Buying and Selling

flag Kenya Kenya: Buying and Selling

In this page: Market Access Procedures | Reaching the Consumers | Distributing a Product | E-commerce | Organizing Goods Transport | Identifying a Supplier


Market Access Procedures

International Conventions
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the International Coffee Agreement
International Economic Cooperation
Member of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

Member of East African Community (EAC)

Member of African Union (AU)

Beneficiary of the Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU

Beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) program with the US

Beneficiary of the Generalised System of Preferences of the EU

Non Tariff Barriers
Non-tariff barriers include: slow customs services; packaging and labeling requirements; requirements in terms of the Certificate of Conformity and the Import Standardization Mark (ISM) for certain sensitive products.
Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports

Customs Classification
Kenya applies tariffs based on the international Harmonized System (HS) product classification. For countries which are not members of the Community of African States a common external tariff is applied.
Import Procedures
It is essential to ensure compliance with Kenyan import standards in the country of origin before shipping and obtain an import mark. A customs agent is required in order to do the importation procedures electronically with Kenyan Customs.

The following documents are required:
- import declaration form
- Certificate of Conformity for regulated products
- Import Standardisation Mark (ISM)
- pro forma invoices from the exporting company

An import permit is required for certain health-related, environmental and safety products. Importing animals, plants and seeds is subject to quarantine regulations. Some pets require an import licence.

Importing Samples
Samples and exhibits at trade shows can be imported into the country duty-free. However, after use they must be re-exported or be certified as destroyed by a customs officer in charge of the certification.
For Further Information
Customs and Excise Department
Business Portal for Africa

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Reaching the Consumers

Marketing opportunities

Main Advertising Agencies
Creative Edge (Ramco Group)
TDF Advertising
ARK Africa

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Distributing a Product

Evolution of the Sector
The Kenyan retail food sector has expanded significantly during the last ten years as a result of population growth, urbanization, a growing middle class, and a financially attractive business environment. The sector will continue to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4% at constant 2016 prices over the 2017 to 2021 forecast period, according to Euromonitor International 2016 estimates. The value of sales in the grocery retail sector reached $7.4 billion from 103 410 retailers in 2016, according to Euromonitor International.

The penetration of formal retail establishments estimated at 30% is mainly concentrated in the urban and suburbs. Informal establishments continue to play a dominant role in stabilizing the sector with over 70% of Kenyans doing their shopping at kiosks/dukas, and roadside stalls. The local retail chains still maintain dominance evidenced by countrywide and regional coverage in the retail sector despite intense competition from the new entrants. The entry of international players in Kenya’s retail market space, the increasing purchasing power of a growing middle class, a robust macroeconomic growth, and affordable retail space attributed to a proliferation of shopping malls in the last five years and, among other factors has led to continued expansion of the retail sector.

An emerging trend in the distribution channels is online retail platforms such as Jumia (an online food delivery business), OLX, and Kilimall, supported by mobile payments, increased internet penetration, access, and usage. Kenya’s internet penetration stands at 82.6%, according to the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK). The retailers are also increasing space for general merchandise such as footwear, apparel, and sports goods to tap into the growing consumer market, and to grow sales revenues.
Market share
The Kenyan retail sector remains largely informal, including small local shops (‘dukas’), table-top kiosks, market stalls, cosmetic outlets, telecom kiosks and pharmacies. According to research by Nielson, large majorities of Kenyan shoppers frequent dukas (95%) and kiosks (92%). Nonetheless, Kenya’s formal retail sector is highly developed by African standards, with 89% of shoppers reporting that they frequent supermarkets.

Kenya’s grocery retail market is dominated by the following local supermarket chains in 2016:
- Nakumatt (34 stores), average annual sales of USD 600 million
- Tuskys (45 stores)
- Uchumi (22 stores)
- Naivas (29 stores)
Small retailers are also in the midst of expansion in Kenya, including Mulleys & Sons, GreenMart, QuickMart, Maathai Supermarket, EastMatt and CleanShelf.

Foreign chains have faced resistance in the country. Nevertheless, the French supermarket chain Carrefour opened two stores in Nairobi, one in 2015 and the other in 2017. That same year, South Africa’s Massmart opened its Game store in Nairobi, and Botswana’s Choppies announced plans for an acquisition of ten Ukwala supermarket outlets.

