operate as a branch office without the need to incorporate. However, it is generally advisable to incorporate rather than set up a branch office in Kenya, given the numerous drawbacks associated with having a branch office. Having said that, foreign enterprises wanting to set up a branch in Kenya for lower levels of activity are allowed to do so.

Representative Office

A representative office is not an independent legal entity and hence, may not conduct direct commercial or revenue-generating activities with the execution of contracts, receipt of funds, sale or purchase of goods, or provision of services. Its permitted activities are usually limited to activities designed to promote business interest of institutions licensed and incorporated outside Kenya.

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