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Ethiopia

Executive Summary

Ethiopia’s economy has been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, a severe locust infestation, localized unrest in several parts of the country, political tensions, and a devastating conflict in the Tigray region. The IMF forecasts economic growth to slow to two percentage points in Ethiopian fiscal year 2020/21 (starting July 8, 2020). Given the pandemic, potentially destabilizing national elections on June 5, 2021, and the conflict in Tigray, the timeline for a recovery is uncertain. However, the government has made progress on its ambitious economic reform agenda. In the last year alone, the Ethiopian government revised its sixty-year old commercial code, enacted a new investment regulation, began steps to sell two telecom spectrum licenses to foreign operators, and developed a financial sector liberalization roadmap. Still, Ethiopia’s rank in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index was 159 out of 190 economies in 2020, a metric indicative of the myriad challenges facing any investor in the country. Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria, with a population of over 110 million, approximately two-thirds of whom are under age 30. Low-cost labor, a national airline with well over 100 passenger connections, and growing consumer markets are key elements attracting foreign investment.

In September 2019, the Government of Ethiopia (GOE) unveiled its “Homegrown Economic Reform Plan” as a codified roadmap to implement sweeping macro, structural, and sectoral reforms, with a focus on enhancing the role of the private sector in the economy and attracting more foreign direct investment. The ambitious three-year plan prioritizes growth in five sectors: mining, ICT, agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing. In December 2019, the IMF approved a three-year, 2.9 billion U.S. dollar program to support the reform agenda. The program seeks to reduce public sector borrowing, rein in inflation, and reform the exchange rate regime.

The challenges remain vast. Ethiopia’s imports in the last four years have experienced a slight decline, in large part due to a reduction in public investment programs and a dire foreign exchange shortage. Export performance remains weak, as the country struggles to develop exports beyond primary commodities (coffee, gold, and oil seeds). The overvalued exchange rate and illicit trade have also hampered official exports. The acute foreign exchange shortage (the Ethiopian birr is not a freely convertible currency) and the absence of capital markets are choking private sector growth. Companies often face long lead-times importing goods and dispatching exports due to logistical bottlenecks, corruption, high land-transportation costs, and bureaucratic delays. Ethiopia is not a signatory of major intellectual property rights treaties.

All land in Ethiopia is administered by the government and private ownership does not exist. “Land-use rights” have been registered in most populated areas. The GOE retains the right to expropriate land for the “common good,” which it defines to include expropriation for commercial farms, industrial zones, and infrastructure development. Successful investors in Ethiopia conduct thorough due diligence on land titles at both the regional and federal levels and undertake consultations with local communities regarding the proposed use of the land.

The largest volume of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ethiopia comes from China, followed by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Political instability associated with various ethnic conflicts—most notably the conflict in the Tigray region—could negatively impact the investment climate and lower future FDI inflow.

Table 1
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 94 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/country/ETH 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2020 159 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 127 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/gii-2018-report#
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2020 $738 http://www.investethiopia.gov.et/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $850 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Ethiopia needs significant inflows of FDI to meet its ambitious growth goals. Over the past year, in an effort to attract more foreign investment, the government has passed a new investment law, acceded to the New York Convention on Arbitration, amended its six-decade old commercial code, and digitized commercial registration and business licensing processes. The government has also begun implementing the Public Private Partnership (PPP) proclamation, in an attempt to allow for private investment in the power generation and road construction sectors.

The Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) has the mandate to promote and facilitate foreign investments in Ethiopia. To accomplish this task, the EIC is charged with 1) promoting the country’s investment opportunities to attract and retain investment; 2) issuing investment permits, business licenses, and construction permits; 3) issuing commercial registration certificates and renewals; 4) negotiating and signing bilateral investment agreements; 5) issuing work permits; and 6) registering technology transfer agreements. In addition, the EIC has the mandate to advise the government on policies to improve the investment climate and hold regular and structured public-private dialogues with investors and their associations. At the local level, regional investment agencies facilitate regional investment. On the 2020 World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index Ethiopia ranks 159 out of 190 countries, which is the exact same ranking it held in both 2018 and 2019. To improve the investment climate, attract more FDI, and tackle unemployment challenges, the Prime Minister’s Office formed a committee to systematically examine each indicator on the Doing Business Index and identify factors that inhibit the private sector.

The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) works on voicing the concerns of U.S. businesses in Ethiopia. AmCham provides a mechanism for coordination among American companies and facilitates regular meetings with government officials to discuss issues that hinder operations in Ethiopia. The Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce also organizes a monthly business forum that enables the business community to discuss issues related to the investment climate with government officials.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish, acquire, own, and dispose of most forms of business enterprises. The new Investment Proclamation and associated regulations outline the areas of investment reserved for government and local investors. There is no private ownership of land in Ethiopia. All land is technically owned by the state but can be leased for up to 99 years. Small-scale rural landholders have indefinite use rights, but cannot lease out holdings for extended periods, except in the Amhara Region. The 2011 Urban Land Lease Proclamation allows the government to determine the value of land in transfers of leasehold rights, in an attempt to curb speculation by investors.

A foreign investor intending to buy an existing private enterprise or shares in an existing enterprise needs to obtain prior approval from the EIC. While foreign investors have complained about inconsistent interpretation of the regulations governing investment registration (particularly relating to accounting for in-kind investments), they generally do not face undue screening of FDI, unfavorable tax treatment, denial of licenses, discriminatory import or export policies, or inequitable tariff and non-tariff barriers.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Over the past three years, the government has not undertaken any third-party investment policy review by a multilateral or non-governmental organization. The government has worked closely with some international stakeholders, such as the International Finance Corporation, in its attempt to modernize and streamline its investment regulations.

Business Facilitation

The EIC has attempted to establish itself as a “one-stop shop” for foreign investors by acting as a centralized location where investors can obtain the visas, permits, and paperwork they need, thereby reducing the time and cost of investing and acquiring business licenses. The EIC has worked with international consultants to modernize its operations, and as part of its work plan has adopted a customer manager system to build lasting relationships and provide post-investment assistance to investors. Despite progress, the EIC readily admits that many bureaucratic barriers to investment remain. In particular, U.S. investors report that the EIC, as a federal organization, has little influence at regional and local levels. According to the 2020 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report, on average, it takes 32 days to start a business in Ethiopia.

Currently, more than 95 percent of Ethiopia’s trade passes through the Port of Djibouti, with residual trade passing through the Somaliland Port of Berbera or Port Sudan. Ethiopia concluded an agreement in March of 2018 with the Somaliland Ports Authority and DP World to acquire a 19 percent stake in the joint venture developing the Port of Berbera. The agreement will help Ethiopia secure an additional logistical gateway for its increasing import and export trade. Following the July 2018 rapprochement with Eritrea, the Ethiopian government has the opportunity of accessing an alternative port at either Massawa or Assab. At present, however, land borders with Eritrea remain closed, and little progress is being made to operationalize alternative logistics corridors in Eritrea.

The Government of Ethiopia is working to improve business facilitation services by making the licensing and registration of businesses easier and faster. In February of 2021, the Ministry of Trade and Industry launched an eTrade platform ( etrade.gov.et ) for business registration licensing to enable individuals to register their companies and acquire business licenses online. The amended commercial registration and licensing law eliminates the requirement to publicize business registrations in local newspapers, allows business registration without a physical address, and reduces some other paperwork burdens associated with business registration. U.S. companies can obtain detailed information for the registration of their business in Ethiopia from an online investment guide to Ethiopia: ( https://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/ethiopia ) and the EIC’s website: ( http://www.investethiopia.gov.et/index.php/investment-process/starting-a-business.html ). Though the government is taking positive steps to socially empower women (approximately half of cabinet members are women), there is no special treatment provided to women who wish to engage in business.

The full Doing Business Report is available here: http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/ethiopia 

Outward Investment

There is no officially recorded outward investment by domestic investors from Ethiopia as citizens/local investors are not allowed to hold foreign accounts.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Ethiopia’s regulatory system is generally considered fair, though there are instances in which burdensome regulatory or licensing requirements have prevented the local sale of U.S. exports, particularly health-related products. Investment decisions can involve multiple government ministries, lengthening the registration and investment process.

The Constitution is the highest law of the country. The parliament enacts proclamations, which are followed by regulations that are passed by the Council of Ministers and implementing directives that are passed by ministries or agencies. The government increasingly engages the public for feedback before passage of draft legislation through public meetings, and regulatory agencies request comments on proposed regulations from stakeholders. Ministries or regulatory agencies do neither impact assessments for proposed regulations nor ex-post reviews. Parties that are affected by an adopted regulation can request reconsideration or appeal to the relevant administrative agency or court. There is no requirement to periodically review regulations to determine whether they are still relevant or should be revised.

