Egypt

Executive Summary

The Egyptian government continues to make progress on economic reforms, and while many challenges remain, Egypt’s investment climate is improving.  The country has undertaken a number of structural reforms since the flotation of the Egyptian Pound (EGP) in November 2016, and after a strong track record of successfully completing a three-year, $12 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF)-backed economic reform program, Egypt was one of the fastest growing emerging markets prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Increased investor confidence and the reactivation of Egypt’s interbank foreign exchange (FX) market have attracted foreign portfolio investment and grown foreign reserves.  The Government of Egypt (GoE) also understands that attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) is key to addressing many of its economic challenges and has stated its intention to create a more conducive environment for FDI.  FDI inflows grew 11 percent between 2018 and 2019, from $8.1 to $9 billion, according to data from the Central Bank of Egypt.  The United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has ranked Egypt as the top FDI destination in Africa between 2015 and 2019.

Egypt has implemented a number of regulatory reforms, including a new investment law in 2017; a new companies law and a bankruptcy law in 2018; and a new customs law in 2020.  These laws aim to improve Egypt’s investment and business climate and help the economy realize its full potential.  The 2017 Investment Law is designed to attract new investment and provides a framework for the government to offer investors more incentives, consolidate investment-related rules, and streamline procedures.  The 2020 Customs Law is likewise meant to streamline aspects of import and export procedures, including a single window system, electronic payments, and expedited clearances for authorized companies.

The government also hopes to attract investment in several “mega projects,” including the construction of a new national administrative capital, and to promote mineral extraction opportunities.  Egypt intends to capitalize on its location bridging the Middle East, Africa, and Europe to become a regional trade and investment gateway and energy hub, and hopes to attract information and communications technology (ICT) sector investments for its digital transformation program.

Egypt is a party to more than 100 bilateral investment treaties, including with the United States.  It is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), and the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA).  In many sectors, there is no legal difference between foreign and domestic investors. Special requirements exist for foreign investment in certain sectors, such as upstream oil and gas as well as real estate, where joint ventures are required.

Several challenges persist for investors.  Dispute resolution is slow, with the time to adjudicate a case to completion averaging three to five years.  Other obstacles to investment include excessive bureaucracy, regulatory complexity, a mismatch between job skills and labor market demand, slow and cumbersome customs procedures, and various non-tariff trade barriers.  Inadequate protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) remains a significant hurdle in certain sectors and Egypt remains on the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Watch List. Nevertheless, Egypt’s reform story is noteworthy, and if the steady pace of implementation for structural reforms continues, and excessive bureaucracy reduces over time, then the investment climate should continue to look more favorable to U.S. investors.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 106 of 198 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 114 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/
en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2019 96 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 USD 11,000 http://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 2,690 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Egypt’s completion of the most recent three-year, $13 billion IMF Extended Fund Facility and its associated reform package helped stabilize Egypt’s macroeconomy, introduced important subsidy and social spending reforms, and helped restore investor confidence in the Egyptian economy.  The flotation of the Egyptian Pound (EGP) in November 2016 and the restart of Egypt’s interbank foreign exchange (FX) market as part of this program was the first major step in restoring investor confidence that immediately led to increased portfolio investment and should lead to increased FDI over the long term.  Other important reforms have included a new investment law and an industrial licensing law in 2017, a new bankruptcy law in 2018, and other reforms aimed at reducing regulatory overhang and improving the ease of doing business. Egypt’s government has announced plans to further improve its business climate through investment promotion, facilitation, more efficient business services, and the implementation of investor-friendly policies.

With a few exceptions, Egypt does not legally discriminate between Egyptian nationals and foreigners in the formation and operation of private companies. The 1997 Investment Incentives Law was designed to encourage domestic and foreign investment in targeted economic sectors and to promote decentralization of industry away from the Nile Valley. The law allows 100 percent foreign ownership of investment projects and guarantees the right to remit income earned in Egypt and to repatriate capital.

The Tenders Law (Law 89 of 1998) requires the government to consider both price and best value in awarding contracts and to issue an explanation for refusal of a bid. However, the law contains preferences for Egyptian domestic contractors, who are accorded priority if their bids do not exceed the lowest foreign bid by more than 15 percent.

The Capital Markets Law (Law 95 of 1992) and its amendments, including the most recent in February 2018, and regulations govern Egypt’s capital markets.  Foreign investors are able to buy shares on the Egyptian Stock Exchange on the same basis as local investors.

The General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI, http://gafi.gov.eg) is the principal government body that regulates and facilitates foreign investment in Egypt, and reports directly to the Prime Minister.  Prior to December 2019, GAFI had been a component of the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation.

