The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa and one of the richest in the world in terms of natural resources. With 80 million hectares (197 million acres) of arable land and 1,100 minerals and precious metals, the DRC has the resources to achieve prosperity for its people. Despite its potential, the DRC often cannot provide adequate food, security, infrastructure, and health care to its estimated 100 million inhabitants, of which 75 percent live on less than two dollars a day.
The ascension of Felix Tshisekedi to the presidency in 2019 and his government’s commitment to attracting international, and particularly U.S. investment, have raised the hopes of the business community for greater openness and transparency. In January 2021, the DRC government (GDRC) became eligible for preferential trade preferences under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), reflecting progress made on human rights, anti-corruption, and labor. Tshisekedi created a presidential unit to address business climate issues. In late 2020 Tshisekedi ejected former President Joseph Kabila’s party from the ruling coalition and in April 2021 he appointed a new cabinet.
Overall investment is on the rise, fueled by multilateral donor financing and private domestic and international finance. The natural resource sector has historically attracted the most foreign investment and continues to attract investors’ attention as global demand for the DRC’s minerals grows. The primary minerals sector is the country’s main source of revenue, as exports of copper, cobalt, gold, coltan, diamond, tin, and tungsten provide over 95 percent of the DRC’s export revenue. The highly competitive telecommunications industry has also experienced significant investment, as has the energy sector through green sources such as hydroelectric and solar power generation. Several breweries and bottlers, some large construction firms, and limited textiles production are active. Given the vast needs, there are commercial opportunities in aviation, road, rail, border security, water transport, and the ports. The agricultural and forestry sectors present opportunities for sustainable economic diversification in the DRC, and companies are expressing interest in developing carbon credit markets to fund investment.
Overall, businesses in the DRC face numerous challenges, including poor infrastructure, a predatory taxation system, and corruption. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed economic growth and worsened the country’s food security, and the Russia’s attacks on Ukraine have raised global prices on imported foods and gasoline. Armed groups remain active in the eastern part of the country, making for a fragile security situation that negatively affects the business environment. Reform of a non-transparent and often corrupt legal system is underway. While laws protecting investors are in effect, the court system is often very slow to make decisions or follow the law, allowing numerous investment disputes to last for years Concerns over the use of child labor in the artisanal mining of copper and cobalt have served to discourage potential purchasers. USG assistance programs to build capacity for labor inspections and enforcement are helping to address these concerns.
The government’s announced priorities include greater efforts to address corruption, election reform, a review of mining contracts signed under the Kabila regime, and improvements to mining sector revenue collection. The economy experienced increased growth in 2021 based on renewed demand for its minerals.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
The ascension of Felix Tshisekedi to the Presidency in January 2019 and his welcoming attitude toward foreign direct investment (FDI), particularly from the United States, have raised hopes that the GDRC can impose and monitor investor-friendly policies. FDI-friendly laws exist, but the judicial system is slow to protect investors’ rights and is susceptible to political pressure and corruption. Investors hope that Tshisekedi can create a more favorable environment by improving the rule of law and tackling corruption. The DRC’s rich endowment of natural resources, large population, and generally open trading system offer significant potential opportunities for U.S. investors. For more than a decade, the DRC has undertaken reforms related to investment in order to make its business environment competitive and attractive including reforms to the investment code, the mining code, the insurance code, the agricultural Act, the Act on the liberalization of electricity, and the telecommunications code. The GDRC has also promoted improvements in the tax, customs, parafiscal, non-tax and foreign exchange regimes, which are applicable to collaboration agreements and cooperation projects, as well as the decree on the strategic partnership on value chains, the Industrial Property Act, the Public-Private Partnership Act, the Competition Act, and the Special Economic Zones Act.
The main regulations governing FDI are found in the Investment Code Act (No. 004/2002 of February 21, 2002). Current regulations reserve the practice of small-scale commerce and retail commerce in DRC to nationals and prohibit majority ownership by foreigners of agricultural enterprises. The ordinance of “August 8, 1990” clearly states that “small business may only be carried out by Congolese”. Foreign investors must limit themselves to import trade and wholesale and semi-wholesale trade. Investors fear that the ban on foreign agricultural ownership will stifle any attempt to revive the agrarian sector.
The National Investment Promotion Agency (ANAPI) is the official investment agency, providing investment facilitation services for initial investments above $200,000. It is mandated to promote the positive image of the DRC and specific investment opportunities; advocate for the improvement of the business climate in the country; and provide administrative support to new foreign investors who decide to establish or expand their economic activities on the national territory. More information is available at https://www.investindrc.cd/.
The GDRC maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors to hear their concerns. There are several public and private sector forums that address the government on the investment climate in specific sectors. In 2019, the GDRC created the Business Climate Unit (CCA) to monitor and improve the business enabling environment in the DRC, and to interface with the business community. In June 2020, the CCA presented a roadmap for reforms. In December 2021, the CCA developed a digital tool for monitoring and evaluating reforms and missions within the public administration, to allow the highest authorities, including the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, to follow in real time the progress of the implementation of reforms by the various ministers. The Public-Private mining group Financial and Technical Partners (PTF) represents countries with significant mining investments in the DRC. On March 1, 2022, the GDRC created, by decree, the Agency for the Steering, Coordination and Monitoring of Cooperation Agreements between the DRC and its Private Partners (APCSC). This agency will oversee the implementation of cooperation agreements that the DRC has concluded with private companies, particularly in the areas of basic infrastructure and natural resources. The APCSC serves as an interface between the various parties and entities interested in projects resulting from collaboration or cooperation agreements in basic infrastructure and natural resources, including the GDRC, private companies and/or groups of companies, as well as any joint venture or monitoring structure created for the purpose of exploring, exploiting, or marketing natural resources and/or carrying out infrastructure work. The Federation of Congolese Enterprises (FEC), a private sector organization that partners with the government and workers’ unions, maintains a dialogue on business interests with the government.
The GDRC provides the right for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.
Foreign ownership or control is possible except in certain excepted sectors. The DRC law reserves small-scale commerce and retail trade to Congolese nationals and there is a foreign ownership limit of 49 percent for agricultural concerns, which limits agricultural investment. Many investors note that in practice the GDRC requires foreign investors to hire local agents and participate in joint ventures with the government or local partners. The new telecommunications law enacted in 2022 includes a 25 percent ownership requirement.
Some foreign investors in the mining sector note that the 2018 mining code raised royalty rates from two to ten percent, raising tax rates on “strategic” metals, and imposing a surcharge on the “super profits” of mining companies. The code also removed a stability clause that protected investors from any new taxes or duties for ten years. The Tshisekedi government has indicated that it is prepared to reopen discussions on the mining code.
The GDRC does not maintain an organization to screen inbound investment. The Presidency and the ministries serve this purpose de facto. In May 2021 President Tshisekedi announced his intention to review the content of and compliance with mining contracts signed under former President Kabila, a process that is still ongoing.
In the past five years, has the GDRC not been subject to a third-party investment policy review (IPR) through a multilateral organization such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) or the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. Cities with high custom clearance traffic use Sydonia https://asycuda.org/wp-content/uploads/Etude-de-Cas-SYDONIA-Contr%C3%B4le-de-la-Valeur-RDC.pdf, which is an advanced software system for custom administrations in compliance with ASYCUDA WORLD. (ASYCUDA is a large technical assistance software program recommended by UNCTAD for custom clearance management.)
The international NGO The Sentry published a report in November 2021 on a multi-million-dollar embezzlement and bribery operation using money intended to support infrastructure development. The NGO Global Witness reported in 2019 that a DRC-based bank was involved in laundering money for Congolese officials.
The GDRC operates a “one-stop-shop” for Business Creation (GUCE) that brings together all the government entities involved in the registration of a company in the DRC with an electronic tracking system of the business creation file online. The goal is to permit the quick and simple registration of companies through one office in one location. In October 2020, President Tshisekedi instructed the government to restructure GUCE in order to ease its work with the various state organizations involved in its operation. More information is available at https://guichetunique.cd/.
In December 2021, the GDRC attempted to make the GUCE more efficient for companies by implementing a system that allows for online business registration. Using the GUCE’s online portal, companies fill out a “single form,” which integrates all of the services involved in the process of creating a company including the Notary’s Office, the Registry of the Commerce and Personal Property Credit Register, the Administration of Tax Authority (DGI), a Center for Ordination of the General Directorate of Administrative, State, Judicial and Participation Revenues (DGRAD), the Administration of the National Economy, the National Fund of Social Security (CNSS), the Administration of the Environment, the National Office of Employment (ONEM), the National Institute of Professional Preparation (INPP), the General Inspection of Work; and a representation of Municipal Entities. Businesses may also need to obtain an operating permit as required by some city councils. The registration process should now take three days, but in practice it can take much longer. Some businesses have reported that the GUCE has significantly shortened and simplified the overall business registration process.
The GDRC does not promote or incentivize outward investment.
There are currently no government restrictions preventing domestic investors from investing abroad, and there is currently no blacklist of countries with which domestic investors are prevented from doing business.
3. Legal Regime
The 2018 Law on Pricing, Freedom, and Competition (the “Competition Act”) created a Competition Commission. DRC law mandates review if a company’s turnover is equal to or exceeds the amount determined by Decree of the Prime Minister upon proposal of the Minister of the Economy; if the party in question also holds a combined market share of 25% or more; or if the contemplated transaction creates / reinforces an already dominant position. DRC law requires notification prior to a corporate merger.
The DRC is a member of the regional competition bodies, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA),and the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (“OHADA”), which covers francophone African countries . OHADA does not have an operational merger control regime in place, while COMESA does have merger control. Merger activities in the DRC should should comply with COMESA standards.
There are no informal regulations run by private or nongovernmental organizations that discriminate against foreign investors. However, some U.S. investors perceive the regulations in the mining and agricultural sectors mandating a percentage of local ownership as discriminatory against foreign investment.
Proposed laws and regulations are rarely published in draft format for public discussion and comment; discussion is typically limited to the governmental entity that proposes the draft law and Parliament prior to enactment. Sometimes the government will hold a public hearing after public appeals. The Official Gazette of the DRC is a specialized service of the Presidency of the Republic, which publishes and disseminates legislative and regulatory texts, judicial decisions, acts of companies, associations and political parties, designs, industrial models, trademarks as well as any other act referred to in the law. More information is available at http://www.leganet.cd/.
There are no formal or informal GDRC provisions that systematically impede foreign investment. Companies often complain of facing administrative hurdles as laws and regulations are often poorly or unevenly applied.
DRC is member of Francophone Africa’s OHADA – the Organization for Business and Customs Harmonization, or Organisation pour l’Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affaires – a system of accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures which covers the legal framework in the areas of contract, company, and bankruptcy law and sets up an accounting system better aligned to international standards. A Coordination Committee in the DRC monitors OHADA implementation.
The GDRC does not promote or require companies’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosure. However, some companies believe that compliance with international ESG standards can attract new financing and are taking steps to ensure that their companies are ESG compliant. These companies believe that compliance allows them to have a positive impact on the communities in which they operate and protect the environment.
Draft bills or regulations are rarely made available for public comment, or through a public comment process. Discussion is usually limited to the government entity proposing the bill and to Parliament before the bill’s enactment. Sometimes the government will hold a public hearing after public appeals.
The Official Gazette of the DRC is a specialized service of the Presidency of the Republic, which publishes and disseminates legislative and regulatory texts, judicial decisions, acts of companies, associations and political parties, designs, industrial models, trademarks as well as any other act referred to in the law. More information is available at http://www.leganet.cd/.
Oversight mechanisms are weak, and often the law does not require audits to ensure that internal controls are in place or that administrative procedures are followed. Companies often complain that they face administrative barriers, with the government often poorly or unevenly enforcing laws and regulations. However, there are regulatory authorities in different sectors that ensure compliance with laws, regulations, conventions, etc., in order to guarantee effective and fair competition for the benefit of consumers and to provide legal and regulatory certainty for private investors. Some of them can issue, suspend, or withdraw authorizations and establish corresponding specifications.
In August 2021, the GDRC established the National Agency for Export Promotion (ANAPEX), with the aim of identifying and attracting foreign investments to sectors with export potential.
Following the decree signed in March 2022 by the Prime Minister, a new public establishment called the Agency for the Steering, Coordination and Monitoring of Collaboration Agreements Between the DRC and Private Partners (APCSC) was created. It replaces the Office for Coordination and Monitoring of the Sino-Congolese Program (BCPSC) established by former President Kabila and limited to agreements with Chinese investors. The APCSC will focus particularly on the areas of basic infrastructure and natural resources.
Through the National Agency for the Promotion of Exports (ANAPEX), the DRC can take advantage of its commitments at the regional level and can also target the Asian, European, and American markets to increase exports and further diversify its international markets. APCSC will interface between the various parties and entities interested in collaborating on projects in basic infrastructure and natural resources.
The enforcement process is legally reviewable, sometimes digitalized, and otherwise made accountable to the public. Public and private institutions responsible for monitoring and regulating various sectors make regulatory enforcement mechanisms publicly available. Regulatory agencies regularly publish their data and make it available to the business community and development partners, allowing for scientific and data-driven reviews and assessments.
In 2021, the DRC made significant progress by producing and publicly issuing a revised budget when budget execution deviated significantly from budget projections. Information on debt obligations was publicly available, except for major State-Owned Enterprise debt information. However, the GDRC strives to promote transparency in public finances and debt obligations (including explicit and contingent liabilities) by publishing information on https://budget.gouv.cd/.
The DRC is a member of several regional economic blocs, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (“OHADA”), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (ECGLC). In April 2022, the DRC joined the East African Community. The Congolese Parliament must still ratify the EAC’s laws and regulations before the agreement take effect. The GDRC has made efforts to harmonize its system with these regional bodies.
According to the Congolese National Standardization Committee, the DRC has adopted 470 harmonized COMESA standards, which are based on the European system.