All proclamations and regulations in Ethiopia are published in official gazettes and most of them are available online: http://www.hopr.gov.et/web/guest/122  and https://chilot.me/federal-laws/2/ 

Legal matters related to the federal government are entertained by Federal Courts, while state matters go to state courts. To ensure consistency of legal interpretation and to promote predictability of the courts, the Federal Supreme Court Cassation Division is empowered to give binding legal interpretation on all federal and state matters. Though there are no publicly listed companies in Ethiopia, all banks and insurance companies are obliged to adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

Regulations related to human health and environmental pollution are often enforced. In January of 2019, the Oromia Region’s Environment, Forest, and Climate Change Commission shut down three tanneries in the Oromia Region for what was said to be repeated environmental pollution offenses. The federal government also suspended the business license of MIDROC Gold Mining in May 2018 following weeks of protests by local communities who accused the company of causing health and environmental hazards in the Oromia Region. The Ethiopian Parliament in February of 2019 passed a bill entitled ‘Food and Medicine Administration Proclamation,’ which bans smoking in all indoor workplaces, public spaces, and means of public transport and prohibits alcohol promotion on broadcasting media.

On April 7, 2020, Ethiopia published the Administrative Procedure Proclamation (APP) in the federal gazette, the final step for a law to come into force. The APP’s main aim is to allow ordinary citizens who seek administrative redress to file suits in federal courts against government institutions. Potential redress includes financial restitution. The APP’s passage will require government institutions to set up offices that will handle such complaints. Complainants are required to follow an administrative appeal process, and only after exhausting administrative remedies will a person be allowed to file a suit in federal court. Four government institutions are exempt from the APP: the Federal Attorney General’s Office; the Ethiopian Federal Police; the Ethiopian National Defense Force and the intelligence agencies. The enactment of the APP is widely viewed as a positive step in increasing confidence in the public sector and addressing the need for governmental institutions to adhere to the rule of law.

Ethiopia is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures . Foreign and national investors can find detailed information from the investment commission’s website ( https://www.invest-ethiopia.com/ ) on administrative procedures applicable to investing in Ethiopia.

The government released its five-year public finance administration strategic plan (2018 – 2022) in March of 2018, mapping out reforms in government revenue and expenditure forecasting, government accounts management, internal auditing, public procurement administration, public debt management, and public financial transparency and accountability. In support of this initiative, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) issued a directive on Public Financial Transparency and Accountability in October of 2018. The directive mandates that all public institutions report their budgetary performance and financial accounts in platforms that are accessible to the wider public in a timely manner. It also makes the MoF responsible for disseminating a regular and detailed physical and financial performance evaluation of large publicly funded projects. The directive further outlines a clear timeline for the publication of each major piece of budgetary information, such as the pre-budget macroeconomic and fiscal framework, the enacted budget, quarterly execution reports, annual execution reports, and the annual audit report. The government makes public its annual budget as well as the external and domestic debt position of the county on the MoF’s website ( https://www.mofed.gov.et/en/resources/bulletin/ )

International Regulatory Considerations

In April of 2020 Ethiopia became a member of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA aims to create a single, continental market for goods and services, with free movement of businesspersons and investments. Ethiopia is also a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a regional economic block, which has 21 member countries and has introduced a 10 percent tariff reduction on goods imported from member states. Ethiopia has not yet joined the COMESA free trade area, however. Ethiopia resumed its WTO accession process in 2018, which it originally began in 2003, but which later stagnated.

Ethiopian standards have a national scope and applicability and some of them, particularly those related to human health and environmental protection, are mandatory. The Ethiopian Standards Agency is the national standards body of Ethiopia.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Ethiopia has codified criminal and civil laws, including commercial and contractual law. According to the contractual law, a contract agreement is binding between contracting parties. Disputes between the parties can be taken to court. There are, however, no specialized courts for commercial law cases, though there are specialized benches at both the federal and state courts.

While there have been allegations of executive branch interference in judiciary cases with political implications, there is no evidence of widespread interference in purely commercial disputes. The country has a procedural code for both civil and criminal court. Enforcement actions are appealable and there are at least three appeal processes from the lower courts to the Supreme Court. The Criminal Procedure Code follows the inquisitorial system of adjudication.

Companies that operate businesses in Ethiopia assert that courts lack adequate experience and staffing, particularly with respect to commercial disputes. While property and contractual rights are recognized, judges often lack understanding of commercial matters, including bankruptcy and contractual disputes. In addition, cases often face extended scheduling delays. Contract enforcement remains weak, though Ethiopian courts will at times reject spurious litigation aimed at contesting legitimate tenders.

In March of 2021 the parliament approved an amendment to the sixty-two-year-old commercial code. The revised legislation modernizes and simplifies business regulations, develops regulations for new technologies not covered in the prior version of the code, and seeks to implement greater transparency and accountability in commercial activities.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Investment Proclamation 1180/2020 and Regulation 474/2020 are Ethiopia’s main legal regime related to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). These laws instituted the opening of new economic sectors to foreign investment, enumerated the requirements for FDI registration, and outlined the incentives that are available to investors.

The investment law allows foreign investors to invest in any investment area except those that are clearly reserved for domestic investors. A few specified investment areas are possible for foreign investors only as part of a joint venture with domestic investors or the government. The Investment Proclamation has introduced an Investment Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, to accelerate implementation of the new law and to address coordination challenges investors face at the federal and regional levels. Further, the new law expanded the mandate of the EIC by allowing it to provide approvals to foreign investors proposing to buy existing enterprises. The EIC now also delivers “one stop shop” services by consolidating investor services provided by other ministries and agencies. Still, the EIC delegates licensing of investments in some areas: air transport services (the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority), energy generation and transmission (the Ethiopian Energy Authority), and telecommunication services (the Ethiopian Communications Authority).

The EIC’s website ( https://www.invest-ethiopia.com/ ) provides information on the government’s policy and priorities, registration processes, and regulatory details. In addition, the Business Negarit website ( http://businessnegarit.com/a/resources1/ ) provides relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

Ethiopia’s Trade Practice and Consumers Protection Authority (TPCPA), operating under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, is tasked with promoting a competitive business environment by regulating anti-competitive, unethical, and unfair trade practices to enhance economic efficiency and social welfare. It has an administrative tribunal with a jurisdiction on matters pertaining to market competition and consumer protection. The authority also annually entertains many cases associated with consumer protection and unfair trade practices.

The EIC reviews investment transactions for compliance with FDI requirements and restrictions as outlined by the Investment Proclamation. Nonetheless, companies have complained that SOEs receive favorable treatment in the government tender process.

Expropriation and Compensation

Per the 2020 Investment Proclamation, no investment by a domestic or foreign investor or enterprise can be expropriated or nationalized, wholly or partially, except when required by public interest in compliance with the law and provided adequate compensatory payment.

The former Derg military regime nationalized many properties in the 1970s. The current government’s position is that property seized lawfully by the Derg (by court order or government proclamation published in the official gazette) remains the property of the state. In most cases, property seized by oral order or other informal means is gradually being returned to the rightful owners or their heirs through a lengthy bureaucratic process. Claimants are required to pay for improvements made by the government during the time it controlled the property. The Public Enterprises Holding and Administration Agency stopped accepting requests from owners for return of expropriated properties in July of 2008.

According to local and foreign businesses operating in the Oromia Region, there have been a number of incidents threatening investors in that region. Various pretexts have been used to close legitimate operations. False charges have been filed with regional courts, property has been confiscated, and bank accounts have been frozen, all in the name of “returning the land” to the “rightful owners” or “creating job opportunities” for the youth. Regional officials, however, deny any systematic attack on investors and have repeatedly provided assurance that all legitimate investors will be protected. Meanwhile, some investors who have invested heavily in government and community relations and actively engaged local and regional officials have prospered. The experience of investors is uneven and clear trends are not evident.

Dispute Settlement

  • ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Since 1965, Ethiopia has been a non-signatory member state to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention. In November 2020, Ethiopia acceded to the UN Convention on The Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (commonly known as the New York Convention).

  • Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The constitution and the investment law both guarantee the right of any investor to lodge complaints related to their investment with the appropriate investment agency. If the investor has a grievance against a legal or regulatory decision, they can appeal to the investment board or to the respective regional agency, as appropriate. According to the new investment law, the investment dispute between the state and foreign investor can be resolved either through the courts or via arbitration, with the precondition of government agreement for resolution via the latter. Additionally, a dispute that arises between a foreign investor and the state may be settled based on the relevant bilateral investment treaty.

Due to an overloaded court system, dispute resolution can last for years. According to the 2020 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, it takes on average 530 days to enforce contracts through the courts.

  • International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Arbitration has become a widely used means of dispute settlement among the business community as the Ethiopian civil code recognizes Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms as a means of dispute resolution. The Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce has an Arbitration Center to assist with arbitration. Following Ethiopia’s accession to the New York Convention, local courts now must automatically recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards from a New York Convention member state country. There are no publicly available statistics that indicate a bias in the courts towards state-owned enterprises (SOEs) as pertains to investment/commercial disputes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Ethiopian Commercial Code (Book V) outlines bankruptcy provisions and proceedings and establishes a court system that has jurisdiction over bankruptcy proceedings. The primary purpose of the law is to protect creditors, equity shareholders, and other contractors. Bankruptcy is not criminalized. In practice, there is limited application of bankruptcy procedures due to a lack of knowledge on the part of the private sector.