”The Investor Service Center (ISC)” is an administrative unit established within GAFI that provides ”one-stop-shop” services, easing the way for global investors looking for opportunities presented by Egypt’s domestic economy and the nation’s competitive advantages as an export hub for Europe, the Arab world and Africa. This is in addition to promoting Egypt’s investment opportunities in various sectors.

ISC provides a full start-to-end service to the investor, including assistance related to company incorporation, establishment of company branches, approval of minutes of Board of Directors and General Assemblies, increase of capital, change of activity, liquidation procedures, and other corporate-related matters. The Center also aims to issue licenses, approvals, and permits required for investment activities, within 60 days from the date of request submissions. Other services GAFI provides include:

Advice and support to help in the evaluation of Egypt as a potential investment location;

Identification of suitable locations and site selection options within Egypt;

Assistance in identifying suitable Egyptian partners;

Aftercare and dispute settlement services.​

ISC Branches are expected to be established in all Egypt’s Governorates.  Egypt maintains ongoing communication with investors through formal business roundtables, investment promotion events (conferences and seminars), and one-on-one investment meetings.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Egyptian Companies Law does not set any limitation on the number of foreigners, neither as shareholders nor as managers/board members, except for Limited Liability Companies where the only restriction is that one of the managers should be an Egyptian national. In addition, companies are required to obtain a commercial and tax license, and pass a security clearance process.  Companies are able to operate while undergoing the often lengthy security screening process.  However, if the firm is rejected, it must cease operations and undergo a lengthy appeals process.  Businesses have cited instances where Egyptian clients were hesitant to conclude long term business contracts with foreign businesses that have yet to receive a security clearance. They have also expressed concern about seemingly arbitrary refusals, a lack of explanation when a security clearance is not issued, and the lengthy appeals process. Although the Government of Egypt has made progress streamlining the business registration process at GAFI, inconsistent treatment by banks and other government officials has in some cases led to registration delays.

Sector-specific limitations to investment include restrictions on foreign shareholding of companies owning lands in the Sinai Peninsula. Likewise, the Import-Export Law requires companies wishing to register in the Import Registry to be 51 percent owned and managed by Egyptians. In 2016, the Ministry of Trade prepared an amendment to the law allowing the registration of importing companies owned by foreign shareholders, but the law has not yet been submitted to Parliament. Nevertheless, the new Investment Law does allow wholly foreign companies which are invested in Egypt to import goods and materials.

Land/Real Estate Law 15 of 1963 explicitly prohibits foreign individual or corporation ownership of agricultural land (defined as traditional agricultural land in the Nile Valley, Delta and Oases). The ownership of land by foreigners is governed by three laws: Law No. 15 of 1963, Law No. 143 of 1981, and Law No. 230 of 1996. Law No. 15 stipulates that no foreigners, whether natural or juristic persons, may acquire agricultural land.  Law No. 143 governs the acquisition and ownership of desert land. Certain limits are placed on the number of feddans (one feddan is equal to approximately one hectare) that may be owned by individuals, families, cooperatives, partnerships and corporations. Partnerships are permitted to own 10,000 feddans. Joint stock companies are permitted to own 50,000 feddans.

Under Law No. 230 non-Egyptians are allowed to own real estate (vacant or built) only under the following conditions:

  • Ownership is limited to two real estate properties in Egypt that serve as accommodation for the owner and his family (spouses and minors) in addition to the right to own real estate needed for activities licensed by the Egyptian Government.
  • The area of each real estate property does not exceed 4,000 m².
  • The real estate is not considered a historical site.

Exemption from the first and second conditions is subject to the approval of the Prime Minister. Ownership in tourist areas and new communities is subject to conditions established by the Cabinet of Ministers. Non-Egyptians owning vacant real estate in Egypt must build within a period of five years from the date their ownership is registered by a notary public. Non-Egyptians cannot sell their real estate for five years after registration of ownership, unless the consent of the Prime Minister for an exemption is obtained.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) signed a declaration with Egypt on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises on July 11, 2007, at which time Egypt became the first Arab and African country to sign the OECD Declaration, marking a new stage in Egypt’s drive to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI).  On July 8, 2020, the OECD released an Investment Policy Review for Egypt which highlighted the government’s progress implementing a proactive reform agenda to improve the business climate, attract more foreign and domestic investment, and reap the benefits of openness to FDI and participation in global value chains.

https://www.oecd.org/countries/egypt/egypt-continues-to-strengthen-its-institutional-and-legal-framework-for-investment.htm 

In January 2018 the World Trade Organization (WTO) published a comprehensive review of the Egyptian Government’s trade policies, including details of the 2017 Investment Law’s main provisions.

https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s367_e.pdf 

The United Nations Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD) published an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Policy Review for Egypt in 2017, in which it highlighted the potential for investments in the ICT sector to help drive economic growth and recommended specific reforms aimed at strengthening Egypt’s performance in key ICT policy areas.  https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/dtlstict2017d3_en.pdf   UNCTAD published its last comprehensive Investment Policy Review for Egypt in 1999, and an implementation report in 2006.