Kenya’s e-commerce market is worth an estimated USD 47.3 million. Key players in the country’s online shopping scene include Jumia, Kilimall and OLX.

Retail Sector Organisations
Retailers Trade Association of Kenya (RETRAK)
Kenya National Chamber of Commerce
Ministry of Economy Kenya

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Internet access
According to the Communications Commission of Kenya, the internet penetration rate was 26% in 2017. Many Kenyans still don't have access to the internet, particularly in remote areas. However, access has grown significantly in the last few years, mainly due to the increasing affordability of connection. Recently, data bundles have become the fastest growing revenue source in the telecom sector. According to Safaricom, the average internet usage per month in 2017 was 270 MB, a 52% increase from 2016. The government has prioritized the expansion of Information Communication Technology (ICT) services in the entire country, reaching all Kenyans, with internet connectivity being a key pillar. Internet speeds in Kenya have also been improving. In 2017, Kenya’s internet connection speed averaged 12.2 Mbps, surpassing the global average of 7.2Mbps. Additionally, the country had the fastest mobile internet speed in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. On the other hand, rural areas have not been able to benefit from Kenya’s high-capacity bandwidth and a digital divide based on gender persists in the country, with more male mobile and internet users than women.
E-commerce market
E-commerce in Kenya has grown significantly over the last few years, especially among small and medium businesses. However, the market is still developing. Although the formal retail penetration in Kenya is estimated at 30%, the fraction of Kenyans buying products online was only 0.5% (but that number is expected to grow). There are no official figures on e-commerce revenue in Kenya. According to the Communications Authority of Kenya and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, about 27% of companies sold their products online in 2017. The use of apps in e-Commerce have gathered rapid penetration in the market and plays a significant role in the promotion of online shopping. Consumers are now able to use apps to purchase goods and services such as food, clothing, vehicles, real estate, and transportation services. More players are entering the e-Commerce market due to the high turnovers, with estimates pointing to turnovers 25 times higher than traditional retail stores, as well as the fact that setting up an online shop does not require expensive infrastructure or a high initial investment. On the other hand, many Kenyans still do not believe in buying goods online, and online payment options are still unexplored (credit cards have a 10% penetration rate in Kenya), with most transactions being carried out in cash. Some of the most popular e-commerce websites in the country include Jumia, Kilimall, Masoko, Avechi, and Skygarden.

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Organizing Goods Transport

Main Useful Means of Transport
Nairobi is a transport hub for the entire region of Eastern and Central Africa. Mombasa port is the largest deepwater port, meeting the transport needs of more than a dozen countries. Overland freight is transported via road and rail networks. Roads play a crucial role in the marketing of agricultural products, cargo transportation, industrial development and export-import. Goods can also be transported by air.
Kenya Port Authority
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA, Nairobi)
Moi International Airport (Mombasa)
Eldoret International Airport
Wilson Airport
Malindi Airport
Kisumu International Airport
Wajir Airport
Sea Transport Organisations
Kenya Port Authority (KPA)
Air Transport Organisations
Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA)
Kenya Airports Authority
Road Transport Organisations
Ministry of Transports and Infrastructure
Kenya Rural Roads Authority
Kenya Urban Roads Authority
Kenya Roads Board
Kenya National Highways Authority
Rail Transport Organisations
Kenya Railways Corporation

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Identifying a Supplier

Type of Production
The Kenyan economy is dominated by agriculture, which accounts for 36% of GDP. The horticulture and food processing dominate the sector. The country is the world leader in the export of black tea, and a major producer of coffee, tobacco, vegetables and cut flowers. The tourism industry, second largest source of income for the country, is also a key sector and the mining and oil sectors have a real potential. The industrial sector in general contributes to about a fifth of the Kenyan GDP.

Business Directories

Multi-sector Directories - Kenya business directory
French Chamber - Members directoy of the French Chamber of Commerce
Kenya BizList - Kenya business directory
Kenya Business List - Kenya business directory
Listing - Businesses, services providers and Establishments
NaiGate - Kenya business directory
Pigiame - Kenya business directory
Seek Kenya - Database of companies in Kenya
Tuugo - Local businesses and service providers
Vendor - Company directory in Kenya

To search directories by industry in Kenya, check out our service Business Directories.

Professional Associations by Sector
83 professional associations listed for Kenya.
Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry
General Professional Associations
Micro and Small Enterprises Federation
Kenya Private Sector Alliance

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Latest Update: April 2024