According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report, Ethiopia stands at 149 in the ranking of 190 economies with respect to resolving insolvency. Ethiopia’s score on the strength of insolvency framework index is 5.0. (Note: The index ranges from zero to 16, with higher values indicating insolvency legislation that is better designed for rehabilitating viable firms and liquidating nonviable ones.)

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Investment Regulation 474/2020 retains the investment incentive provisions as outlined under the 2012 law. Accordingly, investors in manufacturing, agro-processing, and selected agricultural products are entitled to income tax exemptions ranging from two to five years, depending on the location of the investment. Additionally, investors in the areas of manufacturing; agriculture; ICT; electricity generation, transmission, and distribution; and producers who produce for export or supply to an exporter, or who export at least 60 percent of the products or services, are entitled to an additional two years of income tax exemption.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The Industrial Park Proclamation 886/2015 mandates that the Ethiopian Industrial Parks Corporation develop and administer industrial parks under the auspices of government ownership. The law designates industrial parks as duty-free zones, and domestic as well as foreign operators in the parks are exempt from income tax for up to 10 years. Investors operating in parks are also exempt from duties and other taxes on the import of capital goods, construction materials, and raw materials for production of export commodities and vehicles.

An investor who operates in a designated Industrial Development Zone in or near Addis Ababa is entitled to two years of income tax exemptions, and four more years of income tax exemption if the investment is made in an industrial park in other areas, provided 80 percent or more of production is for export or constitutes input for an exporter.

Industrial Parks can be developed by either government or private developers. In practice, the majority have been developed by the Ethiopian government with Chinese financing. The government has announced plans to construct a total of 17 industrial parks in various locations around the country. As of March 2021, operational industrial parks include Hawassa Industrial Park, Bole Lemi Industrial Park, Eastern Industrial Zone, George Shoe Ethiopia, Kombolcha Industrial Park, Adama Industrial Park, Jimma Industrial Park, and Debre Berhan Industrial Park. There are also industrial parks focused on agro-industrial processing located at four sites across the country.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Ethiopia does not formally impose performance requirements on foreign investors, though investors in Ethiopia routinely encounter business visa delays and onerous paperwork requirements. In addition, investors are required to allocate a minimum of 200,000 U.S. dollars per investment project, with the requirement being lowered to 100,000 U.S. dollars for architectural or engineering projects. For most joint investments with a domestic partner, the investment requirement is lowered to 150,000 U.S. dollars.

The minimum capital requirement is waived if the foreign investor reinvests profits or dividends generated from an existing enterprise in any investment area open for foreign investors; and if a foreign investor purchases a portion or the entirety of an existing enterprise owned by another foreign investor. There are no forced localization or data storage requirements for private investors. Local content in terms of hiring, products, and services is strongly encouraged but not required. The EIC, in collaboration with the Immigration, Nationality, and Vital Events Agency, facilitates visas and work permits for investors and expatriate workers. The government typically issues three to five year multiple entry visas for foreign investors, senior management, and board members, as mandated by the 2020 Investment Proclamation.

In the absence of qualified local personnel, an investor can employ foreigners in positions of higher management (chief executive officer, chief operation officer, and chief financial officer), supervisor, trainers, and other technical professionals. Although not a legal requirement, in joint ventures with state-owned enterprises investors report informal requirements of up to 30 percent domestic content in goods and/or technology.

Proclamation 808/2013 mandates that the Information Network Security Agency (INSA) control the import and export of information technology, build an information technology testing and evaluation laboratory center, and regulate cryptographic products and their transactions.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Some larger international companies in Ethiopia have introduced corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. Most Ethiopian companies, however, do not officially practice CSR, though individual entrepreneurs engage in charity, sometimes on a large scale. There are efforts to develop CSR programs by the Ministry of Trade and Industry in collaboration with the World Bank, U.S. Agency for International Development, and other institutions.

The government encourages CSR programs for both local and foreign direct investors but does not maintain specific guidelines for these programs, which are inconsistently applied and not controlled or monitored.

Ethiopia was admitted as a candidate-member to the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2014 and in 2019 it was found to have made meaningful progress in implementing EITI standards. Per the Commercial Code, extractive industries and other businesses are expected to conduct statuary audits of their financial statements at the end of each financial year, though the financial statements are not available to the public, only to financial institutions and share companies.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

The Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC) is charged with preventing corruption and is accountable to the Office of the Prime Minister. The Commission provides ethics training and education to prevent corruption. The Federal Police Commission is responsible for investigating corruption crimes and the Federal Attorney General handles corruption prosecutions.

The Attorney General’s Office has opened a new and consolidated Anti-Corruption Directorate to recover stolen assets and fight corruption. The Directorate is empowered to enter into mutual legal assistance treaties (MLAT’s) and otherwise coordinate with foreign nations to fight corruption.

The Federal Police is mandated with investigating corruption crimes committed by public officials as well as “Public Organizations.” The latter are defined as any organ in the private sector that administers money, property, or any other resources for public purposes. Examples of such organizations include share companies, real estate agencies, banks, insurance companies, cooperatives, labor unions, professional associations, and others.

Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption, rated Ethiopia’s corruption at 38 (the score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of zero to 100, with the former indicating highly corrupt and the latter indicating very clean). Its comparative rank in 2020 was 94 out of 180 countries, a two-point improvement from its 2019 rank. The American Chamber of Commerce in Ethiopia recently polled its members and asked what the leading business climate challenges were; transparency and governance ranked as the 4th leading business climate challenge, ahead of licensing and registration and public procurement.

Ethiopian and foreign businesses routinely encounter corruption in tax collection, customs clearance, and land administration. Many past procurement deals for major government contracts, especially in the power generation, telecommunications, and construction sectors were widely viewed as corrupt.

Ethiopia is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Ethiopia is a signatory to the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. Ethiopia is also member of the East African Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities. Ethiopia signed the UN Anticorruption Convention in 2003, which was eventually ratified in November 2007. It is a criminal offense to give or receive bribes, and bribes are not tax deductible.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contacts at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:

Federal Police Commission
Addis Ababa
+251 11 861-9595

Advocacy and Legal Advice Center in Ethiopia
Hayahulem Mazoria, Addis Ababa
+251-11-551-0738 / +251-11-655-5508
https://www.transparencyethiopia.org 

10. Political and Security Environment

Ethnic conflict—often sparked by historical grievances or resource competition, including land disputes—has resulted in varying levels of violence across Ethiopia. In September of 2020, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) released a report concluding that there were more than 1.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country. IOM concluded that the primary cause of displacements was conflict, which resulted in the displacement of 1,233,557 persons. The second highest cause was drought, which displaced an additional 351,062 persons, followed by seasonal floods and flash flooding.

Most significantly, in early November of 2020, a conflict broke out between a regional political party in the Tigray Region and the federal government. The conflict quickly enlarged, with Eritrean troops present in parts of Tigray Region, Amhara Region forces controlling much of Western Tigray, and clashes between the Ethiopian and Sudanese governments over a long-disputed border area. The conflict in Tigray has led to countless deaths, widespread displacements, extensive destruction of infrastructure, allegations of widespread gross human rights violations and the use of gender violence as a weapon of war, a vast reduction in public services, and widespread hunger. As of the present, conflict continues in Tigray, and the aftereffects from the violence will likely reverberate for years.

Insecurity, often driven by ethnic tensions, persists in many other areas, notably in Gedeo Zone, West Guji, and other areas of southern and western Oromia; in eastern parts of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region; and in the Hararges on the border of the Somali Region. In the four Wellega Zones in western Oromia, the Oromo Liberation Army-Shane and other unidentified armed groups continue to attack public and local government officials; this violence occasionally spills over into other parts of Oromia. Regional security forces and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) are actively combatting these groups. In early July of 2020, the assassination of a popular Oromo singer and activist, Hachualu Hundesa, resulted in widespread violence in the Oromia Region and Addis Ababa that saw over 150 dead and thousands arrested. In the wake of the violence the federal government shut down internet access in the country for a period of several weeks.  In far western Ethiopia, persistent ethnic violence in the Metekel Zone of Benishangul-Gumuz Region led the ENDF to establish a “command post” presence there in September of 2020 in an effort to stem communal attacks.  Despite the military’s presence, clashes worsened in early 2021, leaving hundreds dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Under PM Abiy’s administration, political space in Ethiopia has opened significantly. Constitutional rights, including freedoms of assembly and expression, are now generally supported at the level of the federal government, though the protection of these rights remains uneven, especially at regional and local levels. Part of Abiy’s opening of political space led to the release of political prisoners in 2018, though recently there have been some reports of short-term detentions of opposition political leaders. Opposition parties usually operate freely, although authorities have employed politically motivated procedural roadblocks to hinder opposition parties’ efforts to hold meetings or other party activities. The space for media and civil society groups has become significantly more free following reforms instituted by PM Abiy. Still, journalism in the country remains undeveloped, social media is often rife with unfounded rumors, and government officials occasionally react with heavy-handedness, especially to news they feel might spur social unrest, resulting in self-censorship. Civil society reforms have spurred an expansion of the sector, though many civil society groups continue to struggle with capacity and resource issues. The parliament has set June 5, 2021 as the date for the next national and regional parliamentary elections; they were originally scheduled for May of 2020 but were delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new administration has also increased regional autonomy. Successful American investors tell us that understanding the different business climates across the regions—there are different regional taxation regimes, unique ethnic conflicts, varying levels of reception towards profit-making companies, and contrasting approaches to policing and security issues—is key to successfully investing in Ethiopia.