Business Facilitation

GAFI’s new ISC (https://gafi.gov.eg/English/Howcanwehelp/OneStopShop/Pages/default.aspx ) was launched in February 2018 and provides a full start-to-end service to the investor as described above.  The new Investment Law also introduces ”Ratification Offices” to facilitate obtaining necessary approvals, permits, and licenses within 10 days of issuing a Ratification Certificate.

Investors may fulfill the technical requirements of obtaining the required licenses through these Ratification Offices, directly through the concerned authority, or through its representatives at the Investment Window at GAFI.  The Investor Service Center is required to issue licenses within 60 days from submission. Companies can also register online.  GAFI has also launched e-establishment, e-signature, and e-payment services to facilitate establishing companies.

Outward Investment

Egypt promotes and incentivizes outward investment. According to the Egyptian government’s FDI Markets database for the period from January 2003 to May 2020, outward investment featured the following:

  • Egyptian companies implemented 270 Egyptian FDI projects. Estimated total value of the projects, which employed about 50,000 workers, was $25.6 billion.
  • The following countries respectively received the largest amount of Egyptian outward investment in terms of total project value: UAE, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kenya, Jordan, Ethiopia, Germany, Libya, Morocco and Sudan. The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Algeria accounted for about 28 percent of the total amount.

Elsewedy Electric was the largest Egyptian company investing abroad, implementing 20 projects with a total investment estimated to be $2.1 billion.

Egypt does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Egypt has signed 115 Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), out of which 74 BITs have entered into force. The full list can be found at http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/IIA .

The U.S.-Egypt Bilateral Investment Treaty provides for fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory treatment for investors of both nations. The treaty includes provisions for international legal standards on expropriation and compensation; free financial transfers; and procedures for the settlement of investment disputes, including international arbitration.

In addition to BITs, Egypt is also a signatory to a wide variety of other agreements covering trade issues. Egypt joined the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in June 1998, and in 2019 deposited its instrument of ratification for the 2018 African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).  In July 1999, Egypt and the United States signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). In June 2001, Egypt signed an Association Agreement with the European Union (EU), which entered into force on June 1, 2004. The agreement provided immediate duty free access of Egyptian products into EU markets, while duty free access for EU products into the Egyptian market was phased in over a 12-year period ending in 2016.  In 2010, Egypt and the EU completed an agricultural annex to their agreement, liberalizing trade in over 90 percent of agricultural goods.

Egypt is also a member of the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement (GAFTA), and a member of the Agadir Agreement with Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia, which relaxes rules of origin requirements on products jointly manufactured by the countries for export to Europe. Egypt also has an FTA with Turkey, in force since March 2007, and an FTA with the Mercosur bloc of Latin American nations.

In 2004, Egypt and Israel signed an agreement to take advantage of the U.S. Government’s Qualifying Industrial Zone (QIZ) program. The purpose of the QIZ program is to promote stronger ties between the region’s peace partners, as well as to generate employment and higher incomes, by granting duty-free access to goods produced in QIZs in Egypt using a specified percentage of Israeli and local input. Under Egypt’s QIZ agreement, Egypt’s exports to the United States produced in certain industrial areas are eligible for duty-free treatment if they contain a minimum 10.5 percent Israeli content.

The industrial areas currently included in the QIZ program are Alexandria, areas in Greater Cairo such as Sixth of October, Tenth of Ramadan, Fifteenth of May, South of Giza, Shobra El-Khema, Nasr City, and Obour, areas in the Delta governorates such as Dakahleya, Damietta, Monofeya and Gharbeya, and areas in the Suez Canal such as Suez, Ismailia, Port Said, and other specified areas in Upper Egypt. Egyptian exports to the United States through the QIZ program have mostly been ready-made garments and processed foods. The value of the Egyptian QIZ exports to the United States was approximately $752 million in 2017.

Egypt has a bilateral tax treaty with the United States. Egypt also has tax agreements with 59 other countries, including UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Mauritius, Bahrain, and Morocco.

