Kenya Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022


  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public holidays


In business dealings in Kenya, it is possible to meet representatives of different nationalities and communities, each of which is characterized by specific characteristics during business negotiations. These result from the different cultural traditions and mentality of the partners. The core communities are: Africans, Indian and Pakistani communities, Europeans or North Americans, and the Chinese business community. Most trading partners often adapt their actions and behavior to the behavior of the former colonial country.

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How to reach business partners?

All communities prefer an informal approach to business dealings. The exception is state institutions, where it is necessary to make it sufficiently clear with whom and at what level it is being negotiated. Rarely, it may happen that people who expect titling are dealt with. These are graduates of European as well as American technical universities who, contrary to English customs, state the title “Eng.” on their business cards. In these cases, it is recommended to use this title when addressing. If the partner is, for example, a Member of Parliament, the name is preceded by the title “Honorable”. You also need to consider whether your product or service is applicable in the Kenyan market. The market here is 90% purely pro-import and most things are imported from abroad. It is important to remember that the market is very price sensitive. Many goods are imported from China and India. It is naturally not possible to compete with these manufacturers on price. Unfortunately, even the richer middle class does not prioritize quality over price.

Business meeting

Negotiations with Kenyan partners must be prepared with the same conscientiousness and approached in the same way as negotiations with partners in Western Europe. Therefore, the presentation must be clear, understandable and convincing. Kenyans don’t like to read between the lines, so you need to be specific and to the point. It is also necessary to be aware that the “agreed” provision is perceived by the Kenyan partners as a “preliminary agreement”. On the other hand, European partners are expected to fulfill the agreements precisely. This “asymmetry” makes it very difficult to implement contracts in Kenya. The perception of time in Kenya is also quite original. In particular, meetings at offices and ministries take place in a completely chaotic manner, making it impossible to plan a timetable. You will usually receive a confirmation of an appointment at the ministry a few hours in advance, but certainly not a week in advance. Even confirming an appointment does not mean that the appointment will actually take place and not be moved by a few days. Be prepared that the partner can come to the meeting up to 15 minutes late. Keep calm and take it with grace. But you will be expected to be more or less punctual. In the case of a business trip, it is necessary to allow sufficient time reserve, arm yourself with patience and be flexible. The use of business cards is common, Kenyans like to use high-quality paper and very colorful printing. A European must not be surprised by the fact that the e-mail address of even a deputy minister is on a Yahoo or Google server. This is due to the unreliability of the IT network of the state administration, but also of private companies. Kenyans are very fond of ceremonies and ceremonies, at official meetings the Kenyan side is represented by a large choir. The gift is very appropriate and can help improve communication.

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What are Kenyan traders like?

Kenyan partners are usually prepared for negotiations, above all they have a good knowledge of the competition’s prices. However, they do not have a very clear idea of ​​Czech products. Therefore, it is desirable to highlight the quality of one’s own goods and from the very beginning to eliminate any comparison with the Chinese equivalent by pointing out the fact that Chinese goods cannot be compared with European goods in any parameters. Kenyans are well aware that China exports goods of inferior quality to Africa and therefore it is not out of place to point out this fact. During mutual conversations, you need to be receptive, open, be ready for unusual solutions, neither promote nor humiliate yourself, flexibly keep your standard.

Is negotiating with local traders different, complicating cultural/religious/ethnic differences?

Alcohol is drunk when dealing with Kenyans, there are essentially no differences from European customs. The same applies when dealing with Kenyan Muslims except for drinking alcohol. Women are respected as business partners, there are a number of female ministers and businesswomen. On the other hand, he is very careful about ceremonies. Respect for old age and a sense of hierarchy are deeply rooted in African partners. Therefore, it can be good for a senior colleague to be part of the business delegation. If possible, it is advisable to communicate in person by phone or via the very popular WhatsApp. However, the general problem is that the agreed obligations are very often violated. The long wait for a response, when it is impossible to reach a potential partner and who, moreover, does not respond to any reminders, is very frustrating during negotiations. Don’t hesitate to send a WhatsApp message even to high-ranking people if they notify you that they are using it. Saving face is extremely important to Kenyans. During negotiations, it is therefore necessary to be careful so that the Kenyan counterpart does not get into an embarrassing situation and to pay attention to a certain tact, sensitivity and restraint. There is also tribal jealousy in Kenya, with members of some tribes feeling superior to others. Ethnic issues can thus be considered a communication taboo.