In 2020, Ethiopia instituted two State of Emergencies (SOE).  The first SOE was declared between April 10 and September 5 as a measure against the spread of COVID-19.  The SOE enforced measures such as the discontinuation of meetings involving more than four people; closure of entertainment and sports centers; requirements that restaurants distance tables and seating; and limitations on the number of passengers in public transportation vehicles.  The second State of Emergency, which was limited in scope to Tigray Region, was declared on November 4 following the outbreak of conflict there.  This SOE provides the central government the power to suspend some political rights in a stated effort to maintain sovereignty and peace in Tigray.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

More than 80 percent of Ethiopians work in agriculture. The second-most important employer is the government. If the population continues to grow at the current rate of 2.5 percent per year, Ethiopia will have more than 138 million people by 2030, only 27 percent of whom will live in urban areas. Ethiopia’s youth, those between the ages of 15 and 29, account for 30 percent of the population; 70 million Ethiopians are under the age of 30. The youth unemployment rate in urban settings is over 25 percent (Central Statistics Agency, 2018). The gender gap in employment is high; the unemployment rate among young women in urban areas is over 30 percent, compared with 19 percent for young men. Young women are three times more likely to be neither in employment, education, or training (NEET). According to International Labor Organization (ILO) statistics, Ethiopia’s youth NEET accounts for 10.5 percent of the youth population (5.7 percent for men, 15.1 percent for women).

Although labor remains readily available and inexpensive in Ethiopia, skilled manpower is scarce. Approximately 50 percent of Ethiopians over the age of 15 are illiterate, according to UNESCO’s definition. The primary school enrollment rate (age 7 to 14), on the other hand, has now reached 94 percent. To increase the skilled labor force, the GOE has undertaken a rapid expansion of the university system in the last 20 years, increasing the number of higher public education institutions from three to 49. It has adopted an education policy that requires 70 percent of public university students to study science, engineering, or technology subjects, but many students are not well prepared by secondary schools to study in those fields.

Ethiopia has ratified all eight core International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions. The Ethiopian Criminal Code and the 2019 Labor Proclamation both outlaw work specified as hazardous by ILO conventions. There is no national minimum wage, and public sector employees–the largest group of wage earners–earned a monthly minimum wage of 420 Ethiopian birr (approximately $10).

Labor unions and confederations are separate entities from the government, and are subject to a great deal of regulation and direct pressure/involvement from the government. The Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU) comprises well over two hundred thousand members in enterprise-based unions in a variety of sectors, but there is no formal requirement for unions to join the CETU. Much of the labor force remains in small-scale agriculture/industry and thus is not covered by enterprise unions. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs’ Directorate of Harmonious Industrial Relations provides labor dispute resolution services, but the caseload is high and the directorate’s capacity are low.

Employers offering contracted employment are required to provide severance pay. The vast majority of employees that work in small-scale agriculture and in many micro and small enterprises, however, do so without a contract. Large labor surpluses and lax labor law enforcement allow employers to retain employees without contracts that ensure strong worker protections.

Although the government actively engages with the international community to combat child labor and human trafficking, which includes forced/coerced labor, both remain widespread in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Parliament ratified ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor in May 2003. While not a pressing issue in the formal economy, child labor is common in the informal sector, including construction, agriculture, textiles, manufacturing, mining, and domestic work. Child labor is present in both urban and rural areas. According to the ILO’s International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor, more than 50 percent of Ethiopia’s child laborers work in the agriculture sector. Ethiopian traditional woven textiles are included on the U.S. government’s Executive Order 13126 list of goods that have been known to be produced by forced or indentured child labor. Both NGO and Ethiopian government sources concluded that goods produced (in the agricultural sector and traditional weaving industry in particular) via child labor are largely intended for domestic consumption, and not slated for export. Employers are prohibited from hiring children under the age of 15, and the minimum age is 18 for certain types of hazardous work. Ethiopia has a National Action Plan (NAP) for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor, which it is currently updating. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs conducts tens of thousands of targeted inspections on occupational safety and standards, though they are not legally empowered to assess fines for infractions and they do not make this data publicly available. Due to the shortage of labor inspectors and other enforcement resources, and the fact that inspectors do not inspect informal work sites, most child labor goes unreported.

In April 2020, the Ethiopian Parliament approved and published in the federal gazette the new Anti-Human Trafficking and Smuggling Criminal Proclamation 909/2019. The new legislation breaks down silos between stakeholder agencies, provides clear guidelines regarding how anti-trafficking efforts are funded, and provides clear, commensurate penalties for those involved in trafficking.

The Overseas Labor Proclamation legalizes and regulates the employment of Ethiopians in foreign countries. The law does not disallow Ethiopians from migrating to other countries to seek work, but it imposes requirements that are lengthy and expensive, making irregular migration more attractive for many. The main driver for irregular migration is economic incentives. Although trafficking remains problematic, experts report that the GOE has increasingly shown the political will to address this issue.

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
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD) 2019/20** $107.7B 2019 $95.9B www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2020 $738 2019 N/A http://www.investethiopia.gov.et/
Host country’s FDI in the United States (M USD, stock positions) 2019 N/A 2019 N/A http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019/20** 10% 2019 2.62% www.worldbank.org/en/country

*National Bank of Ethiopia and Ethiopian Investment Commission

**Ethiopian Fiscal Year 2019/2020, which begins on July 8, 2020.

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars*, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $10,766 100% Total Outward*** N/A N/A
China $3,364 31.3% N/A N/A N/A
Saudi Arabia $1,421 13.2% N/A N/A N/A
Turkey $915 8.5% N/A N/A N/A
United States $738 7% N/A N/A N/A
India $538 5% N/A N/A N/A
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Data regarding inward direct investment are not available for Ethiopia via the IMF’s Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS) site (http://data.imf.org/CDIS); we have instead used data from the Ethiopian Investment Commission.

*The yearly average exchange rate is used for each year from 1992 – 2020 in order to convert the amount of FDI from domestic currency into U.S. dollars.

*** Total Outward investment data are not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data regarding the equity/debt breakdown of portfolio investment assets are not available for Ethiopia via the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) and are not available for external publication from the Government of Ethiopia.

Kenya

Executive Summary

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. The World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business report ranked Kenya 56 out of the 190 economies it reviewed – five spots higher than in 2019. Since 2014, Kenya has moved up 73 places on this index. Year-on-year, Kenya continues to improve its regulatory framework and its attractiveness as a destination for foreign direct investment (FDI). 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. Though corruption remains pervasive, Transparency International ranked Kenya 124 out of 180 countries in its 2020 Global Corruption Perception Index – an improvement of 13 spots compared to 2019.

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 2020 due 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.

The World Bank’s November 2020 Kenya Economic Update report noted that the ongoing locust invasion, COVID-19 pandemic, and drought conditions in certain parts of the country, pose near-term challenges to Kenya’s economic recovery, but also highlighted mitigating measures enacted by the GOK and Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) as positive developments. American companies continue to show strong interest to establish or expand their business presence and engagement in Kenya, especially following President Kenyatta’s August 2018, and February 2020 meetings with former-President Trump in Washington, D.C. Sectors offering the most opportunities for investors include: agro-processing, financial services, energy, extractives, transportation, infrastructure, retail, restaurants, technology, health care, and mobile banking.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 124 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report* 2020 56 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings 
Global Innovation Index 2020 86 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 $353 http://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $1,750 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct 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 foreign direct investment in the country. The KIP intends to guide laws being drafted to promote and facilitate investments in Kenya.

Investment Promotion Agency

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.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

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, increased 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) restricts foreign participation in the mining sector. The Mining Act reserves mineral acquisition rights to Kenyan companies and requires 60 percent Kenyan ownership of mineral dealerships and artisanal mining companies. 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 act requires foreign contractors enter into 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.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In 2019, the World Trade Organization conducted a trade policy review for the East Africa Community (EAC), of which Kenya is a member ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp484_e.htm ).

Business Facilitation

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.

Outward Investment

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

Transparency of the Regulatory System

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.

International Regulatory Considerations

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.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

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 unjustified budget cuts, which significantly impact the judiciary’s ability to fulfill its mandate. Delayed confirmation of judges nominated by the Judicial Service Commission result 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.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

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.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

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.