The Egyptian Parliament passed and the government implemented a value added tax (VAT) in late 2016, which took the place of the General Sales Tax, as part of the IMF loan and economic reform program.  However, the government decided to postpone the “Stock Market Capital Gains Tax” for three years as of early 2017. In 2016, there were a number of tax disputes between foreign investors and the government, but most of them were resolved through the Tax Department and the Economic Court.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The Egyptian government has made efforts to improve the transparency of government policy and to support a fair, competitive marketplace.  Nevertheless, improving government transparency and consistency has proven difficult and reformers have faced strong resistance from entrenched bureaucratic and private interests.  Significant obstacles continue to hinder private investment, including the reportedly arbitrary imposition of bureaucratic impediments and the length of time needed to resolve them.  Nevertheless, the impetus for positive change driven by the government reform agenda augurs well for improvement in policy implementation and transparency.

Enactment of laws is the purview of the Parliament, while executive regulations are the domain of line ministries.  Under the Constitution, draft legislation can be presented by the president, the cabinet, and any member of parliament.  After submission, parliamentary committees review and approve, including any amendments.  Upon parliamentary approval, a judicial body reviews the constitutionality of any legislation before referring it to the president for his approval.  Although notice and full drafts of legislation are typically printed in the Official Gazette (similar to the Federal Register in the United States), in practice consultation with the public is limited.  In recent years, the Ministry of Trade and other government bodies have circulated draft legislation among concerned parties, including business associations and labor unions. This has been a welcome change from previous practice, but is not yet institutionalized across the government.

While Egyptian parliaments have historically held “social dialogue” sessions with concerned parties and private or civic organizations to discuss proposed legislation, it is unclear to what degree the current Parliament will adopt a more inclusive approach to social dialogue.  Many aspects of the 2016 IMF program and related economic reforms stimulated parliament to engage more broadly with the public, marking some progress in this respect.

Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international norms.  The Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) supervises and regulates all non-banking financial markets and instruments, including capital markets, futures exchanges, insurance activities, mortgage finance, financial leasing, factoring, securitization, and microfinance.  It issues rules that facilitate market efficiency and transparency. FRA has issued legislation and regulatory decisions on non-banking financial laws which govern FRA’s work and the entities under its supervision. (http://www.fra.gov.eg/jtags/efsa_en/index_en.jsp )

The criteria for awarding government contracts and licenses are made available when bid rounds are announced.  The process actually used to award contracts is broadly consistent with the procedural requirements set forth by law.  Further, set-aside requirements for small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) participation in GoE procurement are increasingly highlighted. FRA maintains a centralized website where key regulations and laws are published: http://www.fra.gov.eg/content/efsa_en/efsa_pages_en/laws_efsa_en.htm 

The Parliament and the independent “Administrative Control Authority” both ensure the government’s commitment to follow administrative processes at all levels of government.  Egypt does not have an online equivalent of the U.S. Federal Register and there is no centralized online location for key regulatory actions or their summaries.

The cabinet develops and submits proposed regulations to the president following discussion and consultation with the relevant ministry and informal consultation with other interest groups. Based on the recommendations provided in the proposal, including recommendations by the presidential advisors, the president issues “Presidential Decrees” that function as implementing regulations.  Presidential decrees are published in the “Official Gazette” for enforcement.

The specific government agency or entity responsible for enforcing the regulation works with other departments for implementation across the government.  Not all issued regulations are announced online. Theoretically, the enforcement process is legally reviewable.

Before a government regulation is implemented, there is an attempt to properly analyze and thoroughly debate proposed legislation and rules using appropriate available data.  But there are no laws requiring scientific studies or quantitative analysis of impacts of regulations. Not all public comments received by regulators are made public.

The government made its budget documents widely and easily accessible to the general public, including online.  Budget documents did not include allocations to military state-owned enterprises, nor allocations to and earnings from state-owned enterprises.  Information on government debt obligations was publicly available online, but up-to-date and clear information on state-owned enterprise debt guaranteed by the government was not available.  According to information the Central Bank has provided to the World Bank, the lack of information available about publicly guaranteed private sector debt meant that this debt was generally recorded as private sector non-guaranteed debt thus potentially obscuring some contingent debt liabilities.

International Regulatory Considerations

In general, international standards are the main reference for Egyptian standards.  According to the Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality Control, approximately 7,000 national standards are aligned with international standards in various sectors.  In the absence of international standards, Egypt uses other references which are referred to in Ministerial decrees No. 180//1996 and No. 291//2003, which stipulate that in the absence of Egyptian standards, the producers and importers may use the following:

European standards (EN)
U.S. standards (ANSI)
Japanese standards (JIS)

Egypt is a member of the WTO, participates actively in various committees, and notifies technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade.  Egypt ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) on June 22, 2017 by a vote of Parliament and issuance of presidential decree No. 149/2017, and deposited its formal notification to the WTO on June 24, 2019.  Egypt notified indicative and definitive dates for implementing Category B and C commitments on June 20, 2019, but to date has not notified dates for implementing Category A commitments.  In August 2020 the Egyptian Parliament passed a new Customs Law that includes provisions for key TFA reforms, including advance rulings, separation of release, a Single Window system, expedited customs procedures for authorized economic operators, post-clearance audits, and e-payments.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Egypt’s legal system is a civil codified law system based on the French model.  If contractual disputes arise, claimants can sue for remedies through the court system or seek resolution through arbitration.  Egypt has written commercial and contractual laws. The country has a system of economic courts, specializing in private sector disputes, which have jurisdiction over cases related to economic and commercial matters, including intellectual property disputes.  The judiciary is set up as an independent branch of the government.