The DRC is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and seeks to comply with Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIM) requirements, including notifying regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
The DRC is a civil code country, and the main provisions of its private law date back to the Napoleonic Civil Code. The general characteristics of the Congolese legal system are similar to those of the Belgian system. Various local laws govern both personal status laws and property rights, including inheritance and land ownership systems in traditional communities throughout the country. The Congolese legal system consists of three branches: public law, private law, and economic law. Public law governs legal relationships involving the state or state authority; private law governs relationships between private persons; and economic law governs interactions in areas such as labor, trade, mining, and investment.
The DRC has written commercial and contractual laws. The DRC has thirteen commercial courts located in its main business cities, including Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Matadi, Boma, Kisangani, and Mbuji-Mayi. These courts are designed to be led by professional judges specializing in commercial matters and exist in parallel to the judicial system. However, a lack of qualified personnel and reluctance by some DRC jurisdictions to fully recognize OHADA law and institutions have hindered the development of commercial courts. Legal documents in the DRC can be found at: http://www.leganet.cd/.
The current executive branch has generally not interfered with judicial proceedings. The current judicial process is not procedurally reliable, and its rulings are not always respected.
The national court system provides an appeals mechanism under the OHADA framework.
The 2002 Investment Code governs most foreign direct investment (FDI) and provides for investment protection. Law n°004/2002 on the Investment Code, through the provisions of articles 23-30, which provide the mechanisms of security and guarantees for investments as well as customs, tax, and parafiscal exemptions. The country’s constitution and laws state that the property (private and collective) of all persons in the DRC is sacred. The GDRC guarantees the right to individual or collective property acquired in accordance with the law or custom. It encourages and ensures the security of private, national, and foreign investments. No one may be deprived of his or her property except for reasons of public utility and in return for fair and prior compensation granted under the conditions established by law; the State guarantees the right to private initiative to both nationals and foreigners.
The Public Private Partnership (PPP) Act provides for the guarantee of execution of the partnership contract regardless of a change of government (art. 15). Taxation in this law a common application of the law, except for the reduction of the tax on profits and earnings, which is set at 15%. There are other laws that grant customs exemptions, such as the Agricultural Act, the Partnership Act in the Value Chain, etc. The law favors amicable settlement or arbitration in case of investment disputes. Specific sectoral laws govern agriculture, industry (protection of industrial property), infrastructure and civil engineering, transportation (operating license in air transport), mining research and exploitation, hydrocarbons, various electricity sub-sectors, information and communication technologies (ICT) (license to operate telecommunications services), insurance and reinsurance, healthcare, and arms production and related military activities. Notwithstanding the specific provisions governing each of these sectors, all investors are required to submit a copy of their investment file to the DRC investment agency ANAPI (www.investindrc.cd).
The Telecommunications Law went into effect in 2021, bringing the first revision of the law since 2002. The government’s decisions in 2021 to establish an agency to monitor foreign investment in infrastructure and natural resources and to create a presidential body to review all mining contracts have affected some of the largest investments in the DRC.
The GUCE provides a One-Stop Shop designed to simplify business creation. The GUCE has reduced the processing time from five months to three days and for corporations, the fee was lowered from $120 to $80. For sole proprietorships, the fee has been reduced from $40 to $30. There is also an Integral One-Stop Shop for foreign trade (GUICE), which is a neutral, transparent, and secure electronic platform, accessible 24 hours a day to the entire foreign trade community. It centralizes all regulatory, customs and logistical components related to the import, export, and transit of goods (https://segucerdc.com). GUICE is operated by SEGUCE RDC SA, a private operator under the framework of a public-private partnership.
Competition Commission – COMCO is the regulatory and supervisory body for competition in DRC under the Organic Law no. 18/020 on Pricing Freedom and Competition and the COMESA Competition Regulation. It ensures that the rules of free competition are respected by economic operators. This commission works to allow all economic operators, according to their capacities, to exercise a fair competition, based on the quality of goods, products, and services, respecting the official price structure. Its priorities are acquisitions and mergers (investigating, evaluating, and monitoring acquisitions and mergers), business practices and exemptions (investigating anti-competitive practices), consumer welfare (acting against violators), and good practice awareness (good practices and anti-competitive consequences).
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the GDRC to pay a liability judgment of $619 million to the South African company Dig Oil due to breach of contract. The GDRC is considering settling the 2020 judgment but has yet to do so. In August 2021, the Minister of Justice informed the GDRC of six emblematic cases of international litigation. The main causes of the DRC’s multiple liabilities in these cases are the poor management of the disputes by the sectoral authorities, the late transmission of files to the Ministry of Justice, and the failure to respect the findings of arbitration procedures. President Tshisekedi has called for better monitoring of cases involving the DRC before the courts in order to reduce the risk of the state being found liable for hundreds of millions of dollars.
As a member of COMESA, the DRC follows the COMESA Competition Regulations and rules, and the COMESA competition body regulates competition.
Agency decisions may be appealed to the courts/judicial system.
The GDRC may proceed with an expropriation when it benefits the public interest, and the person or entity subject to an expropriation should receive fair compensation.
There have been no expropriations of property in the past three years.
Some claims have been taken to arbitration, though many arbitral judgments against the GDRC have are not resulted in a payment.
Businesses report that the GDRC levies heavy fines, which is a form of financial expropriation. A government agency imposes fines because a company has not paid a tax, although often the tax system is unclear, and several government agencies impose different taxes. Companies that appeal these fines in court often face a long wait.
4. Industrial Policies
The 2002 Investment Code provides for attractive customs and tax exemptions for investors who submit their investment plan to ANAPI. Once the project is approved by ANAPI within a period not exceeding 30 days, the investor benefits from the following customs, fiscal and parafiscal advantages: (1) exemption from import duties and taxes on machinery, materials, and equipment (excluding the 2% administrative tax and VAT (to be paid upstream by the promoter, but to be refunded by the tax authorities); (2) exemption from income tax; (3) exemption from property tax; and (4) exemption from proportional duties when setting up a limited liability company or increasing its share capital.
The duration of the advantages granted is from three to five years depending on the economic region where the investment is located: three years for economic region A (Kinshasa, the Capital); four years for economic region B (Bas-Congo, cities of Lubumbashi, Likasi, Kolwezi); and five years for economic region C (everywhere else).
The conditions for accessing the benefits of the Investment Code are simple; establishment as an economic entity under Congolese law; the overall cost of the planned investment (all expenses included) must be at least $200,000 (or at least $10,000 for SMEs/SMIs); commitment to respect environmental regulations; commitment to respect labor regulations; and a guarantee the investment has a value-added rate of at least 35%. There are no additional incentives for businesses owned by underrepresented investors such as women.
The GDRC does not issue guarantees or jointly finance foreign direct investment projects.
Aside from the incentives offered in the Investment Code, the GDRC does not offer additional incentives for clean energy investments (including renewable energy, energy storage, energy efficiency, clean hydrogen, carbon sequestration, low-carbon transport, and fuels, and other decarbonization technologies). A group of off-grid electricity producers is pushing the government to provide an exemption from import taxes for off-grid solar products brought into the DRC.
The DRC does not have any areas designated as Free Trade Zones or Duty-Free Zones. The DRC is a signatory to the SADC but is not a SADC Free Trade Area member. In February 2022, the DRC deposited its instrument of ratification and became the 42nd country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA). The agreement aims to facilitate imports and exports among member countries with reduced or zero tariffs, free market access and market information, and the elimination of trade barrier, and provides numerous benefits to SMEs. In March 2022, the DRC joined the East African Community (EAC) as the seventh member, massively expanding the territory of this trading bloc, giving it access to the Atlantic Ocean and greatly increasing the number of francophones in what was originally a club of former British colonies. The GDRC is committed to experimenting with Special Economic Zones (SEZ). It is in this context that it promulgated in 2014, the Law n°14/022 fixing the regime of SEZ in the DRC.
To date, six areas for the creation of SEZs have been defined: the Industrial Zone of the Kinshasa Area, comprising the City Province of Kinshasa; Kongo Central Province, and the former Province of Bandundu; the Industrial Zone of the Kasaï Area, comprising the Provinces of Kasaï, Kasaï Central, Eastern Kasaï, Lomami and Sankuru; the Industrial Zone of the former Katanga Province; the Industrial Zone of Great Kivu; the Industrial Zone of the former Eastern Province; and the Industrial Zone of the former Equateur Province. According to the provisions of article 6 of this law, the administration of the SEZs in the DRC is the responsibility of a public establishment called the “Agency of Special Economic Zones (AZES).”
With a view to attracting and promoting investments in SEZs, the GDRC, in accordance with the provisions of the law on SEZs, issued Decree No. 20/004 of March 5, 2020, which sets out the advantages and facilities to be granted to investors operating in SEZs in DRC.
For developers: a total exemption from property, furniture, and business taxes on profits for 10 years, renewable once after evaluation; a 50 percent reduction in the tax rate set from the 21st year; a total exemption from import duties and taxes on machinery, tools and new or used equipment, capital goods, etc. for 10 years, etc.
For companies: a total exemption from property, movable and professional taxes on profits for 5 years, renewable once after evaluation; a reduction of 50 percent of the tax rate from the 11th year; an application of the exceptional depreciation system; a total exemption from import duties and taxes on machinery, tools, and equipment, new or used, and capital goods for 10 years; an exemption from export duties and taxes on finished products for 10 years.
On November 4, 2020, the GDRC launched the construction of the first Special Economic Zone – Maluku SEZ in Kinshasa, with the aim of attracting foreign investment and stimulating the creation of local businesses. This SEZ offers tax and regulatory advantages for investors and entrepreneurs including a 5-to-10-year tax exemption. More information is available at https://azes-rdc.com/.
In August 2021, the GDRC presented its Industrialization Master Plan (PDI) accompanied by a cost estimate of the structuring and industrializing infrastructures. The transport and communication infrastructure package (airport, rail, river, lake, maritime, road and energy), together with the densification of Special Economic Zones, is estimated at $58.3 billion.
The GDRC does not follow “forced localization,” the policy in which foreign investors must use domestic content in goods or technology. The DRC does not have specific legislation on data storage or limits on the transmission of data.
There are no known enforcement procedures for performance requirements in the DRC.
Investors benefiting from the Investment Code regime must guarantee the investment has a value-added rate of at least 35%
The GDRC does not require IT companies to hand over encryption data. Cellular phone companies must meet technology performance requirements to maintain their license.
According to officials, the Ministry of Digitalization is developing measures to prevent or restrict companies from freely transmitting customer data or data to other companies outside the economy/country. These measures may go beyond the requirements for data transferred within the country.
On November 25, 2020, President Tshisekedi enacted Law No. 20/017 on telecommunications and information and communication technologies. This law provides in its articles 126 to 133 the right to privacy and the protection of personal data in telecommunications and information technology and communication. This protection of privacy is secured by the right to secrecy of correspondence for all users of telecommunications networks and services and information and communication technologies (ICT). The law thus prohibits any interception, listening, recording, transcription and disclosure of correspondence without prior authorization from the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Court of Cassation. The authorization from the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Court of Cassation, for a renewable period of three months, must demonstrate the facts in a judicial file, and it must include all the identification elements of the targeted link, the offence that justifies the interception, as well as its duration. The Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Congo (ARPTC) ensures the regulation and control of personal data protection.
5. Protection of Property Rights
The DRC Constitution protects private property without discriminating between foreign and domestic investors. Despite this provision, the GDRC recognized the lack of enforcement protecting property rights. The Congolese law on real property rights lists provisions for mortgages and liens. Real property (buildings and land) is protected and registered by the Office of the Registrar of Mortgages of the Ministry of Land Affairs. The registration of real property does not fully protect owners, as records are often incomplete and disputes over land transactions are common. Many property owners do not have a clear and recorded title to their property. In May 2021, the Ministry of Land Affairs presented the GDRC with its plan to digitize the land registry and secure land and property titles in the DRC. This plan will make it possible to digitize the entire land registry, to establish land security for investors and individuals alike, to electronically store all data collected in a database accessible to all public authorities, and to resolve land conflicts, which make up 80 percent of the cases handled.
Article 61 of Law No. 73-021 of 1973 on the general property regime, the land and real estate regime, and the system of securities, as amended and supplemented by Law No. 80-008 of 1980, provides that “a concession is a contract by which the State recognizes the right of use of land to a community, a natural person, or a legal entity of private or public law, under the terms and conditions provided for in the present law and its implementing regulations. However, a perpetual concession is only available to Congolese individuals. Foreigners and legal entities can only have access to an ordinary concession, which cannot exceed 25 years. However, the latter is renewable at the discretion of the State. In the event of non-renewal, the law provides for compensation for the concessionaire in certain cases (long lease, surface area). This compensation may not exceed 75 percent of the current and intrinsic value of the buildings incorporated into the land. Land is owned and managed by the GDRC. Government officials with the status of Registrars of Real Property Titles issue certificates of registration to individuals in their respective land districts.
Less than 10 percent of land has a clear property title, but the GDRC is in the process of promoting and encouraging people to regularize property titles by buying a final title called a “Record Certificate” (Certificat d’Enregistrement).
Ownership interest in personal property (e.g., equipment, vehicles, etc.) is protected and registered through the Ministry of the Interior’s Office of the Notary.
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are legally protected in the DRC, but enforcement of IPR regulations is limited and IP theft is common. Law n°82-001 of 1982 on Intellectual Property (IP) organizes the procedure of IP protection. The registration is done in three steps with the General Secretariat of the Ministry of Industry, which is the competent body for intellectual property in the DRC: (1) filing the file – after paying the official fees, the applicant must file his file. When the file is filed, the applicant receives a filing number that specifies the day and time of filing. This number is used to prove the earlier filing of the IP. (2) Examination of the application and (3) registration of the application. This administrative procedure can take between six and nine months. The applicant can carry out the procedure alone or be accompanied and assisted by an Industrial Property Agent.