Expropriation and Compensation

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.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Kenya is a member of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention, and the 1958 New York Convention on the Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. International companies may opt to seek international well-established dispute resolution at the ICSID. Regarding the arbitration of property issues, the Foreign Investments Protection Act (2014) cites Article 75 of Kenya’s constitution, which provides that “[e]very person having an interest or right in or over property which is compulsorily taken possession of or whose interest in or right over any property is compulsorily acquired shall have a right of direct access to the High Court.” In 2020, Kenya prevailed in an ICSID international arbitration case against a U.S./Canadian geothermal company, over a geothermal exploration license revocation dispute.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

There have been very few investment disputes involving U.S. and international companies in Kenya. Commercial disputes, including those involving government tenders, are more common. The National Land Commission (NLC) settles land related disputes; the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board settles procurement and tender related disputes; and the Tax Appeals Tribunal settles tax disputes. However, private companies have criticized these institutions as having weak institutional capacity, inadequate transparency, and slow to resolve disputes. Due to the resources and time required to settle a dispute through the Kenyan courts, parties often prefer to seek alternative dispute resolution options.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The government does accept binding international arbitration of investment disputes with foreign investors. The Kenyan Arbitration Act (1995) as amended in 2010 is based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law. Legislation introduced in 2013 established the Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration (NCIA), which serves as an independent, non- profit international organization for commercial arbitration and may offer a quicker alternative than the court system. In 2014, the Kenya Revenue Authority launched an Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism aimed at providing taxpayers with an alternative, fast-track avenue for resolving tax disputes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

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. The World Bank Group’s 2020 Doing Business report ranked Kenya 50 out of 190 countries in the “resolving insolvency” category, an improvement of six spots compared to 2019.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

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).

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 government’s Manufacturing Under Bond (MUB) program encourages manufacturing for export. The program provides a 100 percent tax deduction on plant machinery and equipment and raw materials imported for production of goods for export. The program is also open to Kenyan companies producing goods that can be imported duty-free, goods for supply to the armed forces, or to an approved aid-funded project. Investors in manufacturing metal products and the hospitality services sectors are able to deduct from their taxes a large portion of the cost of buildings and capital machinery.

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).

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

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.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The GOK mandates local employment in the category of unskilled labor. The Kenyan government regularly issues permits 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).

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.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The Environmental Management and Coordination Act (1999) establishes a legal and institutional framework for responsible environment management, while the Factories Act (1951) safeguards labor rights in industries. The Mining Act (2016) directs holders of mineral rights to develop comprehensive community development agreements that ensure socially responsible investment and resource extraction, and establish preferential hiring standards for residents of nearby communities. The legal system, however, has remained slow to prosecute violations of these policies.

The GOK is not a signatory to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct, and it is not yet an Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) implementing country or a Voluntary Principles Initiative signatory. Nonetheless, good examples of corporate social responsibility (CSR) abound as major foreign enterprises drive CSR efforts by applying international standards relating to human rights, business ethics, environmental policies, community development, and corporate governance.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Corruption is pervasive and entrenched in Kenya. Transparency International’s (TI) 2020 Global Corruption Perception Index ranked Kenya 137 out of 180 countries, an improvement of 13 places compared to 2019. However, Kenya’s score of (28 remained below the sub-Saharan Africa average of 32. 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 on ( https://tenders.go.ke/website/contracts/Index ) website.

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.

Resources to Report 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:

Sheila Masinde
Executive Director
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. In November 2020, the Building Bridges Initiative, established by President Kenyatta in May 2018 as part of his pledge to work with Odinga, issued its final report recommending reforms to address nine areas: lack of a national ethos; responsibilities and rights of citizenship; ethnic antagonism and competition; divisive elections; inclusivity; shared prosperity; corruption; devolution; and safety and security. The report included a constitutional amendment bill that may be considered in a national referendum in 2021.

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. 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 nascent Eastern African Standby Force (EASF). Despite attacks against Kenyan forces in Kenya and Somalia, the GOK has maintained its commitment to promoting peace and stability in Somalia.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

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 and Social Protection 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
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($B USD) 2019 $90.19bn 2019 $95.5bn https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?locations=KE 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $353Mn BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $-16Mn BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 1.2 2019 1.4 https://unctad.org/system/files/official-document/wir2020_en.pdf

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Morocco

Executive Summary

Morocco enjoys political stability, a geographically strategic location, and robust infrastructure, which have contributed to its emergence as a regional manufacturing and export base for international companies. Morocco actively encourages and facilitates foreign investment, particularly in export sectors like manufacturing, through positive macro-economic policies, trade liberalization, investment incentives, and structural reforms. Morocco’s overarching economic development plan seeks to transform the country into a regional business hub by leveraging its unique status as a multilingual, cosmopolitan nation situated at the tri-regional focal point of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The Government of Morocco implements strategies aimed at boosting employment, attracting foreign investment, and raising performance and output in key revenue-earning sectors, such as the automotive and aerospace industries. Morocco continues to make major investments in renewable energy, boasting a 4 GW current capacity, 5 GW under construction, and an additional 6 GW in the planning phase.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2020 , Morocco attracted the eighth most foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa. Following a record year in 2018 where Morocco attracted $3.6 billion in FDI, inbound FDI dropped by 55 percent to $1.6 billion in 2019. Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, FDI inflows to Morocco remained largely stable totaling $1.7 billion in 2020, according to the Moroccan Foreign Exchange Office, a slight increase of one percent from the previous year. France, the UAE, and Spain hold a majority of FDI stocks. Manufacturing has the highest share of FDI stocks, followed by real estate, trade, tourism, and transportation. Morocco continues to orient itself as the “gateway to Africa” for international investors following Morocco’s return to the African Union in January 2017 and the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in March 2018, which entered into force in 2021. In June 2019, Morocco opened an extension of the Tangier-Med commercial shipping port, making it the largest in the Mediterranean and the largest in Africa. Tangier is connected to Morocco’s political capital in Rabat and commercial hub in Casablanca by Africa’s first high-speed train service. Morocco continues to climb in the World Bank’s Doing Business index, rising to 53rd place in 2020, rising on the list by 75 places over the last decade. Despite the significant improvements in its business environment and infrastructure, high rates of unemployment, weak intellectual property rights protections, inefficient government bureaucracy, and the slow pace of regulatory reform remain challenges.

Morocco has ratified 72 investment treaties for the promotion and protection of investments and 62 economic agreements – including with the United States and most EU nations – that aim to eliminate the double taxation of income or gains. Morocco is the only country on the African continent with a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States, eliminating tariffs on more than 95 percent of qualifying consumer and industrial goods. The Government of Morocco plans to phase out tariffs for some products through 2030. The FTA supports Morocco’s goals to develop as a regional financial and trade hub, providing opportunities for the localization of services and the finishing and re-export of goods to markets in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Since the U.S.-Morocco FTA came into effect bilateral trade in goods has grown nearly five-fold. The U.S. and Moroccan governments work closely to increase trade and investment through high-level consultations, bilateral dialogue, and other forums to inform U.S. businesses of investment opportunities and strengthen business-to-business ties.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 86 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 53 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 75 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 $406 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 $3,190 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Morocco actively encourages foreign investment through macro-economic policies, trade liberalization, structural reforms, infrastructure improvements, and incentives for investors. Law 18-95 of October 1995, constituting the Investment Charter , is the foundational Moroccan text governing investment and applies to both domestic and foreign investment (direct and portfolio). The Ministry of Industry recently announced the second Industrial Acceleration Plan (PAI) to run from 2021-2025, which aims to build on the progress made in the previous 2014-2020 PAI and expand industrial development throughout all Moroccan regions. The PAI is based on establishing “ecosystems” that integrate value chains and supplier relationships between large companies and small- and medium-sized enterprises. Moroccan legislation governing FDI applies equally to Moroccan and foreign legal entities, with the exception of certain protected sectors.

Morocco’s Investment and Export Development Agency (AMDIE) is the national agency responsible for the development and promotion of investments and exports. Following the reform to the law  governing the country’s Regional Investment Centers (CRIs) in 2019, each of the 12 regions is empowered to lead their own investment promotion efforts. The CRI websites  aggregate relevant information for interested investors and include investment maps, procedures for creating a business, production costs, applicable laws and regulations, and general business climate information, among other investment services. The websites vary by region, with some functioning better than others. AMDIE and the 12 CRIs work together throughout the phases of investment at the national and regional level. For example, AMDIE and the CRIs coordinate contact between investors and partners. Regional investment commissions examine investment applications and send recommendations to AMDIE. The inter-ministerial investment committee, for which AMDIE acts as the secretariat, approves any investment agreement or contract which requires financial contribution from the government. AMDIE also provides an “after care” service to support investments and assist in resolving issues that may arise.

Further information about Morocco’s investment laws and procedures is available on AMDIE’s newly launched website  or through the individual websites of each of the CRIs. For information on agricultural investments, visit the Agricultural Development Agency website  or the National Agency for the Development of Aquaculture website .