Regulations and enforcement actions can be appealed through Egypt’s courts, though appellants often complain about the very lengthy judicial process, which can often take years.  To enforce judgments of foreign courts in Egypt, the party seeking to enforce the judgment must obtain an exequatur (a legal document issued by governments allowing judgements to be enforced).  To apply for an exequatur, the normal procedures for initiating a lawsuit in Egypt must be satisfied. Moreover, several other conditions must be satisfied, including ensuring reciprocity between the Egyptian and foreign country’s courts, and verifying the competence of the court rendering the judgment.

Judges in Egypt are said to enjoy a high degree of public trust and are the designated monitors for general elections.  The Judiciary is proud of its independence and can point to a number of cases where a judge has made surprising decisions that run counter to the desires of the regime.  The judge’s ability to loosely interpret the law can sometimes lead to an uneven application of justice.  The system’s slowness and dependence on paper processes hurts its overall competence and reliability.  The executive branch claims to have no influence over the judiciary, but in practice political pressures seem to influence the courts on a case by case basis.  In the experience of the Embassy, judicial decisions are highly appealable at the national level and this appeal process is regularly used by litigants.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

No specialized court exists for foreign investments.

The 2017 Investment Law, as well as other FDI-related laws and regulations, are published on GAFI’s website, https://gafi.gov.eg/English/StartaBusiness/Laws-and-Regulations/Pages/default.aspx .

In 2017 the Parliament also passed the Industrial Permits Act, which reduced the time it takes to license a new factory by mandating that the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) respond to a request for a license within 30 days of the request being filed.  As of February 2020, new regulations allow IDA regional branch directors or their designees to grant conditional licenses to industrial investors until other registration requirements are complete.

In 2016, the Import-Export Law was revised to allow companies wishing to register in the Import Registry to be 51 percent owned and managed by Egyptians; formerly the law required 100 percent Egyptian ownership and management.  In November 2016, the inter-ministerial Supreme Investment Council also announced seventeen presidential decrees designed to spur investment or resolve longstanding issues. These include:

  • Forming a “National Payments Council” that will work to restrict the handling of FX outside the banking sector;
  • A decision to postpone for three years the capital gains taxon stock market transactions;
  • Producers of agricultural crops that Egypt imports or exports will get tax exemptions;
  • Five-year tax exemptions for manufacturers of “strategic” goodsthat Egypt imports or exports;
  • Five-year tax exemptionsfor agriculture and industrial investments in Upper Egypt;
  • Begin tendering land with utilities for industry in Upper Egypt for free as outlined by the Industrial Development Authority.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Investment Incentives Law provides guarantees against nationalization or confiscation of investment projects under the law’s domain. The law also provides guarantees against seizure, requisition, blocking, and placing of assets under custody or sequestration.  It offers guarantees against full or partial expropriation of real estate and investment project property. The U.S.-Egypt Bilateral Investment Treaty also provides protection against expropriation. Private firms are able to take cases of alleged expropriation to court, but the judicial system can take several years to resolve a case.

Expropriation and Compensation

Egypt’s Investment Incentives Law provides guarantees against nationalization or confiscation of investment projects under the law’s domain.  The law also provides guarantees against seizure, requisition, blocking, and placing of assets under custody or sequestration.  It offers guarantees against full or partial expropriation of real estate and investment project property.  The U.S.-Egypt Bilateral Investment Treaty also provides protection against expropriation.  Private firms are able to take cases of alleged expropriation to court, but the judicial system can take several years to resolve a case.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Egypt acceded to the International Convention for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in 1971 and is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, which provides a framework for the arbitration of investment disputes between the government and foreign investors from another member state, provided the parties agree to such arbitration. Without prejudice to Egyptian courts, the Investment Incentives Law recognizes the right of investors to settle disputes within the framework of bilateral agreements, the ICSID or through arbitration before the Regional Center for International Commercial Arbitration in Cairo, which applies the rules of the United Nations Commissions on International Trade Law.