The law provides several tools to protect IP against those who want to appropriate or use it without the owner’s consent; in particular, the infringement action or the opposition, which makes it possible to defeat IP violations. The protection of the registered trademark is valid for a renewable period of ten years from the date of filing. The patent allows to benefit on the Congolese territory from a monopoly of exploitation on an innovation for a limited period of 20 years. The registration of a design or model offers a five-year protection that can be renewed only once. The GDRC has yet to join the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), which offers greater protection of trademarks (a protection valid in 16 African countries).
In the past year, no new IP-related laws or regulations have been enacted and no reform bills are underway. The country is a signatory to agreements with international organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is subject to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
The country tracks and reports seizures of counterfeit goods but does not keep a public record of IPR violations. Information on these seizures is often reported by the Congolese Office of Control (OCC) – [Office Congolais de Contrôle]- which is responsible for enforcing laws, regulations, and standards on the conformity of products, goods, procedures and services.
The DRC is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report.
The DRC is not listed in the notorious market report.
6. Financial Sector
The government welcomes investment including by foreign portfolio investors. A small number of private equity firms are actively investing in the mining industry. The institutional investor base is not well developed, with only an insurance company and a state pension fund as participants. There is no market for derivatives in the country. Cross-shareholding and stable shareholding arrangements are also not common. Credit is allocated on market terms, but there are occasional complaints about unfair privileges extended to certain investors in profitable sectors such as mining and telecommunications.
There is no domestic stock market. Although reforms have been initiated, the Congolese financial system remains small, heavily dollarized, characterized by fragile balance sheets, and difficult to use. Further reforms are needed to strengthen the financial system, sustain its expansion, and stimulate economic growth. Inadequate risk-based controls, weak regulatory enforcement, low profitability, and over-reliance on demand deposits undermine the resilience of the financial system. The DRC’s capital market remains underdeveloped and consists primarily of the issuance of Treasury bonds.
The Central Bank refrains from making restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.
It is possible for foreign companies to borrow from local banks, but their options are limited. Loan terms are generally limited to 3-6 months, and interest rates are typically 16-21 percent. The inconsistent legal system, the often-burdensome business climate, and the difficulty of obtaining interbank financing discourage banks from making long-term loans. Opportunities for financing large projects in the national currency, the Congolese franc (CDF), are limited.
The Congolese financial system is comprised of 15 licensed banks, a national insurance company (SONAS), the National Social Security Institute (INSS), one development bank, SOFIDE (Société Financière de Development), a savings fund (CADECO), roughly 21 microfinance institutions and 72 cooperatives, 81 money transfer institutions which are concentrated in Kinshasa, Kongo Central, former Bandundu, North and South Kivu and the former Katanga provinces, 4 electronic money institutions, and 48 foreign exchange offices.
While the financial system is improving, it is fragmented and dominated by so-called “local” banks. With very different profiles (international, local, pan-African, networked, corporate, etc.) and approaches that diverge fundamentally in terms of management, governance, and terms of management and risk appetite, the so-called “local” commercial banks continue to dominate the banking sector. Pan-African banks are increasing their share, especially with the recent acquisition of the Banque Commerciale du Congo by the Kenyan Equity Group.
The Central Bank controls monetary policy and regulates the banking system. Banks are mainly concentrated in the provinces of Kinshasa, Kongo Central, North and South Kivu, and Haut Katanga. The banking penetration rate is about 7.6 percent, or about 5.3 million accounts, which places the country among the least banked nations in the world.
Mobile banking has the potential to significantly increase the banking customer base, as an estimated 35 million Congolese use cell phones. In the last five years, there has been an evolution and consolidation of prudential ratios or risk indicators of the banking sector and the introduction of alternative channels for financial service delivery and inclusion, such as Agency Banking and Mobile Banking. Mobile money continues to play an increasingly important role in financial inclusion in the DRC, as mobile money is a lever for economic and social inclusion. Over the past ten years, mobile money subscriptions in the DRC have increased by 20 percent per year.
There is no debt market. The financial health of DRC banks is fragile, reflecting high operating costs and exchange rates. In 2021 asset quality measures taken by the Central Bank allowed banks to absorb the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fees charged by banks are a major source of revenue.
Statistics on non-performing loans are not available because many banks only record the balance due and not the total amount of their non-performing loans.
The financial system is primarily based on the banking sector, with total assets estimated at US$ 5.2 billion. Of the five largest banks, four are local and one is controlled by foreign holding companies. The five largest banks hold nearly 65 percent of bank deposits and more than 60 percent of total bank assets, or about $ 3.1 billion.
The country has an operating central banking system with Citigroup as the only correspondent bank.
All foreign banks or branches need to be accredited by the Central Bank, are considered Congolese banks with foreign capital, and fall under the provisions and regulations covering the credit institutions’ activities in the DRC.
There are no restrictions on a foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account in the DRC.
The DRC has no declared Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), although the 2018 Mining Code refers to creating a future fund “FOMIN” that will be capitalized by a percentage of mining revenues. In October 2021, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Technical Secretariat organized a workshop to develop the FOMIN decree as well as tools for managing the shares of mining royalties accruing to the provinces and local entities.
The DRC constitution and legal code include laws intended to fight corruption and bribery by all citizens, including public officials. The Tshisekedi government has used public prosecutions of high-level officials and the creation of an anti-corruption unit (APLC) to improve the DRC’s anti-corruption enforcement. Prosecutions have led to jail terms but often subsequent early releases. The 2021 edition of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranked the DRC 169th out of 180 countries, with a score of 19 out of 100, up from 18 out of 100 the previous year.
Anti-corruption laws extend to family members of officials and political parties. In March 2020, President Tshisekedi created the National Agency for the Prevention and Fight Against Corruption (APLC). Currently corruption investigations are ongoing for three Managing Directors of SOEs.
The country has laws or regulations to address conflicts of interest in the awarding of public contracts or procurement. Conflicts of interest committed in the context of a public contract and a delegation of public service are punishable by a fine of USD 12,500 to USD25,000.
The government through regulatory authorities encourages or requires private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that, among other things, prohibit bribery of public officials.
Law 017-2002 of 2002, establishes the code of conduct for public officials, which provides rules of conduct in terms of moral integrity and professional ethics and the fight against corruption in socio-professional environments. Private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials.
The DRC is a signatory to both the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption but has not fully ratified the latter. The DRC is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery. The DRC ratified a protocol agreement with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on fighting corruption.
NGOs such as the consortium “The Congo is Not for Sale,” have an important role in revealing corrupt practices, and the law protects NGOs in a whistleblower role. However, in 2021 whistleblowers from Afriland First Bank that alleged to the international NGO Global Witness interaction between sanctioned individual Dan Gertler and the bank were subjected to prosecution and, in a private proceeding, sentenced to death in absentia. Although the government worked with Global Witness to contest the case, it remained unresolved as of early 2022. NGOs report governmental or other hindrance to their efforts to publicize and/or address corruption. The Observatory of Public Expenditure (ODEP), which works with civil society organizations, raises awareness of the social impact of the execution of finance laws in order to improve transparency and accountability in the management of public finances; to participate in the fight against corruption; and to promote citizen involvement in each stage of the budget process.
U.S. firms see corruption and harassment by local security forces as one of the main hurdles to investment in the DRC, particularly in the awarding of concessions, government procurement, and taxation treatment.
Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:
Chouna Lomponda Director of Communications and Spokesperson Agence de Prévention et de Lutte contre la Corruption (APLC) Général Basuki, N°14C, Ngaliema, Kinshasa, RDC +243 89 33 02 819 email@example.com
Contact at a “watchdog” organization:
Ernest MPARARO Executive Secretary Ligue Congolaise de Lutte contre la Corruption (LICOCO) Luango, N°14, Quartier 1, N’djili Kinshasa RDC +243 81 60 49 837 / +243 89 89 72 130 firstname.lastname@example.org https://licoco.org/
10. Political and Security Environment
The DRC has a history of armed group activity, sometimes of a politicized nature and particularly in the east of the country, and of elections-related violence and civil unrest. The 2018 election, which took place after years of delay marked by protests that were in some instances violently repressed, was marred by irregularities, but most citizens accepted the announced result, and the election aftermath was calm. In January 2019, Felix Tshisekedi became President in the DRC’s first peaceful transition of power. Following President Felix Tshisekedi’s establishment of a new political alliance known as the “Sacred Union,” Tshisekedi appointed Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde as Prime Minister in April 2021.
The foreign terrorist organization-designated ISIS-DRC (aka the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group) in eastern DRC is one of the country’s most notorious and intractable armed groups and its members have shown no interest in demobilizing. In May 2021, Tshisekedi declared a “state of siege” – effectively martial law – in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, installing military governors and ramping up Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) operations against ISIS-DRC/ADF and other armed groups. The state of siege has been accompanied by problematic human rights practices; the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) has documented violations including extrajudicial killings by FARDC and police, while military governments have restricted civil society and political activists and prosecuted some for criticizing the state of siege.
The DRC labor market has a large, low-skilled workforce with high youth unemployment. Women make up 47 percent of the labor force. Expatriates frequently work in jobs requiring technical training in the key mining sector. Approximately 85 percent of the nonagricultural labor force works in the informal sector. About 60 percent of the total labor force works in agriculture.
Informal employment dominates the labor market in the DRC. According to the World Bank, the DRC has one of the highest rates of informal work in the world, with about 80 percent of urban workers engaged in the informal economy. The Congolese trade union confederation estimates that the sector employs 97.5 percent of the country’s workforce. Informal workers in the artisanal mining sector have raised worries about the use of child labor in mining, forcing companies to go through an accreditation system to show they do not use child labor. It takes many forms and is characterized by the non-respect or non-application of labor standards related to minimum wage, working hours, safety and other social standards related to the social health system, retirement, etc. The informal sector’s share of GDP is estimated at nearly 55 percent. The EGI-ODD results show that slightly more than 91 percent of jobs in the non-agricultural sectors are informal, meaning that these workers do not have a contract, receive paid vacations, or family allowances. By gender, 94 percent of women’s jobs in the nonagricultural sector are informal, compared to 87.7 percent for men.
DRC labor law stipulates that for companies with more than 100 employees, ten percent of all employees must be local. If the general manager is a foreigner, his or her deputy or secretary general must be a Congolese national. The government may waive these provisions depending on the sector of activity and available expertise. There are no onerous conditionality, visa, residency, or work permit requirements that impede the mobility of foreign investors and their employees.
The DRC faces a shortage of skilled labor in all sectors. There are few formal vocational training programs, although Article 8 of the labor law requires all employers to provide training to their employees. To address the high unemployment rate, the GDRC has enacted a policy giving Congolese preference in hiring over expatriates. Laws prevent companies from laying off workers in most cases without compensation. These restrictions discouraged hiring and encouraged the use of temporary contracts instead of permanent employment. There is no government safety net to compensate laid-off workers.
There are no labor laws waived in order to attract or retain investment, nor are there additional/different labor law provisions in special economic zones, foreign trade zones, or free ports compared to the general economy. The law grants and guarantees equal treatment to all national and foreign investors.
Congolese law bans collective bargaining in some sectors, particularly by civil servants and public employees, and the law does not provide adequate protection against anti-union discrimination. While the right to strike is recognized, there are provisions which require unions to obtain authorization and to undergo lengthy mandatory arbitration and appeal procedures before going on strike. Unions often strike to obtain wage increases or payment of back wages and seek to make gains through negotiation with employers.
The DRC government has ratified all eight core International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions, but some Congolese laws continue to be inconsistent with the ILO Forced Labor Convention.
No strikes in the past year have posed an investment risk and government’s reaction.
According to some businesses, the government does not effectively enforce relevant employment laws. DRC law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, gender, language, or social status. The law does not specifically protect against discrimination based on religion, age, political opinion, national origin, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV-positive status. Additionally, no law specifically prohibits discrimination in the employment of career public service members.
Labor law defines different standard workweeks, ranging from 45 to 72 hours, for various jobs, and prescribes rest periods and premium pay for overtime. Employers in both the formal and informal sectors often do not respect these provisions. The law does not prohibit compulsory overtime.
The labor code specifies health and safety standards, but the government does not effectively enforce labor standards in the informal sector, and enforcement is uneven to non-existent in the formal sector. The Ministry of Labor employs 200 labor inspectors, but the Labor Inspector General reports that funding is not enough to facilitate the conduct of efficient labor inspections.
No new labor related laws or regulations have been enacted in the past year, and no bills are pending.
14. Contact for More Information
U.S. Embassy Kinshasa
+243 810 556 0151
Djibouti, a country with few resources, recognizes the crucial need for foreign direct investment (FDI) to stimulate economic development. The country’s assets include a strategic geographic location, free zones, an open trade regime, and a stable currency. Djibouti has identified a number of priority sectors for investment, including transport and logistics, real estate, energy, agriculture, and tourism. Djibouti’s investment climate has improved in recent years, which has led to interest by U.S. and other foreign firms. There are, however, a number of reforms still needed to promote investment.
In 2020, according to the UN Conference of Trade and Development, FDI stock represented 58.53% of GDP, up from 52.5% in 2018. Real GDP growth has remained between 5% and a little over 8% per year for the last five years. Inflation decreased to 0.1 % in 2018 then peaked at an estimated 3.3% in 2019 and decreased to 2.9% in 2020. In recent years, Djibouti undertook a surge of foreign-backed infrastructure loans to posture themselves as the “Singapore of Africa.” Major projects have included a new gas terminal and pipeline to Ethiopia, a new port, free zones, improved road systems, a railroad connecting Djibouti and Addis Ababa, and a water pipeline from Ethiopia. Djibouti launched the first phase of an ambitious port and free zone project, Djibouti Damerjog Industrial Development (DDID) free-trade zone, scheduled to be built in three phases of five years each. The project includes a multipurpose port, a liquefied natural gas terminal, a livestock terminal, dry docks and a ship repair area, a power plant and a factory that will produce construction materials. DDID, which is expected to attract foreign investors, will offer all the preferential policies guaranteed by the free zone authority, such as tax exemption, minimized restrictions on foreign labor and competitive water and electricity rates. In April 2018, the Government of Djibouti enacted tax, labor, and financial reforms to improve its investment climate.