When Morocco acceded to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises in November 2009, Morocco guaranteed national treatment of foreign investors. The only exception to this national treatment of foreign investors is in those sectors closed to foreign investment (noted below), which Morocco delineated upon accession to the Declaration. The National Contact Point for Responsible Business Conduct ( NCP ), whose presidency and secretariat are held by AMDIE, is the lead agency responsible for the adherence to this declaration.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities may establish and own business enterprises, barring certain restrictions by sector. While the U.S. Mission is unaware of any economy-wide limits on foreign ownership, Morocco places a 49 percent cap on foreign investment in air and maritime transport companies and maritime fisheries. Morocco currently prohibits foreigners from owning agricultural land, though they can lease it for up to 99 years; however, new regulation to open agricultural land to foreign ownership is forthcoming. The Moroccan government holds a monopoly on phosphate extraction through the 95 percent state-owned Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP). The Moroccan state also has a discretionary right to limit all foreign majority stakes in the capital of large national banks but apparently has never exercised that right. The Moroccan Central Bank (Bank Al-Maghrib) may use regulatory discretion in issuing authorizations for the establishment of domestic and foreign-owned banks. In the oil and gas sector, the National Agency for Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) retains a compulsory share of 25 percent of any exploration license or development permit. As established in the 1995 Investment Charter, there is no requirement for prior approval of FDI, and formalities related to investing in Morocco do not pose a meaningful barrier to investment. The U.S. Mission is not aware of instances in which the Moroccan government refused foreign investors for national security, economic, or other national policy reasons, nor is it aware of any U.S. investors disadvantaged or singled out by ownership or control mechanisms, sector restrictions, or investment screening mechanisms, relative to other foreign investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The last third-party investment policy review of Morocco was the World Trade Organization (WTO) 2016 Trade Policy Review  (TPR), which found that the trade reforms implemented since the prior TPR in 2009 contributed to the economy’s continued growth by stimulating competition in domestic markets, encouraging innovation, creating new jobs, and contributing to growth diversification.

Business Facilitation

In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report , Morocco ranks 53 out of 190 economies, rising seven places since the 2019 report. Since 2012, Morocco has implemented reforms that facilitate business registration, such as eliminating the need to file a declaration of business incorporation with the Ministry of Labor, reducing company registration fees, and eliminating minimum capital requirements for limited liability companies. Morocco maintains a business registration website that is accessible through the various Regional Investment Centers (CRI ).

Foreign companies may utilize the online business registration mechanism. Foreign companies, with the exception of French companies, are required to provide an apostilled Arabic translated copy of their articles of association and an extract of the registry of commerce in its country of origin. Moreover, foreign companies must report the incorporation of the subsidiary a posteriori to the Foreign Exchange Office (Office de Changes) to facilitate repatriation of funds abroad such as profits and dividends. According to the World Bank, the process of registering a business in Morocco takes an average of nine days, significantly less than the Middle East and North Africa regional average of 20 days. Morocco does not require that the business owner deposit any paid-in minimum capital.

In January 2019, the electronic creation of businesses law 18-17 was published, but as of April 2021 the new process is not yet operational. The new system will allow for the creation of businesses online via an electronic platform managed by the Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC). All procedures related to the creation, registration, and publication of company data will be carried out via this platform, which is expected to launch by the end of 2021. A new national commission will monitor the implementation of the procedures. The Simplification of Administrative Procedures Law 55-19, passed in 2020, aims to streamline administrative processes by identifying and standardizing document requirements, eliminating unnecessary steps, and making the process fully digital via the National Administration Portal, which is expected to launch in Spring 2021.

The business facilitation mechanisms provide for equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in the economy. Notably, according to the World Bank, the procedure, length of time, and cost to register a new business is equal for men and women in Morocco. The U.S. Mission is unaware of any official assistance provided to women and underrepresented minorities through the business registration mechanisms. In cooperation with the Moroccan government, civil society, and the private sector, there have been several initiatives aimed at improving gender quality in the workplace and access to the workplace for foreign migrants, particularly those from sub-Saharan Africa.

Outward Investment

The Government of Morocco prioritizes investment in Africa. The African Development Bank ranks Morocco as the second biggest African investor in Sub-Saharan Africa, after South Africa, and the largest African investor in West Africa. According to the Department of Studies and Financial Forecasts, under the Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Administration Reform, $640 million, or 47 percent of Morocco’s total outward FDI, was invested in the African continent in 2019. The U.S. Mission is not aware of a standalone outward investment promotion agency, although AMDIE’s mission includes supporting Moroccans seeking to invest outside of the country for the purpose of boosting Moroccan exports. Nor is the U.S. Mission aware of any restrictions for domestic investors attempting to invest abroad. However, under the Moroccan investment code, repatriation of funds is limited to “convertible” Moroccan Dirham accounts. Morocco’s Foreign Exchange Office (“Office des Changes,” OC) implemented several changes for 2020 that slightly liberalize the country’s foreign exchange regulations. Moroccans going abroad for tourism can now exchange up to $4,700 in foreign currency per year, with the possibility to attain further allowances indexed to their income tax filings. Business travelers can also obtain larger amounts of foreign currency, provided their company has properly filed and paid corporate income taxes. Another new provision permits banks to use foreign currency accounts to finance investments in Morocco’s Industrial Acceleration Zones.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament and a mixed legal system of civil law based primarily on French law, with some influences from Islamic law. Legislative acts are subject to judicial review by the Constitutional Court excluding royal decrees (Dahirs) issued by the King, which have the force of law. Legislative power in Morocco is vested in both the government and the two chambers of Parliament, the Chamber of Representatives (Majlis Al-Nuwab) and the Chamber of Councilors (Majlis Al Mustashareen). The principal sources of commercial legislation in Morocco are the Code of Obligations and Contracts of 1913 and Law No. 15-95 establishing the Commercial Code. The Competition Council and the National Authority for Detecting, Preventing, and Fighting Corruption (INPPLC) have responsibility for improving public governance and advocating for further market liberalization. All levels of regulations exist (local, state, national, and supra-national). The most relevant regulations for foreign businesses depend on the sector in question. Ministries develop their own regulations and draft laws, including those related to investment, through their administrative departments, with approval by the respective minister. Each regulation and draft law is made available for public comment. Key regulatory actions are published in their entirety in Arabic and usually French in the official bulletin on the website  of the General Secretariat of the Government. Once published, the law is final. Public enterprises and establishments can adopt their own specific regulations provided they comply with regulations regarding competition and transparency.

Morocco’s regulatory enforcement mechanisms depend on the sector in question, and enforcement is legally reviewable. The National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT), for example, is the public body responsible for the control and regulation of the telecommunications sector. The agency regulates telecommunications by participating in the development of the legislative and regulatory framework. Morocco does not have specific regulatory impact assessment guidelines, nor are impact assessments required by law. Morocco does not have a specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by other individual agencies or government bodies.

The U.S. Mission is not aware of any informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations. The Moroccan Ministry of Finance posts quarterly statistics   (compiled in accordance with IMF recommendations) on public finance and debt on their website. A report on public debt is published on the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s website and is used as part of the budget bill formulation and voting processes. The fiscal year 2021 debt report was published on December 18, 2020.

International Regulatory Considerations

Morocco joined the WTO in 1995 and reports technical regulations that could affect trade with other member countries to the WTO. Morocco is a signatory to the Trade Facilitation Agreement   and has a 91.2 percent implementation rate of TFA requirements. European standards are widely referenced in Morocco’s regulatory system. In some cases, U.S. or international standards, guidelines, and recommendations are also accepted.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Moroccan legal system is a hybrid of civil law (French system) and some Islamic law, regulated by the Decree of Obligations and Contracts of 1913 as amended, the 1996 Code of Commerce, and Law No. 53-95 on Commercial Courts. These courts also have sole competence to entertain industrial property disputes, as provided for in Law No. 17-97 on the Protection of Industrial Property, irrespective of the legal status of the parties. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s 2015 Morocco Commercial Law Assessment Report , Royal Decree No. 1-97-65 (1997) established commercial court jurisdiction over commercial cases including insolvency. Although this led to some improvement in the handling of commercial disputes, the lack of training for judges on general commercial matters remains a key challenge to effective commercial dispute resolution in the country. In general, litigation procedures are time consuming and resource-intensive, and there is no legal requirement with respect to case publishing. Disputes may be brought before one of eight Commercial Courts located in Morocco’s main cities and one of three Commercial Courts of Appeal located in Casablanca, Fes, and Marrakech. There are other special courts such as the Military and Administrative Courts. Title VII of the Constitution provides that the judiciary shall be independent from the legislative and executive branches of government. The 2011 Constitution also authorized the creation of the Supreme Judicial Council, headed by the King, which has the authority to hire, dismiss, and promote judges. Enforcement actions are appealable at the Courts of Appeal, which hear appeals against decisions from the court of first instance.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The principal sources of commercial legislation in Morocco are the 1913 Royal Decree of Obligations and Contracts, as amended; Law No. 18-95 that established the 1995 Investment Charter; the 1996 Code of Commerce; and Law No. 53-95 on Commercial Courts. These courts have sole competence to hear industrial property disputes, as provided for in Law No. 17-97 on the Protection of Industrial Property, irrespective of the legal status of the parties. Morocco’s CRIs and AMDIE provide users with various investment-related information on key sectors, procedural information, calls for tenders, and resources for business creation. Their websites are infrequently updated.