Egypt adheres to the 1958 New York Convention on the Enforcement of Arbitral Awards; the 1965 Washington Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and the Nationals of Other States; and the 1974 Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between the Arab States and Nationals of Other States.  An award issued pursuant to arbitration that took place outside Egypt may be enforced in Egypt if it is either covered by one of the international conventions to which Egypt is party or it satisfies the conditions set out in Egypt’s Dispute Settlement Law 27 of 1994, which provides for the arbitration of domestic and international commercial disputes and limited challenges of arbitration awards in the Egyptian judicial system.  The Dispute Settlement Law was amended in 1997 to include disputes between public enterprises and the private sector.

To enforce judgments of foreign courts in Egypt, the party seeking to enforce the judgment must obtain an exequatur.  To apply for an exequatur, the normal procedures for initiating a lawsuit in Egypt, and several other conditions must be satisfied, including ensuring reciprocity between the Egyptian and foreign country’s courts and verifying the competence of the court rendering the judgment.

Egypt has a system of economic courts specializing in private sector disputes that have jurisdiction over cases related to economic and commercial matters, including intellectual property disputes. Despite these provisions, business and investors in Egypt’s renewable energy projects have reported significant problems resolving disputes with the Government of Egypt.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The U.S.-Egypt Bilateral Investment Treaty allows an investor to take a dispute directly to binding third-party arbitration. The Egyptian courts generally endorse international arbitration clauses in commercial contracts. For example, the Court of Cassation has, on a number of occasions, confirmed the validity of arbitration clauses included in contracts between Egyptian and foreign parties.

A new mechanism for simplified settlement of investment disputes aimed at avoiding the court system altogether has been established. In particular, the law established a Ministerial Committee on Investment Contract Disputes, responsible for the settlement of disputes arising from investment contracts to which the State, or a public or private body affiliated therewith, is a party. This is in addition to establishing a Complaint Committee to consider challenges connected to the implementation of Egypt’s Investment Law. Finally, the decree established a Committee for Resolution of Investment Disputes, which will review complaints or disputes between investors and the government related to the implementation of the Investment Law.  In practice, Egypt’s dispute resolution mechanisms are time-consuming but broadly effective.  Businesses have, however, reported difficulty collecting payment from the government when awarded a monetary settlement.

Over the past 10 years, there have been several investment disputes involving both U.S. persons and foreign investors.  Most of the cases have been settled, though no definitive number is available. Local courts in Egypt recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.  There are no known extrajudicial actions against foreign investors in Egypt during the period of this report.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Egypt allows mediation as a mechanism for alternative dispute resolution (ADR), a structured negotiation process in which an independent person known as a mediator assists the parties to identify and assess options, and negotiate an agreement to resolve their dispute.  GAFI has an Investment Disputes Settlement Center, which uses mediation as an ADR.

The Economic Court recognizes and enforces arbitral awards.  Judgments of foreign courts may be recognized and enforceable under local courts under limited conditions.

In most cases, domestic courts have found in favor of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) involved in investment disputes.  In such disputes, non-government parties have often complained about the delays and discrimination in court processes.

It is recommended that U.S. companies employ contractual clauses that specify binding international (not local) arbitration of disputes in their commercial agreements.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Egypt passed a new bankruptcy law in January 2018, which should speed up the restructuring and settlement of troubled companies.  It also replaces the threat of imprisonment with fines in cases of bankruptcy.  As of July, 2020, the Egyptian government was considering but had not yet implemented amendments to the 2018 law that would allow debtors to file for bankruptcy protection, and would give creditors the ability to determine whether debtors could continue operating, be placed under administrative control, or forced to liquidate their assets.

In practice, the paperwork involved in liquidating a business remains convoluted and extremely protracted; starting a business is much easier than shutting one down.  Bankruptcy is frowned upon in Egyptian culture and many businesspeople still believe they may be found criminally liable if they declare bankruptcy.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The Investment Law 72/2017 gives multiple incentives to investors as described below.  In August 2019, President Sisi ratified amendments to the Investment Law that allow its incentives programs to apply to expansions of existing investment projects in addition to new investments.

General Incentives:

  • All investment projects subject to the provisions of the new law enjoy the general incentives provided by it.
  • Investors are exempted from the stamp tax, fees of the notarization, registration of the Memorandum of Incorporation of the companies, credit facilities, and mortgage contracts associated with their business for five years from the date of registration in the Commercial Registry, in addition to the registration contracts of the lands required for a company’s establishment.
  • If the establishment is under the provisions of the new investment law, it will benefit from a two percent unified custom tax over all imported machinery, equipment, and devices required for the set-up of such a company.