Various business climate reforms were introduced in 2020 with the objectives of improving competitiveness both regionally and internationally. These reforms included starting online registration for companies and the creation of the Djibouti Port Community System platform which is a portal that provides a comprehensive set of online services to the business community.
Economic development and foreign investment are hindered by high electricity costs, high unemployment, an unskilled workforce, a large informal sector, regional instability, opaque business practices, compliance risks, corruption, and a weak financial sector. The World Bank estimated the government’s public debt-to-GDP ratio was 66.7% in 2019 with a projection of 69.9% in 2020 which will gradually decrease over the years. The majority of the debt is owed to Chinese entities.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Djibouti’s laws encourage FDI, with the government as a driving force behind Djibouti’s economic growth. Faced with an unemployment rate of over 47%, FDI is expected to generate jobs. There are no laws, practices, or mechanisms that discriminate against foreign investors. Navigating the bureaucracy, however, can be complicated. FDI is encouraged by policy and foreign companies are often able to negotiate favorable tax terms on a case-by-case basis.
The government is gradually opening public sector entities, including state owned utilities, to private investment. In 2021 the government invited proposals for a strategic investor in the state-owned telecommunications monopoly. The energy sector remains open to competition through power purchase agreements; however, the state-owned electric utility retains all rights to the transmission and distribution of electricity. This liberalization of production has resulted in the private development of wind, solar, and waste to energy resources.
Djibouti’s National Investment Promotion Agency (NIPA), created in 2001, promotes private-sector investment, facilitates investment operations, and works to modernize the country’s regulatory framework. NIPA assists foreign and domestic investors by disseminating information and streamlining administrative procedures. Since 2017, NIPA’s one-stop-shop, which houses several agencies under one roof, has simplified business registration. NIPA has identified several priority sectors for investment, including infrastructure and renewable energy.
The Secretariat of State in charge of Investment and Private Sector Development, established in May 2021, is in charge of implementing the business climate policy, investment promotion and private sector development. This agency works in coordination with the Ministry of Economy and Finance. It ensures that the business environment is internationally competitive and conducive to private initiatives. It identifies administrative reforms that remove obstacles to the proper functioning of the private sector.
Foreign and domestic private entities have equal rights in establishing and owning business enterprises and engaging in all forms of remunerative activity. Furthermore, foreign investors are not required by law to have a local partner except in the insurance industry, and then, only if the company is registered as a local company and not as a branch of an existing foreign company. Nevertheless, some foreign companies choose to have a local partner to help them better navigate the local bureaucracy and cultural sensitivities. There is no established screening process for FDI.
The OECD, WTO, and the UNCTAD have not conducted an investment policy review (IPR) for Djibouti in the last five years. The Business and Human Rights Resource Center conducted a review in 2022 of Djibouti’s Doraleh Multipurpose Port (DMP) which focused on the DMP’s financing by China Eximbank.
The government of Djibouti has facilitated the registration of business by reducing the capital needed for investment, simplifying the formalities needed to register and simplifying certain tax procedures. The most important facilitation effort is the one-stop-shop, or Guichet Unique, managed by NIPA. The Guichet Unique (http://www.guichet-unique.dj) brings together all the agencies with which a company must register.
Typically, a company registers with the following Djiboutian offices: Office of Intellectual Property, Tax office, and the Social Security office. Online registration is not possible; the normal registration process takes 14 days, according to the World Bank. In Djibouti, new businesses must have every document notarized to begin operations.
The government neither promotes nor restricts outward investment.
3. Legal Regime
Government policies are sometimes not transparent, and do not foster competition on a non-discriminatory basis. Likewise, the legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are not always transparent nor are they consistent with international norms. Rule-making and regulatory authority exists at the state level.
The Djiboutian accounting system is loosely based on the French accounting system as it existed at independence (1977) with subsequent updates.
The regulatory regime is written in a way that promotes open competition, but application of the rules is not always consistent. Draft bills are initiated by the relevant ministry in consultation with stakeholders from relevant ministries or public institutions. Laws are then proposed by the relevant ministry, and then debated and passed by the parliament. The promulgation by the president is the last stage.
Regulatory actions including laws and decrees are available online: https://www.presidence.dj/jord. Ministries and regulatory agencies do not develop forward regulatory plans – that is, a public list of anticipated regulatory changes or proposals intended to be adopted/implemented within a specified time frame
The government has no environmental, social, and governance disclosure requirement.
The State Inspector General (SGI) is tasked with ensuring human and material resources in the public sector are properly utilized. It also acts as an enforcement mechanism to ensure administrative processes are followed.
Public finances and the terms of debt obligations are opaque.
Djibouti is a member of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The regulatory systems in these countries are not yet harmonized. European norms and standards, especially French, are referenced in Djibouti. Djibouti is a member of the WTO.
Djibouti’s legal system is based on Civil law, inherited from the French Napoleonic Code. It consists of three courts: a Court of First Instance presided over by a single judge; a Court of Appeals, with three judges; and the Supreme Court. In addition, Islamic law (shariah) and traditional law is practiced. Djibouti has a written commercial code and specialized courts, including commercial, criminal, administrative, and civilian courts.
The court system is de jure independent from executive power, but may be susceptible to political pressure. Most investors request the right to counsel, including agreements for arbitration, in a recognized international court. International lawyers practicing in Djibouti have reported effective application of maritime and other commercial laws, but in the past, foreign companies operating in Djibouti have reported that court deliberations were biased or delayed.
The country’s legal system has no discriminatory policy against foreign investment, and frequently negotiates extended tax breaks and other incentives to attract larger investments. In conjunction with UNCTAD, NIPA developed an investment guide that provides useful information: https://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/djibouti.
The Djibouti Office of Industrial and Commercial Protection (ODPIC) is the agency in charge of registering businesses. Its website contains information about the registration process: https://odpic.net/.
In 2008, Djibouti adopted a law on competition and consumer protection, which does not cover state-owned enterprises, such as electricity and telecommunications. Under this law, the Government of Djibouti regulates prices in areas where competition remains limited. For example, the government regulates postal services, telecommunications, utilities, and urban transport services. Djibouti does not have an agency that specifically promotes competition and does not have a comprehensive strategy to restrict market monopolies.
Foreign companies enjoy the same benefits as domestic companies under Djibouti’s Investment Code. The Investment Code stipulates that “no partial or total, temporary or permanent expropriation will take place without equitable compensation for the damages suffered.” There are no known recent cases of U.S. companies in Djibouti being subject to expropriation. There have been cases of foreign companies facing de facto expropriation via fines, while other companies have had their concession to run a public service unilaterally revoked (see discussion below about DP World). The government may expropriate land when it is needed for public utility. In that case, the government will compensate the landowner by providing land at a different location or by cash settlement.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
On April 12, 2019, Djibouti signed the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID Convention, also known as the Washington Convention). Djibouti made its deposit of ratification on June 9, 2020 for an entry into force on July 9, 2020.
Djibouti is a contracting member of the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Djibouti’s government has had only a few investment disputes in the past several years, none with U.S. businesses. In some cases, the disputes have been settled in international arbitration courts and the government has abided by those decisions. In other cases, there has been de facto expropriation through large fines. As in any country, a strong, enforceable contract is important.
The government passed a law in November 2017 permitting the government to unilaterally alter or terminate contracts. Using this law, in February 2018, Djibouti’s president issued a decree abrogating the government’s contract with the Emirati company, DP World, concerning the Doraleh Container Terminal, later nationalizing the equipment, physical assets, and land. DP World continued to hold 33.33% of shares until July 2018, when the government terminated the shareholders’ agreement with DP World and later nationalized all shares. Throughout, DP World has continued to claim that the 30-year 2006 Doraleh Container Terminal concession agreement remains in force.
In July 2021, the London Court of International Arbitration decided, in a seventh ruling, that Djibouti should restore DP World’s rights to operate Doraleh Container Terminal in line with the original deal and receive compensation. Djibouti has not yet officially replied, but responded to a similar London Court of International Arbitration ruling in January 2020 with an official communiqué rejecting the court ruling, stating “As the Republic of Djibouti has consistently indicated since the termination of the concession, the only possible outcome is allocation of fair compensation in accordance with international law.”
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
There is no domestic arbitration body within the country. In February 2014, the IGAD countries agreed to set up an international Business Arbitration Center in Djibouti. This institution provides a mechanism for resolving business disputes and helps create a more transparent business environment in the region by reinforcing the principles of contract law and increasing the number of lawyers practicing commercial and contract law in Djibouti. Investment dispute cases are not made public.
Djibouti has bankruptcy laws, and bankruptcy is not criminalized.
4. Industrial Policies
Tax benefits and incentives fall under two categories detailed in the investment code. Investments greater than DJF 50 million (USD 282,486) that create several permanent jobs may be exempted from license and registration fees, property taxes, taxes on industrial and commercial profits, and taxes on the profits of corporate entities. Imported raw materials used in manufacturing are exempted from the internal consumption tax. These exemptions apply for up to a maximum of ten years after companies start producing materials in Djibouti. Incentives are often unique to an individual company or investment and are agreed upon with relevant ministries. Projects can be delayed if all relevant ministries are not consulted during negotiations. To promote exports, Djibouti has multiple free zones where companies enjoy full exemption from direct and indirect taxes for a period of up to ten years.
The Djibouti Free Zone (DFZ) is located on 40 hectares and offers office space, warehouses, light industrial units, and hangars. Businesses located in the Free Zone do not pay corporate taxes, have a simplified registration process, and receive other benefits such as assistance obtaining work permits and visas. Currently, 180 companies from more than 30 countries operate out of the Free Zone. In December 2013, the DAM Commercial Free Zone opened in the Damerjog region, south of Djibouti City. In March 2018, the Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority and China Merchants Group began construction on a large free zone called Djibouti International Free Trade Zone (DIFTZ). The first phase, a 240-hectare pilot zone is currently operational. It consists of four industrial clusters which will focus on trade and logistics, export processing, business, and financial support services, as well as manufacturing and duty-free merchandise retail. When complete it will cover 4,800 hectares and offer office space, warehouses, industrial units, and will be connected directly with the ports in later phases. It will be the largest free zone in Africa.
Djibouti Damerjog Industrial Development (DDID) free-trade zone is in its first of three five-year phases. The project includes a multipurpose port, a liquefied natural gas terminal, a livestock terminal, dry docks and a ship repair area, a power plant and a factory that will produce construction materials. DDID will offer all the preferential policies guaranteed by the free zone authority, such as tax exemption, minimized restrictions on foreign labor and competitive water and electricity rates.
According to local regulations, companies are required to hire locally as long as the qualifications or expertise is available on the local market. However, these schemes are not equally applied to senior management and board of directors where foreign employment is more readily accepted. The process for visas, work permits, and other requirements in order to operate as a foreign employee is not onerous and is easily accessible through Djibouti’s Guichet Unique. Work permits follow a graduated fee schedule: 200,000 Djibouti francs (USD 1,124), 100,000 Djibouti francs (USD 563) and 50,000 Djibouti francs (USD 281) according to the qualifications required for a position.
The government does not follow “forced localization.” The Djiboutian investment code guarantees investors the right to freely import all goods, equipment, products, or material necessary for their investments; display products and services; determine and run marketing policy and production; choose customers and suppliers; and set prices. Performance requirements are not a pre-condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding foreign direct investments. Incentives do, however, increase with the size of the investment and the number of jobs created.
There are no measures that prevent or unduly impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside the economy/country’s territory. There are no rules requiring local data storage within Djibouti.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Djibouti’s legal system officially protects the acquisition and disposition of all property rights. Mortgages exist and are often guaranteed by the employer, who signs a form indicating the employee’s status and salary. The employer is then obliged to inform the bank if the employee leaves the company. Local workers rely on this mechanism to secure mortgages, and they expect that their employer will perform this role. Typically, the government originally owns and sells the land. There are no specific restrictions on foreign ownership of land. All property owners who have legally obtained their land are registered. Even if unoccupied, the property belongs to the owner who legally purchased it.
Djibouti’s legal structure for protecting and enforcement of IPR is weak but developing. There are few existing protections. However, the government passed a law that protects artists’ copyrights.
Djibouti ratified the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Convention, the Paris Convention on the Protection of Industrial Rights, and the Berne Convention on the Protection of Literature and Art Works. The Ministry of Communication and the Djibouti Office for Intellectual Property Rights are responsible for safeguarding intellectual property after registering products. Counterfeit products are commonly available in Djibouti’s markets. Infringing products include clothing, watches, electronics, and bags. Because of the nascent nature of IPR protections, counterfeit products are rarely seized, and no statistics on seizures are published. There have been reports of seizures of counterfeit money; however, statistics are unavailable.
Djibouti is not listed in the U.S Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 report or the Notorious Markets List. Compared to other industries, the sale of counterfeit goods does not appear to be at higher risk of labor rights violations, including child labor, forced labor, and dangerous working conditions.
For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.
Djibouti is open to and receptive of foreign investors. Djibouti does not have its own stock market, but some multinational companies with investments in Djibouti are publicly traded. Portfolio investment in Djibouti is primarily done through private equity investments in a given sector, rather than through purchase of securities. Investments in Djibouti are inherently illiquid for that reason, and the purchase or sale of any sizeable investment in Djibouti affects the market accordingly. Existing policies respect IMF Article VIII and allow the free flow of funds for international transactions.