Competition and Antitrust Laws

Morocco’s Competition Law No. 06-99 on Free Pricing and Competition outlines the authority of the Competition Council  as an independent executive body with investigatory powers. Together with the INPPLC, the Competition Council is one of the main actors charged with improving public governance and advocating for further market liberalization. Law No. 20-13, adopted on August 7, 2014, amended the powers of the Competition Council to bring them in line with the 2011 Constitution. The Competition Council’s responsibilities include making decisions on anti-competition practices and controlling concentrations, with powers of investigation and sanction; providing opinions in official consultations by government authorities; and publishing reviews and studies on the state of competition.

In February 2020, the Moroccan telecommunications regulator, National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT), issued a $340 million fine against Maroc Telecom for abusing its dominant position in the market. Maroc Telecom is majority owned by Etisalat, based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and is minority owned by the Moroccan government. ANRT ruled in favor of rival telecoms operator INWI, which is majority-owned by Morocco’s royal holding company and is minority-owned by Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund and a private Kuwaiti company, which had filed the complaint with ANRT.

Following reported mishandling of an investigation into the alleged collusion by oil distribution companies, King Mohammed VI convened an ad hoc committee to investigate the Competition Council’s dysfunctions. In March 2021, the king appointed a new council president, and parliament adopted a new bill strengthening the Competition Council by improving its legal framework and increasing transparency.

Expropriation and Compensation

Expropriation may only occur in the public interest for public use by a state entity, although in the past, private entities that are public service “concessionaires” mixed economy companies, or general interest companies have also been granted expropriation rights. Article 3 of Law No. 7-81 (May 1982) on expropriation, the associated Royal Decree of May 6, 1982, and Decree No. 2-82-328 of April 16, 1983 regulate government authority to expropriate property. The process of expropriation has two phases: in the administrative phase, the State declares public interest in expropriating specific land and verifies ownership, titles, and appraised value of the land. If the State and owner can come to agreement on the value, the expropriation is complete. If the owner appeals, the judicial phase begins, whereby the property is taken, a judge oversees the transfer of the property, and payment compensation is made to the owner based on the judgment. The U.S. Mission is not aware of any recent, confirmed instances of private property being expropriated for other than public purposes (eminent domain), or in a manner that is discriminatory or not in accordance with established principles of international law.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Morocco is a member of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and signed its convention in June 1967. Morocco is a party to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Law No. 08-05 provides for enforcement of awards made under these conventions.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Morocco is signatory to over 70 bilateral treaties recognizing binding international arbitration of trade disputes, including one with the United States. Law No. 08-05 established a system of conventional arbitration and mediation, while allowing parties to apply the Code of Civil Procedure in their dispute resolution. Foreign investors commonly rely on international arbitration to resolve contractual disputes. Commercial courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitration awards. Generally, investor rights are backed by a transparent, impartial procedure for dispute settlement. There have been no claims brought by foreign investors under the investment chapter of the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement since it came into effect in 2006. The U.S. Mission is not aware of any investment disputes over the last year involving U.S. investors.

Morocco officially recognizes foreign arbitration awards issued against the government. Domestic arbitration awards are also enforceable subject to an enforcement order issued by the President of the Commercial Court, who verifies that no elements of the award violate public order or the defense rights of the parties. As Morocco is a member of the New York Convention, international awards are also enforceable in accordance with the provisions of the convention. Morocco is also a member of the Washington Convention for the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and as such agrees to enforce and uphold ICSID arbitral awards. The U.S. Mission is not aware of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Morocco has a national commission on Alternative Dispute Resolution with a mandate to regulate mediation training centers and develop mediator certification systems. Morocco seeks to position itself as a regional center for arbitration in Africa, but the capacity of local courts remains a limiting factor. To remedy this shortcoming, the Moroccan government established the Center of Arbitration and Mediation in Rabat, and the Casablanca Finance City Authority established the Casablanca International Mediation and Arbitration Center, which now see a majority of investment disputes. The U.S. Mission is aware of several investment disputes and has advocated on behalf of U.S. companies to resolve the disputes.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Morocco’s bankruptcy law is based on French law. Commercial courts have jurisdiction over all cases related to insolvency, as set forth in Royal Decree No. 1-97-65 (1997). The Commercial Court in the debtor’s place of business holds jurisdiction in insolvency cases. The law gives secured debtors priority claim on assets and proceeds over unsecured debtors, who in turn have priority over equity shareholders. Bankruptcy is not criminalized. The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report ranked Morocco 73 out of 190 economies in “Resolving Insolvency”. The GOM revised the national insolvency code in March of 2018, but further reform is needed.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

As set out in the Investment Code, Morocco offers incentives designed to encourage foreign and local investment. Morocco’s Investment Charter gives the same benefits to all investors regardless of the industry in which they operate (except agriculture and phosphates, which remain outside the scope of the Charter). With respect to agricultural incentives, Morocco’s current Green Generation 2020-2030  plan aims to improve the competitiveness of the agribusiness industry by supporting value chains and making the industry more resilient and environmentally sound.

Morocco has several free zones offering companies incentives such as tax breaks, subsidies, and reduced customs duties. These zones aim to attract investment by companies seeking to export products from Morocco. As part of a government-wide strategy to strengthen its position as an African financial hub, Morocco offers incentives for firms that locate their regional headquarters in Morocco at Casablanca Finance City (CFC), Morocco’s flagship financial and business hub launched in 2010. For details on CFC eligibility, see CFC’s website .

In 2021, Morocco was removed from the European Union’s tax “ grey list ” after amending some tax policy measures deemed as potentially harmful based on the tax advantages offered to export companies, companies operating in free zones, and CFC. To enhance its competitiveness and investment attractiveness and to be aligned with international best practices, Morocco’s 2020 budget law transformed the country’s free zones into “Industrial Acceleration Zones” with a 15 percent corporate tax rate following an initial five years of exemption, compared to a previous corporate tax rate of 8.75 percent over 20 years. Similarly, the CFC regime provides companies holding CFC status a tax benefit exemption for five years followed by a reduced rate of 15% (compared to a rate of 31%). It applies to financial services (such as investment services and holding companies) and non-financial services activities (such as advisory and regional headquarters and distribution centers). The CFC regime is open to both Moroccan and foreign companies and provides the same tax benefits.

The Moroccan government launched its “investment reform plan” in 2016 to create a favorable environment for the private sector to drive growth. The plan includes the adoption of investment incentives to support the industrial ecosystem, tax and customs advantages to support investors and new investment projects, import duty exemptions, and a value added tax (VAT) exemption. AMDIE’s website  has more details on investment incentives, but generally these incentives are based on sectoral priorities (i.e. aerospace). Morocco does not issue guarantees or jointly finance FDI projects, except for some public-private partnerships in fields such as utilities.

The Moroccan Government offers several guarantee funds and sources of financing for investment projects to both Moroccan and foreign investors. For example, the Caisse Centrale de Garantie  (CCG), a public finance institution offers co-financing, equity financing, and guarantees.

Beyond tax exemptions granted under ordinary law, Moroccan regulations provide specific advantages for investors with investment agreements or contracts with the Moroccan Government if they meet the required criteria. These advantages include: subsidies for certain expenses related to investment through the Industrial Development and Investment Fund, subsidies of certain expenses for the promotion of investment in specific industrial sectors and the development of new technologies through the Hassan II Fund for Economic and Social Development, exemption from customs duties within the framework of Article 7.I of the Finance Law 12-98, and exemption from the Value Added Tax (VAT) on imports and domestic sales.

More information on specific incentives can be found at the Invest in Morocco website .

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The government maintains several “Industrial Acceleration Zones” in which companies enjoy lower tax rates of 15 percent after an initial five years of tax exemption. In some cases, the government provides generous incentives for companies to locate production facilities in the country. The Moroccan government also offers a VAT exemption for investors using and importing equipment goods, materials, and tools needed to achieve investment projects whose value is at least $20 million.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The Moroccan government views foreign investment as an important vehicle for creating local employment. Visa issuance for foreign employees is contingent upon a company’s inability to find a qualified local employee for a specific position and can only be issued after the company has verified the unavailability of such an employee with the National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Competency (ANAPEC). If these conditions are met, the Moroccan government allows the hiring of foreign employees, including for senior management. The process for obtaining and renewing visas and work permits can be onerous and may take up to six months, except for CFC members, where the processing time is reportedly one week.

Although there is no requirement of the use of domestic content in goods or technology, the government has announced its intent to pursue an import-substitution policy as part of its COVID-related industrial recovery plan and has amended its finance law to increase custom duties on finished products coming from non-FTA countries. Additionally, the plan established a special industrial project bank with the goal of supporting projects in 11 target sectors.

The WTO Trade Related Investment Measures’ (TRIMs) database does not indicate any reported Moroccan measures that are inconsistent with TRIMs requirements. Though not required, tenders in some industries, including solar energy, are written with targets for local content percentages. Both performance requirements and investment incentives are uniformly applied to both domestic and foreign investors depending on the size of the investment.