Special Incentive Programs:

  • Investment projects established within three years of the date of the issuance of the Investment Law will enjoy a deduction from their net profit, subject to the income tax:
    • 50 percent of the investment costs for geographical region (A) (the regions the most in need of development as well as designated projects in Suez Canal Special Economic Zone and the “Golden Triangle” along the Red Sea between the cities of Safaga, Qena and El Quseer);
    • 30 percent of the investment costs to geographical region (B) (which represents the rest of the republic).
  • Provided that such deduction shall not exceed 80 percent of the paid-up capital of the company, the incentive could be utilized over a maximum of seven years.

Additional Incentive Program:

The Cabinet of Ministers may decide to grant additional incentives for investment projects in accordance with specific rules and regulations as follows:

  • The establishment of special customs ports for exports and imports of the investment projects.
  • The state may incur part of the costs of the technical training for workers.
  • Free allocation of land for a few strategic activities may apply.
  • The government may bear in full or in part the costs incurred by the investor to invest in utility connections for the investment project.
  • The government may refund half the price of the land allocated to industrial projects in the event of starting production within two years from receiving the land.

Other Incentives related to Free Zones according to Investment Law 72/2017:

  • Exemption from all taxes and customs duties.
  • Exemption from all import/export regulations.
  • The option to sell a certain percentage of production domestically if customs duties are paid.
  • Limited exemptions from labor provisions.
  • All equipment, machinery, and essential means of transport (excluding sedan cars) necessary for business operations are exempted from all customs, import duties, and sales taxes.
  • All licensing procedures are handled by GAFI. To remain eligible for benefits, investors operating inside the free zones must export more than 50 percent of their total production.
  • Manufacturing or assembly projects pay an annual charge of one percent of the total value of their products
  • Excluding all raw materials. Storage facilities are to pay one percent of the value of goods entering the free zones while service projects pay one percent of total annual revenue.
  • Goods in transit to specific destinations are exempt from any charges.

Other Incentives related to the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone):

  • 100 percent foreign ownership of companies.
  • 100 percent foreign control of import/​export activities.
  • Imports are exempted from customs duties and sales tax.
  • Customs duties on exports to Egypt imposed on imported components only, not the final product.
  • Fast-track visa services.
  • A full service one-stop shop for registration and licensing.
  • Allowing enterprises access to the domestic market; duties on sales to domestic market will be assessed on the value of imported inputs only.

The Tenders Law (Law 89/1998) requires the government to consider both price and best value in awarding contracts and to issue an explanation for refusal of a bid. However, the law contains preferences for Egyptian domestic contractors, who are accorded priority if their bids do not exceed the lowest foreign bid by more than 15 percent.

The Ministry of Industry & Foreign Trade and the Ministry of Finance’s Decree No. 719/2007 provides incentives for industrial projects in the governorates of Upper Egypt (Upper Egypt refers to governorates in southern Egypt). The decree provides an incentive of LE 15,000 (approx. $850) for each job opportunity created by the project, on the condition that the investment costs of the project exceed LE 15 million (approx. $850,000). The decree can be implemented on both new and ongoing projects.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Public and private free trade zones are authorized under GAFI’s Investment Incentive Law. Free zones are located within the national territory, but are considered to be outside Egypt’s customs boundaries, granting firms doing business within them more freedom on transactions and exchanges. Companies producing largely for export (normally 80 percent or more of total production) may be established in free trade zones and operate using foreign currency. Free trade zones are open to investment by foreign or domestic investors. Companies operating in free trade zones are exempted from sales taxes or taxes and fees on capital assets and intermediate goods. The Legislative Package for the Stimulation of Investment, issued in 2015, stipulated a one percent duty paid on the value of commodities upon entry for storage projects and a one percent duty upon exit for manufacturing and assembly projects.

There are currently 9 public free trade zones in operation in the following locations: Alexandria, Damietta Ismailia, Qeft, Media Production City, Nasr City, Port Said, Shebin el Kom, and Suez. Private free trade zones may also be established with a decree by GAFI but are usually limited to a single project. Export-oriented industrial projects are given priority.  There is no restriction on foreign ownership of capital in private free zones.

The Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Law 83/2002 allows establishment of special zones for industrial, agricultural, or service activities designed specifically with the export market in mind.  The law allows firms operating in these zones to import capital equipment, raw materials, and intermediate goods duty free. Companies established in the SEZs are also exempt from sales and indirect taxes and can operate under more flexible labor regulations. The first SEZ was established in the northwest Gulf of Suez.

Law 19/2007 authorized creation of investment zones, which require Prime Ministerial approval for establishment. The government regulates these zones through a board of directors, but the zones are established, built, and operated by the private sector. The government does not provide any infrastructure or utilities in these zones. Investment zones enjoy the same benefits as free zones in terms of facilitation of license-issuance, ease of dealing with other agencies, etc., but are not granted the incentives and tax/custom exemptions enjoyed in free zones. Projects in investment zones pay the same tax/customs duties applied throughout Egypt. The aim of the law is to assist the private sector in diversifying its economic activities.