Credit is allocated on market terms, and foreign companies do not face discrimination in obtaining it. Generally, however, only well-established businesses obtain bank credit, as the cost of credit is high. Credit is available to the private sector, whether foreign or domestic. Where credit is not available, it is primarily due to the associated risk and not structural factors.
Three large banks, Bank of Africa, Bank for Commerce and Industry – Mer Rouge, and CAC bank dominate Djibouti’s banking sector. While these three banks account for the majority share of deposits in-country, there are 13 total banks, all established in the last 14 years. The 2011 banking law fixed the minimum capital requirement for financial institutions at DJF 1 billion (USD 5,651,250) and also covers financial auxiliaries, such as money transfer agencies and Islamic financial institutions. In addition to the three names banks above, foreign banks include Silkroad Bank, Bank of China, and the Burkina Faso-based International Business Bank.
The banking sector suffers from a lack of consistent supervision, but it has been improving. Non-performing loans decreased from 16.26% in 2019 to 13.31% in 2020 and to 9.8% in 2021. The total assets of all the banks were estimated to be USD 3.1 billion in 2020, of which 80% were held by the four largest banks. The country has a Central Bank, which is in charge of delivering licenses to banks and supervising them. Foreign banks or branches are allowed to establish operations in the country. They are subject to the same regulations as local banks. Djibouti has not announced that it intends to implement or allow the implementation of blockchain technologies in its banking transactions. Some banks have begun to provide mobile and e-banking services. In June 2020, Djibouti Telecom launched D-Money, a Digital Mobile Money service which allows users to make digital money transfers and payments directly from mobile phones.
Djibouti has no foreign exchange restrictions. Businesses are free to repatriate profits. There are no limitations on converting or transferring funds, or on the inflow and outflow of cash. The Djiboutian franc, which has been pegged to the U.S. dollar since 1949, is stable. The fixed exchange rate is 177.71 Djiboutian francs to the U.S. dollar. Funds can be transferred by using banks or international money transfer companies such as Western Union, all monitored by the Central Bank.
There are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies. There are no time limitations on remittances. The government does not issue bonds on the open market, and cash-like instruments are not in common use in Djibouti, so direct currency transfers are the only practical method of remitting profits.
In mid-2020 the Djiboutian government announced the creation of a Sovereign Wealth Fund. According to a government statement, the state-owned fund targets investments locally and in neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa. It focuses on industries including telecommunications, technology, energy, and logistics. The fund acts as a long-term investor and is required to reinvest the entire net profits of its activity. The government aims to fund it to $1.5 billion within ten years. Article 12 of Law N° 75/AN/20/8th L, creating the Sovereign Fund of Djibouti, states the fund will adopt and implement best practice in terms of transparency and performance reporting in accordance with the Santiago Principles. As of late 2021, the fund was ramping up operations.
Djibouti has several laws to combat corruption by public officials. These laws were either passed by the government or contained in the Penal Code. However, there have been no records of cases to combat corruption by public officials. Corruption laws are extended to all family members of officials and across political parties, but they have not been applied in a non-discriminatory manner. Djibouti ranked 128 of 180 countries on the 2021 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. Djibouti does not have laws or regulations to counter conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.
Djibouti is a party to the UN Convention against Corruption. There are two government entities responsible for investigating corruption and enforcing the regulations. The State Inspector General (SGI) is tasked with ensuring human and material resources in the public sector are properly utilized. The Court of Auditors is mandated to verify and audit all public establishments for transparency and accountability, and to implement necessary legal sanctions. Both institutions are mandated to produce annual corruption reports. Despite the legal mandates, both institutions lack the authority to push for meaningful reform. The National Commission for Anti-Corruption is also mandated to enforce the laws on combatting corruption and provide safe haven for whistleblowers. This Commission launched a program in March 2018 to urge high-ranking government officials to publicly declare all of their assets, with little success. The contracting code and other laws passed by Djibouti contain provisions to counter conflict-of-interest contracts or government procurement.
According to a law passed in 2013, the government requires private and public companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prevent and prohibit bribery of public officials. However, these codes have not been implemented. Likewise, the government requirement that private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance to detect and prevent bribery of government officials is not enforced. Djibouti is not party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Djibouti is a signatory country of the UN Convention against Corruption.
U.S. firms have not specifically noted corruption as an obstacle to foreign direct investment in Djibouti, but there were allegations of foreign companies having to meet requirements such as renting houses owned by senior officials or hiring certain employees as a condition of receiving government procurement contracts. In addition, one company reported harassment of employees by local competitors. Prosecution and punishment for corruption is rare.
Resources to Report Corruption
Contact at government agency responsible for combating corruption is listed below:
Fatouma Mahamoud AbdillahiPresidentCommission Nationale Independante pour la Prevention et de Lutte Contre la CorruptionPlateau du Serpent+253 21 35 16 email@example.com
No “watchdog” organizations are present in Djibouti.
10. Political and Security Environment
Djibouti has seen only very limited episodes of political violence over the last two decades. In the last ten years, there have been no known incidents of political violence leading to damage to foreign investments. Both the ruling coalition party and the recognized opposition parties favor foreign direct investment into Djibouti and local attitudes towards foreigners are positive.
Djibouti held presidential elections April 9, 2021, with President Ismael Omar Guelleh winning a fifth consecutive term with 98% of the vote. His 22-year reign has contributed to stability and economic growth, but questions of succession and subsequent instability remain.
Djibouti was recently awarded the International Peace Award by the journal Jeune Afrique for its secure environment, despite being surrounded by countries facing instability. According to data acquired by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, Djibouti’s instances of violence and disorder have significantly declined in the past three years.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Djibouti’s official unemployment rate is 47%. Youth unemployment, defined locally as the share of the labor force between age 15 and 24 without work but that is available and actively seeing employment, has remained between 11% and 12% in the past three decades. Estimates of a sizeable informal labor market of up to 75% exist in Djibouti, with a larger informal market outside of the capital city of Djibouti. The informal market consists mostly of individual operating units, is poorly structured, and is concentrated in trade, import-export, construction, various services and handicrafts. In Djibouti, women are largely predominant in the activities of the informal economy. The formal labor market is heavily service- or government-oriented with growing markets in construction, logistics, and transportation. Skilled Djiboutian workers, especially in high-demand trades such as construction, are in short supply.
Djibouti has complicated labor laws that favor the employee, especially in the areas of disputes and termination. Vocational and professional training facilities remain limited. The World Bank, the Ministry of Finance, USAID, and other entities are working on a variety of initiatives to address the shortage of workforce development programs. The government has promoted entrepreneurship as a means of stimulating the economy. The government, in partnership with the World Bank and European Union, opened the entrepreneurship and leadership center (CLE – Centre Leadership Entreprenariat) to assist start-up companies.
Foreign workers are legally allowed to work in Djibouti only if their qualifications or expertise are not available among the nationals, as determined by the Ministry of Labor through the National Agency for Employment, Training, and Professional Integration (ANEFIP). This requirement is not strictly implemented. In January 2017, the cost for a work permit was reviewed and classified in three different categories based on the type of profession with respective annual fees of 50,000 Djibouti francs (USD 281), 100,000 Djibouti francs (USD 563) and Djibouti francs 200,000 (USD 1,125). ANEFIP maintains a database of Djiboutian job-seekers and issues work permits to foreign workers.
Employers have to abide by the Labor Code. Workers who are laid off get more compensation than employees who are fired. No unemployment insurance or other social safety net programs exist for workers laid off for economic reasons. Only those workers who contributed to the social insurance for 25 years and are sixty years of age are entitled to retirement benefits.
Minimum wage is DJF 45,000 (USD 254) per month. By law, all employers are obligated to make social security payments on behalf of their employees, through the National Council for Social Security. Two large labor unions exist in Djibouti, but only the Djiboutian Workers Union is recognized by international organizations.
Labor laws are not waived to attract investment, but the investment code and free zones have separate legal provisions to attract investment. By law, labor unions are independent of the government and employers. In practice they can be influenced by the government and/or employers. In case of labor disputes, the Labor Inspector will bring together the employer and the employee to settle the case acting as a mediator. If the mediation fails, then the case will be sent to the Court. The process is opaque and the results are not publicized.
In November 2020, the National Assembly amended the Labor Code to require companies employing 11 or more employees to report annually on the status of its workforce. This report aims to prevent companies from hiring foreigners illegally, not respecting legally allowed pregnancy leave, and/or illegally firing employees.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source*
USG or international statistical source
USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)
Kenya has a positive investment climate that has made it attractive to international firms seeking a location for regional or pan-African operations. The novel coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected the short-term economic outlook, but the country remains resilient in addressing the health and economic challenges. In July 2020 the U.S. and Kenya launched negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement, the first in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this progress, U.S. businesses operating in Kenya still face aggressive tax collection attempts, burdensome bureaucratic processes, and significant delays in receiving necessary business licenses. Corruption remains pervasive and Transparency International ranked Kenya 128 out of 180 countries in its 2021 Global Corruption Perception Index – reflecting modest progress over the last decade but still well below the global average.
Kenya has strong telecommunications infrastructure and a robust financial sector and is a developed logistics hub with extensive aviation connections throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia. In 2018, Kenya Airways initiated direct flights to New York City in the United States. Mombasa Port is the gateway for East Africa’s trade. Kenya’s membership in the East African Community (EAC), the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and other regional trade blocs provides it with preferential trade access to growing regional markets.
In 2017 and 2018 Kenya instituted broad reforms to improve its business environment, including passing the Tax Laws Amendment (2018) and the Finance Act (2018), which established new procedures and provisions related to taxes, eased the payment of taxes through the iTax platform, simplified registration procedures for small businesses, reduced the cost of construction permits, and established a “one-stop” border post system to expedite the movement of goods across borders. However, the Finance Act (2019) introduced taxes to non-resident ship owners, and the Finance Act (2020) enacted a Digital Service Tax (DST). The DST, which went into effect in January 2021, imposes a 1.5 percent tax on any transaction that occurs in Kenya through a “digital marketplace.” The oscillation between business reforms and conflicting taxation policies has raised uncertainty over the Government of Kenya’s (GOK) long-term plans for improving the investment climate.
Kenya’s macroeconomic fundamentals remain among the strongest in Africa, averaging five to six percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth since 2015 (excepting 2020due to the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic), five percent inflation since 2015, improving infrastructure, and strong consumer demand from a growing middle class. There is relative political stability and President Uhuru Kenyatta has remained focused on his “Big Four” development agenda, seeking to provide universal healthcare coverage, establish national food and nutrition security, build 500,000 affordable new homes, and increase employment by growing the manufacturing sector.
Kenya is a regional leader in clean energy development with more than 90 percent of its on-grid electricity coming from renewable sources. Through its 2020, second Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement targets, Kenya has prioritized low-carbon resilient investments to reduce its already low greenhouse gas emissions a further 32 percent by 2030. Kenya has established policies and a regulatory environment to spearhead green investments, enabling its first private-sector-issued green bond floated in 2019 to finance the construction of sustainable housing projects.
American companies continue to show strong interest to establish or expand their business presence and engagement in Kenya. Sectors offering the most opportunities for investors include: agro-processing, financial services, energy, extractives, transportation, infrastructure, retail, restaurants, technology, health care, and mobile banking.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Kenya has enjoyed a steadily improving environment for FDI. Foreign investors seeking to establish a presence in Kenya generally receive the same treatment as local investors, and multinational companies make up a large percentage of Kenya’s industrial sector. The government’s export promotion programs do not distinguish between goods produced by local or foreign-owned firms. The primary regulations governing FDI are found in the Investment Promotion Act (2004). Other important documents that provide the legal framework for FDI include the 2010 Constitution of Kenya, the Companies Ordinance, the Private Public Partnership Act (2013), the Foreign Investment Protection Act (1990), and the Companies Act (2015). GOK membership in the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) provides an opportunity to insure FDI against non-commercial risk. In November 2019, the Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest), the country’s official investment promotion agency, launched the Kenya Investment Policy (KIP) and the County Investment Handbook (CIH) (http://www.invest.go.ke/publications/) which aim to increase inflow of FDI in the country. The KIP intends to guide laws being drafted to promote and facilitate investments in Kenya.
KenInvest’s (http://www.invest.go.ke/) mandate is to promote and facilitate investment by helping investors understand and navigate local Kenya’s bureaucracy and regulations. KenInvest helps investors obtain necessary licenses and developed eRegulations, an online database, to provide businesses with user-friendly access to Kenya’s investment-related regulations and procedures (https://eregulations.invest.go.ke/?l=en).
KenInvest prioritizes investment retention and maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors. All proposed legislation must pass through a period of public consultation, which includes an opportunity for investors to offer feedback. Private sector representatives can serve as board members on Kenya’s state-owned enterprises. Since 2013, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), the country’s primary alliance of private sector business associations, has had bi-annual round table meetings with President Kenyatta and his cabinet. President Kenyatta also chairs a cabinet-level committee focused on improving the business environment. The American Chamber of Commerce has also increasingly engaged the GOK on issues regarding Kenya’s business environment.
The government provides the right for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity. To encourage foreign investment, in 2015, the GOK repealed regulations that imposed a 75 percent foreign ownership limit for firms listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, allowing such firms to be 100 percent foreign owned. However, also in 2015, the government established regulations requiring Kenyan ownership of at least 15 percent of the share capital of derivative exchanges, through which derivatives, such as options and futures, can be traded.