The Moroccan Data Protection Act (Act 09-08 ) stipulates that data controllers may only transfer data if a foreign nation ensures an adequate level of protection of privacy and fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals with regard to the treatment of their personal data. Morocco’s National Data Protection Commission (CNDP) defines the exceptions according to Moroccan law. Local regulation requires the release of source code for certain telecommunications hardware products. However, the U.S. Mission is not aware of any Moroccan government requirement that foreign IT companies should provide surveillance or backdoor access to their source-code or systems.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Responsible business conduct (RBC) has gained strength in the broader business community in tandem with Morocco’s economic expansion and stability. The Moroccan government does not have any regulations requiring companies to practice RBC nor does it give any preference to such companies. However, companies generally inform Moroccan authorities of their planned RBC involvement. Morocco joined the UN Global Compact network in 2006. The Compact provides support to companies that affirm their commitment to social responsibility. In 2016, the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs launched an annual gender equality prize to highlight Moroccan companies that promote women in the workforce. While there is no legislation mandating specific levels of RBC, foreign firms and some local enterprises follow generally accepted principles, such as the OECD RBC guidelines for multinational companies. NGOs and Morocco’s active civil society are also taking an increasingly active role in monitoring corporations’ RBC performance. Morocco does not currently participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) or the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, though it has held some consultations aimed at eventually joining EITI. No domestic transparency measures exist that require disclosure of payments made to governments. There have not been any cases of high-profile instances of private sector impact on human rights in the recent past.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

In Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index , Morocco maintained the same score of 40 but moved down six spots in the rankings (from 80th to 86th out of 180 countries). According to the State Department’s 2020 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, Moroccan law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were reports of government corruption in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches during the year.

According to the Global Corruption Barometer Africa 2019 report published in July 2019, 53 percent of Moroccans surveyed think corruption increased in the previous 12 months, 31 percent of public services users paid a bribe in the previous 12 months, and 74 percent believe the government is doing a bad job in tackling corruption.

The 2011 constitution mandated the creation of a national anti-corruption entity. Morocco formally established the National Authority for Probity, Prevention, and Fighting Corruption (INPLCC) but did not become it operational until 2018 when its board was appointed by the king. The INPLCC is tasked with initiating, coordinating, and overseeing the implementation of policies for the prevention and fight against corruption, as well as gathering and disseminating information on the issue. Additionally, Morocco’s anti-corruption efforts include enhancing the transparency of public tenders and implementation of a requirement that senior government officials submit financial disclosure statements at the start and end of their government service, although their family members are not required to make such disclosures. Few public officials submitted such disclosures, and there are no effective penalties for failing to comply. Morocco does not have conflict of interest legislation. In 2018, thanks to the passage of an Access to Information (AI) law, Morocco joined the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral effort to make governments more transparent.

Although the Moroccan government does not require that private companies establish internal codes of conduct, the Moroccan Institute of Directors (IMA) was established in June 2009 with the goal of bringing together individuals, companies, and institutions willing to promote corporate governance and conduct. IMA published the four Moroccan Codes of Good Corporate Governance Practices. Some private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials. Morocco signed the UN Convention against Corruption in 2007 and hosted the States Parties to the Convention’s Fourth Session in 2011. However, Morocco does not provide any formal protections to NGOs involved in investigating corruption. Although the U.S. Mission is not aware of cases involving corruption regarding customs or taxation issues, American businesses report encountering unexpected delays and requests for documentation that is not required under the FTA or standardized shipping norms.

Resources to Report Corruption

National Authority for Probity, Prevention, and Fighting Corruption 
Avenue Annakhil, Immeuble High Tech, Hall B, 3eme etage, Hay Ryad-Rabat
+212-5 37 57 86 60
inpplc@inpplc.ma

Transparency International National Chapter 
24 Boulevard de Khouribga, Casablanca 20250
Telephone number: +212-22-542 699
transparency@menara.ma

10. Political and Security Environment

Morocco does not have a significant history of politically motivated violence or civil disturbance. There has not been any damage to projects and/or installations with a continued impact on the investment environment. Demonstrations routinely occur in Morocco and usually center on political, social, or labor issues. They can attract thousands of people in major city centers, but most have been peaceful and orderly.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

In the Moroccan labor market, many Moroccan university graduates cannot find jobs commensurate with their education and training, and employers report insufficient skilled candidates. The educational system does not prioritize STEM literacy and industrial skills and many graduates are unprepared to meet contemporary job market demands. In 2011, the Moroccan government restructured its employment promotion agency, the National Agency for Promotion of Employment and Skills (ANAPEC), to assist new university graduates prepare for and find work in the private sector that requires specialized skills. The government also is pursuing a strategy to increase the number of students in vocational and professional training programs. The Bureau of Professional Training and Job Promotion (OFPPT), Morocco’s main public provider for professional training, has made several large-scale investments to address the country’s skills gap, most recently announcing the launch of 12 regional training centers in April 2021 at cost of $400 million, adding to its network of dozens of specialized training centers across the county.

According to official government figures, unemployment was 11.9 percent in 2020, with youth (ages 15-24) unemployment hovering around 20 percent. The World Bank and other international institutions estimate that actual unemployment – and underemployment – rates may be higher. In 2018, the Government of Morocco launched a National Plan for Job Promotion, created after three years of collaboration with government partners involved in employment policy, to support job creation, strengthen the job market, and consolidate regional resources devoted to job promotion. This plan promotes entrepreneurship – especially in the context of regionalization outside the Casablanca-Rabat corridor – to boost youth employment.

Pursuing a forward-leaning migration policy, the Moroccan government has regularized the status of over 50,000 sub-Saharans migrants since 2014. Regularization provides these migrants with legal access to employment, employment services, and education and vocation training. The majority of sub-Saharan migrants who benefitted from the regularization program work in call centers and education institutes, if they have strong French or English skills, or domestic work and construction.

According to section VI of the labor law, employers in the commercial, industrial, agricultural, and forestry sectors with ten or more employees must communicate a dismissal decision to the employee’s union representatives, where applicable, at least one month prior to dismissal. The employer must also provide grounds for dismissal, the number of employees concerned, and the amount of time intended to undertake termination. With regards to severance pay (article 52 of the labor law), employees with permanent contracts are entitled to compensation in case of dismissal after six months of employment at the same company regardless of the type and frequency of payment. The labor law differentiates between layoffs for economic reasons and firing. In case of serious misconduct, the employee may be dismissed without notice or compensation or payment of damages. The employee must file an application with the National Social Security Funds (CNSS) agency within 60 days of termination. During this period, the employee shall be entitled to medical benefits, family allowances, and possibly pension entitlements. Labor law is applicable in all sectors of employment; there are no specific labor laws to foreign trade zones or other sectors. More information is available from the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Economic Diplomacy unit.

Morocco has roughly 20 collective bargaining agreements in the following sectors: Telecommunications, automotive industry, refining industry, road transport, fish canning industry, aircraft cable factories, collection of domestic waste, ceramics, naval construction and repair, paper industry, communication and information technology, land transport, and banks. The sectoral agreements that exist to date are in the banking, energy, printing, chemicals, ports, and agricultural sectors.

According to the State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices, the Moroccan constitution grants workers the right to form and join unions, strike, and bargain collectively, with some restrictions (S 396-429 Labor Code Act 1999, 65-99). The law prohibits certain categories of government employees, including members of the armed forces, police, and some members of the judiciary, from forming or joining unions and from conducting strikes. The law allows several independent unions to exist but requires 35 percent of the total employee base to be associated with a union for the union to be representative and engage in collective bargaining. The government generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Employers limited the scope of collective bargaining, frequently setting wages unilaterally for the majority of unionized and nonunionized workers. Domestic NGOs reported that employers often used temporary contracts to discourage employees from affiliating with or organizing unions. Legally, unions can negotiate with the government on national-level labor issues.

Labor disputes (S 549-581 Labor Code Act 1999, 65-99) are common, and in some cases result in employers failing to implement collective bargaining agreements and withholding wages. Trade unions complain that the government sometimes uses Article 288 of the penal code to prosecute workers for striking and to suppress strikes. Labor inspectors are tasked with mediation of labor disputes. In general, strikes occur in heavily unionized sectors such as education and government services, and such strikes can lead to disruptions in government services but usually remain peaceful.

In November 2020 following the large spike in unemployment caused by COVID-19, CNSS loosened eligibility requirements, allowing more individuals to qualify for unemployment benefits. Additional laws to further expand social protection in the legislative process, including universal health insurance, family allowances, pension plans, and unemployment benefits. The Domestic Worker Law ( 19-12 ) entered into force in 2020, giving domestic workers legal status and improving employment conditions.

Chapter 16 of the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA) addresses labor issues and commits both parties to respecting international labor standards.

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
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $119,913 2019 $119,700 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $3,331 2019 $406 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $385 2019 $-21 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2018 55.3% 2019 56.2% UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/
EconomicTrends/Fdi.html    

* Source for Host Country Data: Moroccan GDP data from Bank Al-Maghrib, all other statistics from the Moroccan Exchange Office.  Conflicts in host country and international statistics are likely due to methodological differences

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 63,904 100% Total Outward 5,398 100%
France 20,052 31.4% Ivory Coast 742 13.7%
UAE 13,383 20.9% Luxembourg 490 9.1%
Spain 5,378 8.4% France 323 6%
Switzerland 3,530 5.5% Mauritius 235 5%
United States 3,331 5.2% Egypt 186 3.5%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Investment Climate Statements
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