Is it important to bring an interpreter with you? / How about the language skills?

Having an interpreter is not common. Kenyans usually have excellent English, much better than most Czechs. It is their second official language. You need to focus on clear pronunciation, Czech pronunciation is often unfamiliar to Kenyans. You can do business all year round, but the least suitable time is during the holidays, i.e. July and August or December. You can trade daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the afternoon. There is usually a lunch break between 12 and 2 p.m.

How do Kenyan business people manage time in a business meeting?

It is necessary to arrive at the meeting on time, but do not automatically expect the same from the African side. It is necessary to be flexible, to allow for possible downtime and delays in planning. In the event of the other party’s delay, it is best to pass the matter on and concentrate on the content of the meeting. There is a consensual way of negotiating in Africa. This means that the opposing parties talk and talk until they reach an agreement. That is why it is necessary to have time in reserve for several meetings. In negotiations in Europe, the punctuality of Kenyans is “slightly” better. The Kenyan partner generally has enough time for everything, but European partners are required to respond immediately to all requests. A special “asymmetry” of relations applies here as well.

How do Kenyan businessmen deal with emotions in business dealings?

On average, Kenyans are somewhat better equipped with emotional intelligence than is common for Europeans compared to Africans: they often “read” their partner before he does, and do not hesitate to exploit the identified weaknesses. At the same time, they actively work with emotions. This is due to the fact that a large part of mobile Kenyans either directly studied in Europe or have at least a number of relatives and acquaintances in Europe. The knowledge of Europeans is thus higher on their side than the other way around. Visit Allunitconverters for more information about Kenya culture and traditions.


What surprises a Czech businessman the most during negotiations?

Don’t succumb to first impressions, especially not those based on time-honored clichés and media images of “poor Africa”. One of the characteristic features of the sub-Saharan region is the considerable gap between social classes. A number of Kenyans who hold higher positions in the state administration or in the management of private entities come from socially successfully established, often influential and financially well-off families. That is why they tend to be graduates or have academic degrees from one or more prestigious world universities. Africans generally value the achievement of high social status, which the successful often demonstrate with a conspicuous emphasis on ostentatiousness and material self-presentation. It is good to address the partner by title, e.g. Mr. Doctor, Mr. Director. The knowledge and frequency of visits to Great Britain in particular is often significantly higher than that of Czech businessmen.

What would you recommend to entrepreneurs who are going to Kenya?

Basic principles when dealing with Kenyan partners, the respect of which will help to promote the business plan:

– Contact ZÚ Nairobi, which can provide you with up-to-date information, advise on the business case, verify the reality of the business offer, provide assistance

– Establish a personal relationship with your partner (find out his hobbies, invite him to the Czech Republic, pay attention to him properly here). However, it is necessary to consider whether there is a real interest on the part of the partner.

– Always smile, be polite and pleasant.

– Don’t complain about little things.

– Criticize indirectly and avoid confrontation.

– Never show anger – there is a risk of losing your partner’s respect.

– Allow for delays – factor them into the program and the price.

– Prepare the project well and be specific in your argumentation.

Public Holidays

Public Holidays:

  • January 1 New Year
  • May 1 Labor Day
  • June 1 Madaraka Day (Independence Day)
  • October 20 Kenyatta Day (First President’s Day)
  • 12 December Jamhuri Day (Independence Day)

December 25 Christmas Day (1st Christmas holiday)

  • 25 December Boxing Day (2nd Christmas Day)

Moving holidays are also celebrated: · March/April Good Friday, Easter, Easter Monday

Kenya Culture of Business