Kenya’s National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) policy guidelines, published in August 2020, adjusted the requirement for Kenyan ownership in foreign ICT companies from 20 to 30 percent, and broadened its applicability within the telecommunications, postal, courier, and broadcasting industries. Affected companies have 3 years to comply with the new requirement. The Mining Act (2016) reserves mineral acquisition rights to companies registered and established in Kenya, whether local or foreign owned. Mineral dealership licenses are only issued to Kenyan citizens or to corporations where at least 60 percent shareholding is held by Kenyan citizens. The Private Security Regulations Act (2016) restricts foreign participation in the private security sector by requiring at least 25 percent Kenyan ownership of private security firms. The National Construction Authority Act (2011) and the 2014 National Construction Authority regulations impose local content restrictions on “foreign contractors,” defined as companies incorporated outside Kenya or with more than 50 percent ownership by non-Kenyan citizens. The definition excludes companies owned by foreigners but incorporated in Kenya. The act requires foreign contractors enter subcontracts or joint ventures assuring that at least 30 percent of the contract work is done by local firms and locally unavailable skills transferred to a local person. The Kenya Insurance Act (2010) limits foreign capital investment in insurance companies to two-thirds, with no single person holding more than a 25 percent ownership share.
In 2011, the GOK established KenTrade to address trading partners’ concerns regarding the complexity of trade regulations and procedures. KenTrade’s mandate is to facilitate cross-border trade and to implement the National Electronic Single Window System. In 2017, KenTrade launched InfoTrade Kenya (infotrade.gov.ke), which provides a host of investment products and services to prospective investors. The site documents the process of exporting and importing by product, by steps, by paperwork, and by individuals, including contact information for officials responsible for relevant permits or approvals.
In February 2019, Kenya implemented a new Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS) that includes automated valuation benchmarking, release of green-channel cargo, importer validation and declaration, and linkage with iTax. The iCMS enables customs officers to efficiently manage revenue and security related risks for imports, exports and goods on transit and transshipment.
The Movable Property Security Rights Bill (2017) enhanced the ability of individuals to secure financing through movable assets, including using intellectual property rights as collateral. The Nairobi International Financial Centre (NIFC) Act (2017) seeks to provide a legal framework to facilitate and support the development of an efficient and competitive financial services sector in Kenya. The act created the Nairobi International Financial Centre Authority to establish and maintain an efficient financial services sector to attract and retain FID. The Kenya Trade Remedies Act (2017) provides the legal and institutional framework for Kenya’s application of trade remedies consistent with World Trade Organization (WTO) law, which requires a domestic institution to receive complaints and undertake investigations in line with WTO Agreements. To date, however, Kenya has implemented only 7.5 percent of its commitments under the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, which it ratified in 2015. In 2020, Kenya launched the Kenya Trade Remedies Agency to investigate and enforce anti-dumping, countervailing duty, and trade safeguards, to protect domestic industries from unfair trade practices.
The Companies (Amendment) Act (2017) clarified ambiguities in the original act and ensures compliance with global trends and best practices. The act amended provisions on the extent of directors’ liabilities and disclosures and strengthens investor protections. The amendment eliminated the requirements for small enterprises to hire secretaries, have lawyers register their firms, and to hold annual general meetings, reducing regulatory compliance and operational costs.
The Business Registration Services (BRS) Act (2015) established the Business Registration Service, a state corporation, to ensure effective administration of laws related to the incorporation, registration, operation, and management, of companies, partnerships, and firms. The BRS also devolves certain business registration services to county governments, such as registration of business names and promoting local business ideas/legal entities- reducing registration costs. The Companies Act (2015) covers the registration and management of both public and private corporations.
In 2014, the GOK established a Business Environment Delivery Unit to address investors’ concerns. The unit focuses on reducing the bureaucratic steps required to establish and do business. Its website (http://www.businesslicense.or.ke/) offers online business registration and provides detailed information regarding business licenses and permits, including requirements, fees, application forms, and contact details for the respective regulatory agencies. In 2013, the GOK initiated the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities program, requiring all public procurement entities to set aside a minimum of 30 percent of their annual procurement spending facilitate the participation of youth, women, and persons with disabilities (https://agpo.go.ke/).
Kenya’s iGuide, an investment guide to Kenya (http://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/kenya/about#, developed by UNCTAD and the International Chamber of Commerce, provides investors with up-to-date information on business costs, licensing requirements, opportunities, and conditions in developing countries. Kenya is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures.
The GOK does not promote or incentivize outward investment. Despite this, Kenya is evolving into an outward investor in tourism, manufacturing, retail, finance, education, and media. Kenya’s outward investment has primarily been in the EAC, due to the preferential access afforded to member countries, and in a select few central African countries. The EAC allows free movement of capital among its six member states – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.
3. Legal Regime
Kenya’s regulatory system is relatively transparent and continues to improve. Proposed laws and regulations pertaining to business and investment are published in draft form for public input and stakeholder deliberation before their passage into law (http://www.kenyalaw.org/; http://www.parliament.go.ke/the-national-assembly/house-business/bills-tracker). Kenya’s business registration and licensing systems are fully digitized and transparent while computerization of other government processes, aimed at increasing transparency and efficiency, and reducing corruption, is ongoing.
The 2010 Kenyan Constitution requires government to incorporate public participation before officials and agencies make certain decisions. The draft Public Participation Bill (2019) aims to provide the general framework for such public participation. The Ministry of Devolution has produced a guide for counties on how to carry out public participation; many counties have enacted their own laws on public participation. The Environmental Management and Coordination Act (1999) incorporates the principles of sustainable development, including public participation in environmental management. The Public Finance Management Act mandates public participation in the budget cycle. The Land Act, Water Act, and Fair Administrative Action Act (2015) also include provisions providing for public participation in agency actions.
Kenya also has regulations to promote inclusion and fair competition when applying for tenders. Executive Order No. 2 of 2018 emphasizes publication of all procurement information including tender notices, contracts awarded, name of suppliers and their directors. The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority publishes this information on the Public Procurement Information Portal, enhancing transparency and accountability (https://www.tenders.go.ke/website). However, the directive is yet to be fully implemented as not all state agencies provide their tender details to the portal.
Many GOK laws grant significant discretionary and approval powers to government agency administrators, which can create uncertainty among investors. While some government agencies have amended laws or published clear guidelines for decision-making criteria, others have lagged in making their transactions transparent. Work permit processing remains a problem, with overlapping and sometimes contradictory regulations. American companies have complained about delays and non-issuance of permits that appear compliant with known regulations.
Kenya is a member of the EAC, and generally applies EAC policies to trade and investment. Kenya operates under the EAC Custom Union Act (2004) and decisions regarding tariffs on imports from non-EAC countries are made by the EAC Secretariat. The U.S. government engages with Kenya on trade and investment issues bilaterally and through the U.S.-EAC Trade and Investment Partnership. Kenya also is a member of COMESA and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
According to the Africa Regional Integration Index Report 2019, Kenya is the second most integrated country in Africa and a leader in regional integration policies within the EAC and COMESA regional blocs, with strong performance on regional infrastructure, productive integration, free movement of people, and financial and macro-economic integration. The GOK maintains a Department of EAC Integration under the Ministry of East Africa and Regional Development. Kenya generally adheres to international regulatory standards. It is a member of the WTO and provides notification of draft technical regulations to the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Kenya maintains a TBT National Enquiry Point at http://notifyke.kebs.org. Additional information on Kenya’s WTO participation can be found at https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/countries_e/kenya_e.htm.
Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms. Publicly listed companies adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) that have been developed and issued in the public interest by the International Accounting Standards Board. The board is an independent, non-profit organization that is the standard-setting body of the IFRS Foundation. Kenya is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures.
Kenya’s legal system is based on English Common Law, and its constitution establishes an independent judiciary with a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Constitutional Court, High Court, and Environment and Land Court. Subordinate courts include: Magistrates, Kadhis (Muslim succession and inheritance), Courts Martial, the Employment and Labor Relations Court, and the Milimani Commercial Courts – the latter two have jurisdiction over economic and commercial matters. In 2016, Kenya’s judiciary instituted the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Courts, focused on corruption and economic crimes. There is no systematic executive or other interference in the court system that affects foreign investors, however, the courts often face allegations of corruption, as well as political manipulation, in the form of insufficient budget allocations by the executive branch, which significantly impact the judiciary’s ability to fulfill its mandate. Delayed confirmation of judges nominated by the Judicial Service Commission has in the past resulted in an understaffed judiciary and prolonged delays in cases coming to trial and receiving judgments. The COVID-19 pandemic has also increased case backlogs, as courts reduced operations and turned to virtual hearings, particularly for non-urgent cases.
The Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act (2012) provides for the enforcement of judgments given in other countries that accord reciprocal treatment to judgments given in Kenya. Kenya has entered into reciprocal enforcement agreements with Australia, the United Kingdom, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Seychelles. Outside of such an agreement, a foreign judgment is not enforceable in Kenyan courts except by filing a suit on the judgment. Foreign advocates may practice as an advocate in Kenya for the purposes of a specified suit or matter if appointed to do so by the Attorney General. However, foreign advocates are not permitted to practice in Kenya unless they have paid to the Registrar of the High Court of Kenya the prescribed admission fee. Additionally, they are not permitted to practice unless a Kenyan advocate instructs and accompanies them to court. The regulations or enforcement actions are appealable and are adjudicated in the national court system.
The 2018 amendment to the Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) Act expanded its scope to include protection of intellectual property rights, including those not registered in Kenya. The amended law empowered ACA inspectors to investigate and seize monetary gains from counterfeit goods. The 2019 amendment to the 2001 Copyright Act (established when the country had less than one percent internet penetration), formed the independent Copyright Tribunal, ratified the Marrakesh Treaty, recognized artificial intelligence generated works, established protections for internet service providers related to digital advertising, developed a register of copyrighted works by Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO), and protected digital rights through procedures for take down notices.
The Competition Act of 2010 created the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK). The law was amended in 2019 to clarify the law with regard to abuse of buyer power and empower the CAK to investigate alleged abuses of buyer power. The competition law prohibits restrictive trade practices, abuse of dominant position, and abuse of buyer power, and it grants the CAK the authority to review mergers and acquisitions and investigate and take action against unwarranted concentrations of economic power. All mergers and acquisitions require the CAK’s authorization before they are finalized. The CAK also investigates and enforces consumer-protection related issues. In 2014, the CAK established a KES one million (approximately USD 10,000) filing fee for mergers and acquisitions valued between one and KES 50 billion (up to approximately USD 500 million). The CAK charges KES two million (approximately USD 20,000) for larger transactions. Company acquisitions are possible if the share buy-out is more than 90 percent, although such transactions seldom occur in practice.
The constitution guarantees protection from expropriation, except in cases of eminent domain or security concerns, and all cases are subject to the payment of prompt and fair compensation. The Land Acquisition Act (2010) governs due process and compensation related to eminent domain land acquisitions; however, land rights remain contentious and resolving land disputes is often a lengthy process. However, there are cases where government measures could be deemed indirect expropriation that may impact foreign investment. Some companies reported instances whereby foreign investors faced uncertainty regarding lease renewals because county governments were attempting to confiscate some or all of the project property.
The Insolvency Act (2015) modernized the legal framework for bankruptcies. Its provisions generally correspond to those of the United Nations’ Model Law on Cross Border Insolvency. The act promotes fair and efficient administration of cross-border insolvencies to protect the interests of all creditors and other interested persons, including the debtor. The act repeals the Bankruptcy Act (2012) and updates the legal structure relating to insolvency of natural persons, incorporated, and unincorporated bodies. Section 720 of the Insolvency Act (2015) grants the force of law in Kenya to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law model law on cross border insolvency.
Creditors’ rights are comparable to those in other common law countries, and monetary judgments are typically made in KES. The Insolvency Act (2015) increased the rights of borrowers and prioritizes the revival of distressed firms. The law states that a debtor will automatically be discharged from debt after three years. Bankruptcy is not criminalized in Kenya.
4. Industrial Policies
Kenya provides both fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to foreign investors (http://www.invest.go.ke/starting-a-business-in-kenya/investment-incentives/). The minimum foreign investment to qualify for GOK investment incentives is USD 100,000. Investment Certificate benefits, including entry permits for expatriates, are outlined in the Investment Promotion Act (2004). Investment incentives are revised annually through the government’s budget policy statement and the Finance Act based on government’s strategic priorities at a given time.
The government allows all locally-financed materials and equipment for use in construction or refurbishment of tourist hotels to be zero-rated for purposes of VAT calculation – excluding motor vehicles and goods for regular repair and maintenance. The National Treasury principal secretary, however, must approve such purchases. In a measure to boost the tourism industry, one-week employee vacations paid by employers are a tax-deductible expense. In 2018, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) exempted from VAT certain facilities and machinery used in the manufacturing of goods under Section 84 of the East African Community Common External Tariff Handbook. VAT refund claims must be submitted within 12 months of purchase.
The Finance Act (2014) amended the Income Tax Act (1974) to reintroduce capital gains tax on transfer of property. Under this provision, gains derived from the sale or transfer of property by an individual or company are subject to a five percent tax. Capital gains on the sale or transfer of property related to the oil and gas industry are subject to a 37.5 percent tax. The Finance Act (2014) also reintroduced the withholding VAT system by government ministries, departments, and agencies. The system excludes the Railway Development Levy (RDL) imports for persons, goods, and projects; the implementation of an official aid-funded project; diplomatic missions and institutions or organizations gazetted under the Privileges and Immunities Act (2014).
Kenya’s Export Processing Zones (EPZ) and Special Economic Zones (SEZ) offer special incentives for firms operating within their boundaries. By the end of 2019, Kenya had 74 EPZs, with 137 companies and 60,383 workers contributing KES 77.1 billion (about USD 713 million) to the Kenyan economy. Companies operating within an EPZ benefit from the following tax benefits: a 10-year corporate-tax holiday and a 25 percent tax thereafter; a 10-year withholding tax holiday; stamp duty exemption; 100 percent tax deduction on initial investment applied over 20 years; and VAT exemption on industrial inputs.
About 54 percent of EPZ products are exported to the United States under AGOA. The majority of the exports are textiles – Kenya’s third largest export behind tea and horticulture – and more recently handicrafts. Eighty percent of Kenya’s textiles and apparel originate from EPZ-based firms. Approximately 50 percent of the companies operating in the EPZs are fully-owned by foreigners – mainly from India – while the rest are locally owned or joint ventures with foreigners.
While EPZs aim to encourage production for export, Special Economic Zones (SEZ) are designed to boost local economies by offering benefits for goods that are consumed domestically and for export. SEZs allow for a wider range of commercial ventures, including primary activities such as farming, fishing, and forestry. The 2016 Special Economic Zones Regulations state that the Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZA) maintain an open investment environment to facilitate and encourage business by establishing simple, flexible, and transparent procedures for investor registration. The 2019 draft regulations include customs duty exemptions for goods and services in the SEZs and no trade related restrictions on the importation of goods and services into the SEZs. The rules also empower county governments to set aside public land to establish industrial zones.
Companies operating in the SEZs receive the following benefits: all SEZ produced goods and services are exempted from VAT; the corporate tax rate for enterprises, developers, and operators reduced from 30 percent to 10 percent for the first 10 years and 15 percent for the next 10 years; exemption from taxes and duties payable under the Customs and Excise Act (2014), the Income Tax Act (1974), the EAC Customs Management Act (2004), and stamp duty; and exemption from county-level advertisement and license fees. There are currently SEZs in Mombasa (2,000 sq. km), Lamu (700 sq. km), Kisumu (700 sq. km), Naivasha (1,000 acres), Machakos (100 acres) and private developments designated as SEZs include Tatu City (5,000 acres) and Northlands (11,576 acres) in Kiambu. The Third Medium Term Plan of Kenya’s Vision 2030 economic development agenda calls for a feasibility study for an SEZ at Dongo Kundu in Mombasa, and the GOK is also considering establishing an SEZ near the Olkaria geothermal power plant.
The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (2015) offers preferences to firms owned by Kenyan citizens and to products manufactured or mined in Kenya. The “Buy Kenya, Build Kenya” policy mandates that 40 percent of the value of each GOK procurement be sourced locally. Tenders funded entirely by the government, with a value of less than KES 50 million (approximately USD 500,000), are reserved for Kenyan firms and goods. If the procuring entity seeks to contract with non-Kenyan firms or procure foreign goods, the act requires a report detailing evidence of an inability to procure locally. The act also calls for at least 30 percent of government procurement contracts to go to firms owned by women, youth, and persons with disabilities. The act further reserves 20 percent of county procurement tenders to residents of that county.
The Finance Act (2017) amends the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal (PPAD) Act (2015) to introduce Specially Permitted Procurement as an alternative method of acquiring public goods and services. The new method permits state agencies to bypass existing public procurement laws under specific circumstances. Procuring entities are allowed to use this method where market conditions or behavior do not allow effective application of the 10 methods outlined in the Public Procurement and Disposal Act. The act gives the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary the authority to prescribe the procedure for carrying out specially permitted procurement. The 2020 PPAD regulations exempt government to government (G2G Exemption) procurements from PPAD Act requirements. G2G Exemption procurements must: provide a plan for local technology transfer; reserve 50 percent of the positions for Kenyans; and locally source 40 percent of inputs.
The Data Protection Act (DPA) (2019) restricts the transfer of data in and out of Kenya without consent from the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) and the data owner, functionally requiring data localization. Entities seeking to transfer data out of Kenya must demonstrate to the DPC that the destination for the data has sufficient security and protection measures in place. The 2019 DPA gives discretion to the Ministry of Information Communication Technology Cabinet Secretary to prescribe localization requirements for data centers or servers, including strategic interests, protection of government revenue, and “certain nature of strategic processing.” The DPA authorizes the DPC to investigate data breaches and issue administrative fines of up to USD 50,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 10 years, depending on the severity of the breach.
5. Protection of Property Rights
The constitution prohibits foreigners or foreign owned firms from owning freehold interest in land in Kenya. However, unless classified as agricultural, there are no restrictions on foreign-owned companies leasing land or real estate. The cumbersome and opaque process to acquire land raises concerns about security of title, particularly given past abuses related to the distribution and redistribution of public land. The Land (Extension and Renewal of Leases) Regulations (2017) prohibited automatic lease renewals and tied renewals to the economic output of the land, requiring renewals to be beneficial to the economy. If legally purchased property remains unoccupied, the property ownership can revert to other occupiers, including squatters.
The constitution, and subsequent land legislation, created the National Land Commission (NLC), an independent government body mandated to review historical land injustices and provide oversight of government land policy and management. The creation of the NLC also introduced coordination and jurisdictional confusion between the NLC and the Ministry of Lands. In 2015, President Kenyatta commissioned the National Titling Center and promised to significantly increase the number of title deeds. From 2013 to 2018, an additional 4.5 million title deeds have been issued, however 70 percent of land in Kenya remains untitled. Due to corruption at the NLC, land grabbing, enabled by the issuance of multiple title registrations, remains prevalent. Ownership of property legally purchased but unoccupied can revert to other parties.
Mortgages and liens exist in Kenya, but the recording system is unreliable – Kenya has only about 27,993 recorded mortgages as of 2019 in a country of 47.6 million people – and there are complaints that property rights and interests are seldom enforced. The legal infrastructure around land ownership and registration has changed in recent years, and land issues have delayed several major infrastructure projects. The 2010 Kenyan Constitution required all existing land leases to convert from 999 years to 99 years, giving the state the power to review leasehold land at the expiry of the 99 years, deny lease renewal, or confiscate the land if it determines the land had not been used productively. In 2010, the constitution also converted foreign-owned freehold interests into 99-year leases at a nominal “peppercorn rate” sufficient to satisfy the requirements for the creation of a legal contract. However, the implementation of this amendment remains somewhat ambiguous. In July 2020, the Ministry of Lands and Physical planning released draft electronic land registration regulations to guide land transactions.
The major intellectual property enforcement issues in Kenya related to counterfeit products are corruption, lack of enforcement of penalties, insufficient investigations and seizures of counterfeit goods, limited cooperation between the private sector and law enforcement agencies, and reluctance of brand owners to file complaints with the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA). The prevalence of “gray market” products – genuine products that enter the country illegally without paying import duties – also presents a challenge, especially in the mobile phone and computer sectors. Copyright piracy and the use of unlicensed software are also common. Kenya’s score in the 2021 International Property Rights Index, which assesses intellectual and physical property rights, decreased marginally from 5.0 in 2020 to 4.98 in 2021, though its relative ranking improved, rising from 10 to 8 of 28 countries in Africa, and from 86 to 85 of 129 globally.
The Presidential Task Force on Parastatal Reforms (2013) proposed that the three intellectual property agencies – the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), the KECOBO and the Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) – be merged into one government-owned entity, the Intellectual Property Office of Kenya. A task force on the merger, comprising staff from KIPI, ACA, KECOBO, and the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development is drafting the instruments of the merger, including consolidating intellectual property laws, and updating the legal framework and processes.
To combat the import of counterfeits, the Ministry of Industrialization and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) decreed in 2009 that all locally manufactured goods must have a KEBS import standardization mark (ISM). Several categories of imported goods, specifically food products, electronics, and medicines, must have an ISM. Under this program, U.S. consumer-ready products may enter Kenya without altering the U.S. label but must also have an ISM. Once the product qualifies for Confirmation of Conformity, KEBS issues the ISMs for free. KEBS and the Anti-Counterfeit Agency conduct random seizures of counterfeit imports, but do not maintain a clear database of their seizures.
Kenya is not included on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.
For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local intellectual property offices, please see the World Intellectual Property Organization’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.
6. Financial Sector
Though relatively small by Western standards, Kenya’s capital markets are the deepest and most sophisticated in East Africa. The 2021 Morgan Stanley Capital International Emerging and Frontier Markets Index, which assesses equity opportunity in 27 emerging economies, ranked the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) as the best performing exchange in sub-Saharan Africa over the last decade. The NSE operates under the jurisdiction of the Capital Markets Authority of Kenya. It is a full member of the World Federation of Exchanges, a founding member of the African Securities Exchanges Association (ASEA) and the East African Securities Exchanges Association (EASEA). The NSE is a member of the Association of Futures Markets and is a partner exchange in the United Nations-led Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative. Reflecting international confidence in the NSE, it has always had significant foreign investor participation. In July 2019, the NSE launched a derivatives market that facilitates trading in future contracts on the Kenyan market. The bond market is underdeveloped and dominated by trading in government debt securities. The government’s domestic debt market, however, is deep and liquid. Long-term corporate bond issuances are uncommon, limiting long-term investment capital.
In November 2019, Kenya repealed the interest rate capping law passed in 2016, which had slowed private sector credit growth. There are no restrictions on foreign investors seeking credit in the domestic financial market. Kenya’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems generally align with international norms. In 2017, the Kenya National Treasury launched the world’s first mobile phone-based retail government bond, locally dubbed M-Akiba. M-Akiba has generated over 500,000 accounts for the Central Depository and Settlement Corporation, and The National Treasury has made initial dividend payments to bond holders.
The African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA) 2014-2019 report on venture capital performance in Africa ranked Kenya as having the second most developed venture capitalist ecosystem in sub-Saharan Africa. The report also noted that over 20 percent of the venture capital deals in Kenya, from 2014-2019, were initiated by companies headquartered outside Africa.
The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) is working with regulators in EAC member states through the Capital Market Development Committee (CMDC) and East African Securities Regulatory Authorities (EASRA) on a regional integration initiative and has successfully introduced cross-listing of equity shares. The combined use of both the Central Depository and Settlement Corporation (CDSC) and an automated trading system has aligned the Kenyan securities market with globally accepted standards. Kenya is a full (ordinary) member of the International Organization of Securities Commissions Money and Banking System.
Kenya has accepted the International Monetary Fund’s Article VIII obligation and does not provide restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.
In 2021, the Kenyan banking sector included 42 commercial banks, one mortgage finance company, 14 microfinance banks, nine representative offices of foreign banks, eight non-operating bank holdings, 69 foreign exchange bureaus, 19 money remittance providers, and three credit reference bureaus, which are licensed and regulated by the CBK. Fifteen of Kenya’s commercial banks are foreign owned. Major international banks operating in Kenya include Citibank, Absa Bank (formerly Barclays Bank Africa), Bank of India, Standard Bank, and Standard Chartered. The 12 commercial banks listed banks on the Nairobi Securities Exchange owned 89 percent of the country’s banking assets in 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected Kenya’s banking sector. According to the CBK, in 2020, 32 out of 41 commercial banks restructured loans to accommodate affected borrowers. Non-performing loans (NPLs) reached 14.6 percent by the end of 2021 – a three percent year-on-year increase.
In March 2017, following the collapse of Imperial Bank and Dubai Bank, the CBK lifted its 2015 moratorium on licensing new banks. The CBK’s decision to restart licensing signaled a return of stability in the Kenyan banking sector. In 2018, Societé Generale (France) also set up a representative office in Nairobi. Foreign banks can apply for license to set up operations in Kenya and are guided by the CBK’s 2013 Prudential Guidelines.
In November 2019, the GOK repealed the interest rate capping law through an amendment to the Banking Act. This amendment has enabled financial institutions to use market-based pricing for their credit products. While this change has slightly increased the cost of borrowing for some clients, it effectively ensures the private sector uninterrupted access to credit.
The percentage of Kenya’s total population with access to financial services through conventional or mobile banking platforms is approximately 80 percent. According to the World Bank, M-Pesa, Kenya’s largest mobile banking platform, processes more transactions within Kenya each year than Western Union does globally. The 2017 National ICT Masterplan envisages the sector contributing at least 10 percent of GDP, up from 4.7 percent in 2015. Several mobile money platforms have achieved international interoperability, allowing the Kenyan diaspora to conduct financial transactions in Kenya from abroad.
In 2019, the National Treasury published the Kenya Sovereign Wealth Fund policy and the draft Kenya Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill (2019), both of which remain pending. The fund would receive income from any future privatization proceeds, dividends from state corporations, oil and gas, and minerals revenues due to the national government, revenue from other natural resources, and funds from any other source. The Kenya Information and Communications Act (2009) provides for the establishment of a Universal Service Fund (USF). The purpose of the USF is to fund national projects that have significant impact on the availability and accessibility of ICT services in rural, remote, and poor urban areas.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
In 2013, the Presidential Task Force on Parastatal Reforms (PTFPR) published a list of all state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and recommended proposals to reduce the number of State Corporations from 262 to 187 to eliminate redundant functions between parastatals; close or dispose of non-performing organizations; consolidate functions wherever possible; and reduce the workforce — however, progress is slow (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BytnSZLruS3GQmxHc1VtZkhVVW8/edit). SOEs’ boards are independently appointed and published in Kenya Gazette notices by the Cabinet Secretary of the ministry responsible for the respective SOE. The State Corporations Act (2015) mandated the State Corporations Advisory Committee to advise the GOK on matters related to SOEs. Despite being public entities, only SOEs listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange publish their financial positions, as required by Capital Markets Authority guidelines. SOEs’ corporate governance is guided by the constitution’s chapter 6 on Leadership and Integrity, the Leadership and Integrity Act (2012) (L&I) and the Public Officer Ethics Act (2003), which establish integrity and ethics requirements governing the conduct of public officials.
In general, competitive equality is the standard applied to private enterprises in competition with public enterprises. Certain parastatals, however, have enjoyed preferential access to markets. Examples include Kenya Reinsurance, which enjoys a guaranteed market share; Kenya Seed Company, which has fewer marketing barriers than its foreign competitors; and the National Oil Corporation of Kenya (NOCK), which benefits from retail market outlets developed with government funds. Some state corporations have also benefited from easier access to government guarantees, subsidies, or credit at favorable interest rates. In addition, “partial listings” on the Nairobi Securities Exchange offer parastatals the benefit of accessing equity financing and GOK loans (or guarantees) without being completely privatized.
In August 2020, the executive reorganized the management of SOEs in the cargo transportation sector and mandated the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC) to oversee rail, pipeline and port operations through a holding company called Kenya Transport and Logistics Network (KTLN). ICDC assumes a coordinating role over the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC), and Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC). KTLN focuses on lowering the cost of doing business in the country through the provision of cost effective and efficient transportation and logistics infrastructure.
SOE procurement from the private sector is guided by the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (2015) and the published Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Regulations (2020) which introduced exemptions from the Act for procurement on bilateral or multilateral basis, commonly referred to as government-to-government procurement; introduced E-procurement procedures; and preferences and reservations, which gives preferences to the “Buy Kenya Build Kenya” strategy (http://kenyalaw.org/kl/fileadmin/pdfdownloads/LegalNotices/2020/LN69_2020.pdf).
Kenya is neither party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) nor an Observer Government.
The Privatization Act (2003) establishes the Privatization Commission (PC) that is mandated to formulate, manage, and implement Kenya’s Privatization Program. GOK has been committed to implementing a comprehensive public enterprises reform program to increase private sector participation in the economy. The privatization commission (https://www.pc.go.ke/) is fully constituted with a board responsible for the privatization program. The PC has 26 approved privatization programs (https://www.pc.go.ke/sites/default/files/2019-06/APPROVED%20PRIVATIZATION%20PROGRAMME.pdf ). In 2020, the GOK began the process of privatizing some state-owned sugar firms through a public bidding process, including foreign investors.
Corruption is pervasive and entrenched in Kenya and international corruption rankings reflect its modest progress over the last decade. The Transparency International (TI) 2021 Global Corruption Perception Index ranked Kenya 128 out of 180 countries, its second-best ranking, and a marked improvement from its 2011 rank of 145 out of 176. Kenya’s score of 30, however, remained below the global average of 43 and below the sub-Saharan Africa average of 33. TI cited lack of political will, limited progress in prosecuting corruption cases, and the slow pace of reform in key sectors as the primary drivers of Kenya’s relatively low ranking. Corruption has been an impediment to FDI, with local media reporting allegations of high-level corruption related to health, energy, ICT, and infrastructure contracts. Numerous reports have alleged that corruption influenced the outcome of government tenders, and some U.S. firms assert that compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act significantly undermines their chances of winning public procurements.
In 2018, President Kenyatta began a public campaign against corruption. While GOK agencies mandated to fight corruption have been inconsistent in coordinating activities, particularly regarding cases against senior officials, cabinet, and other senior-level arrests in 2019 and 2020 suggested a renewed commitment by the GOK to fight corruption. In 2020, the judiciary convicted a member of parliament to 67 years in jail or a fine of KES 707 million (approximately USD 7 million) for defrauding the government of KES 297 million (approximately USD 2.9 million). The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), in 2019, secured 44 corruption-related convictions, the highest number of convictions in a single year in Kenya’s history. The EACC also recovered assets totaling more than USD 28 million in 2019 – more than the previous five years combined. Despite these efforts, much work remains to battle corruption in Kenya.
Relevant legislation and regulations include the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act (2003), the Public Officers Ethics Act (2003), the Code of Ethics Act for Public Servants (2004), the Public Procurement and Disposal Act (2010), the Leadership and Integrity Act (2012), and the Bribery Act (2016). The Access to Information Act (2016) also provides mechanisms through which private citizens can obtain information on government activities; however, government agencies’ compliance with this act remains inconsistent. The EACC monitors and enforces compliance with the above legislation.
The Leadership and Integrity Act (2012) requires public officers to register potential conflicts of interest with the relevant commissions. The law identifies interests that public officials must register, including directorships in public or private companies, remunerated employment, securities holdings, and contracts for supply of goods or services, among others. The law requires candidates seeking appointment to non-elective public offices to declare their wealth, political affiliations, and relationships with other senior public officers. This requirement is in addition to background screening on education, tax compliance, leadership, and integrity.
The law requires that all public officials, and their spouses and dependent children under age 18, declare their income, assets, and liabilities every two years. Information contained in these declarations is not publicly available, and requests to obtain and publish this information must be approved by the relevant commission. Any person who publishes or makes public information contained in a public officer’s declarations without permission may be subject to fine or imprisonment.
The Access to Information Act (2016) requires government entities, and private entities doing business with the government, to proactively disclose certain information, such as government contracts, and comply with citizens’ requests for government information. The act also provides a mechanism to request a review of the government’s failure to disclose requested information, along with penalties for failures to disclose. The act exempts certain information from disclosure on grounds of national security. However, the GOK has yet to issue the act’s implementing regulations and compliance remains inconsistent.
The private sector-supported Bribery Act (2016) stiffened penalties for corruption in public tendering and requires private firms participating in such tenders to sign a code of ethics and develop measures to prevent bribery. Both the constitution and the Access to Information Act (2016) provide protections to NGOs, investigative journalism, and individuals involved in investigating corruption. The Witness Protection Act (2006) establishes protections for witnesses in criminal cases and created an independent Witness Protection Agency. A draft Whistleblowers Protection Bill has been stalled in Parliament since 2016.
President Kenyatta directed government ministries, departments, and agencies to publish all information related to government procurement to enhance transparency and combat corruption. While compliance is improving, it is not yet universal. The information is published online (https://tenders.go.ke/website/contracts/Index).
Kenya is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and in 2016 published the results of a peer review process on UNCAC compliance: (https://www.unodc.org/documents/treaties/UNCAC/CountryVisitFinalReports/2015_09_28_Kenya_Final_Country_Report.pdf). Kenya is also a signatory to the UN Anticorruption Convention and the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery, and a member of the Open Government Partnership. Kenya is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Kenya is also a signatory to the East African Community’s Protocol on Preventing and Combating Corruption.
Contact at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:
Rev. Eliud Wabukala (Ret.)
Chairperson and Commissioner
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission
P.O. Box 61130 00200 Nairobi, Kenya
Phones: +254 (0)20-271-7318, (0)20-310-722, (0)729-888-881/2/3
Report corruption online: https://eacc.go.ke/default/report-corruption/
Contact at “watchdog” organization:
Transparency International Kenya
Phone: +254 (0)722-296-589
Report corruption online: https://www.tikenya.org/
10. Political and Security Environment
Kenya’s 2017 national election was marred by violence, which claimed the lives of nearly 100 Kenyans, a contentious political atmosphere, which pitted the ruling Jubilee Party against the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA), as well as political interference and attacks on key institutions by both sides. In November 2017, the Kenyan Supreme Court unanimously upheld the October 2017 repeat presidential election results and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win in an election boycotted by NASA leader Raila Odinga. In March 2018, President Kenyatta and Odinga publicly shook hands and pledged to work together to heal the political, social, and economic divides highlighted by the election. The GOK, civil society actors, private sector, and religious leaders are implementing a number of initiatives to promote peace in advance of the next national election in August 2022.
The United States’ Travel Advisory for Kenya advises U.S. citizens to exercise increased caution due to the threat of crime and terrorism, and not to travel to counties bordering Somalia and to certain coastal areas due to terrorism. Due to the high risk of crime, it is common for private businesses and residences to have 24-hour guard services and well-fortified property perimeters.
Instability in Somalia has heightened concerns of terrorist attacks, leading businesses and public institutions nationwide to increase their security measures. Tensions flare occasionally within and between ethnic communities in Kenya. Regional conflict, most notably in Ethiopia, Somalia, and South Sudan, sometimes have spill-over effects in Kenya. There could be an increase in refugees entering Kenya due to drought and instability in neighboring countries, adding to the already large refugee population in the country.
Kenya and its neighbors are working together to mitigate threats of terrorism and insecurity through African-led initiatives such as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Eastern African Standby Force (EASF). Despite attacks against Kenyan forces in Kenya and Somalia, the Government of Kenya has maintained its commitment to promoting peace and stability in Somalia.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
In 2021, Kenya’s employed labor force was recorded at 17.4 million. Kenya’s informal economy is estimated to employ about 80 percent of the work force and to contribute 34 percent to Kenya’s gross domestic product. Informal enterprises are mainly run by women, have low levels of innovation, lack social security coverage, job security, and low levels of unionization. Kenya’s constitution mandates that no gender hold more than two-thirds of any positions in all elective or appointive bodies. Gender balance and regional inclusivity are key facets of public appointments. The Government of Kenya has not, however, ensured regional inclusivity in its appointments and public service human capital reports show dominant regional communities in appointments. The gender mandate is not mandatory for private sector companies. The private sector, however, has been instrumental in advancing gender balance in its work force composition. NSE-listed companies have 36 percent female board representations.
The Government of Kenya mandates local employment in the category of unskilled labor. The Kenyan government regularly issues permit for key senior managers and personnel with special skills not available locally. For other skilled labor, any enterprise, whether local or foreign, may recruit from outside if the required skills are not available in Kenya. However, firms seeking to hire expatriates must demonstrate that they conducted an exhaustive search to find persons with the requisite skills in Kenya and were unable to find any such persons. The Ministry of EAC and Regional Development, however, has noted plans to replace this requirement with an official inventory of skills that are not available in Kenya. A work permit can cost up to KES 400,000 (approximately USD 4,000).
Kenya has one of the highest literacy rates in the region at 90 percent. Investors have access to a large pool of highly qualified professionals in diverse sectors from a working population of over 47.5 percent out of a population of 47.6 million people. Expatriates are permitted to work in Kenya provided they have a work (entry) permit issued under the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act (2011). In December 2018, the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government Cabinet Secretary issued a directive requiring foreign nationals to apply for their work permits prior to entering Kenya and to confirm that the skill they will provide is unavailable in Kenyan via the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection’s Kenya Labor Market Information System (KLMIS). KLMIS provides information regarding demand, supply, and skills available in Kenya’s labor market (https://www.labourmarket.go.ke/labour/supply/). Work permits are usually granted to foreign enterprises approved to operate in Kenya as long as the applicants are key personnel. In 2015, the Directorate of Immigration Services (DIS) expanded the list of requirements to qualify for work permits and special passes. Issuance of a work permit now requires an assured income of at least USD 24,000 annually or documented proof of capital of a minimum of USD 100,000 for investors. Exemptions are available, however, for firms in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, or consulting sectors with a special permit. International companies have complained that the visa and work permit approval process is slow, and some officials request bribes to speed the process. Since 2018, the DIS has more stringently applied regulations regarding the issuance of work permits. As a result, delayed or rejected work permit applications have become one of the most significant challenges for foreign companies in Kenya.
A company holding an investment certificate granted by registering with KenInvest and passing health, safety, and environmental inspections becomes automatically eligible for three class D work (entry) permits for management or technical staff and three class G, I, or J work permits for owners, shareholders, or partners. More information on permit classes can be found at https://kenya.eregulations.org/menu/61?l=en.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), in 2019, the formal sector, excluding agriculture, employed 18.1 million people, with nominal average earnings of KES 778,248 (USD 7,780) per person per annum. Kenya has the highest rate of youth joblessness in East Africa. According to the 2019 census data, 5,341,182 or 38.9 percent of the 13,777,600 youths eligible to work are jobless. Employment in Kenya’s formal sector was 2.9 million in 2019 up from 2.8 million in 2018. The government is the largest employer in the formal sector, with an estimated 865,200 government workers in 2019. In the private sector, agriculture, forestry, and fishing employed 296,700 workers while manufacturing employed 329,000 workers. However, Kenya’s large informal sector – consisting of approximately 80 percent of the labor force – makes accurate labor reporting difficult.
The GOK has instituted different programs to link and create employment opportunities for the youth, published weekly in GOK’s “MyGov” newspaper insert. Other measures include the establishment of the National Employment Authority which hosts the National Employment Authority Integrated Management System website that provides public employment service by listing vacancies ( https://neaims.go.ke/). The Kenya Labour Market Information System (KLMIS) portal (https://www.labourmarket.go.ke/), run by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection in collaboration with the labor stakeholders, is a one-stop shop for labor information in the country. The site seeks to help address the challenge of inadequate supply of crucial employment statistics in Kenya by providing an interactive platform for prospective employers and job seekers. Both local and foreign employers are required to register with National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) within 30 days of operating. There are no known material compliance gaps in either law or practice with international labor standards that would be expected to pose a reputational risk to investors. The International Labor Organization has not identified any material gaps in Kenya’s labor law or practice with international labor standards. Kenya’s labor laws comply, for the most part, with internationally recognized standards and conventions, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection is currently reviewing and ensuring that Kenya’s labor laws are consistent with the constitution. The Labor Relations Act (2007) provides that workers, including those in export processing zones, are free to form and join unions of their choice.
Collective bargaining is common in the formal sector but there is no data on the percentage of the economy covered by collective bargaining agreements (CBA). However, in 2019 263 CBAs were registered in the labor relations court with the Wholesale and Retail trade sector recording the most, at 88. The law permits workers in collective bargaining disputes to strike but requires the exhaustion of formal conciliation procedures and seven days’ notice to both the government and the employer. Anti-union discrimination is prohibited, and the government does not have a history of retaliating against striking workers. The law provides for equal pay for equal work. Regulation of wages is part of the Labor Institutions Act (2014), and the government has established basic minimum wages by occupation and location.
The GOK has a growing trade relationship with the United States under the AGOA framework which requires compliance with labor standards. The Ministry of Labor is reviewing its labor laws to align with international standards as labor is also a chapter in the Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the U.S. In 2019, the government continued efforts with dozens of partner agencies to implement a range of programs for the elimination of child and forced labor. However, low salaries, insufficient resources, and attrition from retirement of labor inspectors are significant challenges to effective enforcement. Employers in all sectors routinely bribe labor inspectors to prevent them from reporting infractions, especially regarding child labor violations.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source*
USG or international statistical source
USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other