The Suez Canal Economic Zone, a major industrial and logistics services hub announced in 2014, includes upgrades and renovations to ports located along the Suez Canal corridor, including West and East Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, Adabiya, and Ain Sokhna. The Egyptian government has invited foreign investors to take part in the projects, which are expected to be built in several stages, the first of which was scheduled to be completed by mid-2020. Reported areas for investment include maritime services like ship repair services, bunkering, vessel scrapping and recycling; industrial projects, including pharmaceuticals, food processing, automotive production, consumer electronics, textiles, and petrochemicals; IT services such as research and development and software development; renewable energy; and mixed use, residential, logistics, and commercial developments. Website for the Suez Canal Development Project: http://www.sczone.com.eg/English/Pages/default.aspx 

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Egypt has rules on national percentages of employment and difficult visa and work permit procedures.  The application of these provisions that restrict access to foreign worker visas has been inconsistent.  The government plans to phase out visas for unskilled workers, but as yet has not done so. For most other jobs, employers may hire foreign workers on a temporary six-month basis, but must also hire two Egyptians to be trained to do the job during that period.  Only jobs where it is not possible for Egyptians to acquire the requisite skills will remain open to foreign workers. The application of these regulations is inconsistent. The Labor Law allows Ministers to set the maximum percentage of foreign workers that may work in companies in a given sector.  There are no such sector-wide maximums for the oil and gas industry, but individual concession agreements may contain language establishing limits or procedures regarding the proportion of foreign and local employees.

No performance requirements are specified in the Investment Incentives Law, and the ability to fulfill local content requirements is not a prerequisite for approval to set up assembly projects.  In many cases, however, assembly industries still must meet a minimum local content requirement in order to benefit from customs tariff reductions on imported industrial inputs.

Decree 184/2013 allows for the reduction of customs tariffs on intermediate goods if the final product has a certain percentage of input from local manufacturers, beginning at 30 percent local content.  As the percentage of local content rises, so does the tariff reduction, reaching up to 90 percent if the amount of local input is 60 percent or above. In certain cases, a minister can grant tariff reductions of up to 40 percent in advance to certain companies without waiting to reach a corresponding percentage of local content.  In 2010, Egypt revised its export rebate system to provide exporters with additional subsidies if they used a greater portion of local raw materials.

Manufacturers wishing to export under trade agreements between Egypt and other countries must complete certificates of origin and local content requirements contained therein.  Oil and gas exploration concessions, which do not fall under the Investment Incentives Law, do have performance standards, which are specified in each individual agreement and which generally include the drilling of a specific number of wells in each phase of the exploration period stipulated in the agreement.

Egypt does not impose localization barriers on ICT firms.  Egypt’s Data Protection Act, signed into law in July, 2020, will require licenses for cross-border data transfers but does not impose any data localization requirements.  Similarly, Egypt does not make local production a requirement for market access, does not have local content requirements, and does not impose forced technology or intellectual property transfers as a condition of market access.  But there are exceptions where the government has attempted to impose controls by requesting access to a company’s servers located offshore, or request servers to be located in Egypt and thus under the government’s control.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The Egyptian legal system provides protection for real and personal property.  Laws on real estate ownership are complex and titles to real property may be difficult to establish and trace.  According to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, Egypt ranks 130 of 190 for ease of registering property.

The National Title Registration Program introduced by the Ministry of State for Administrative Development has been implemented in nine areas within Cairo.  This program is intended to simplify property registration and facilitate easier mortgage financing. Real estate registration fees, long considered a major impediment to development of the real estate sector, are capped at no more than EGP 2000 (USD 110), irrespective of the property value.  In November 2012, the government postponed implementation of an enacted overhaul to the real estate tax and as of April 2017 no action has been taken.

Foreigners are limited to ownership of two residences in Egypt and specific procedures are required for purchasing real estate in certain geographical areas.

The mortgage market is still undeveloped in Egypt, and in practice most purchases are still conducted in cash.  Real Estate Finance Law 148//2001 authorized both banks and non-bank mortgage companies to issue mortgages. The law provides procedures for foreclosure on property of defaulting debtors, and amendments passed in 2004 allow for the issuance of mortgage-backed securities.  According to the regulations, banks can offer financing in foreign currency of up to 80 percent of the value of a property.

Presidential Decree 17//2015 permitted the government to provide land free of charge, in certain regions only, to investors meeting certain technical and financial requirements.  This provision expires on April 1, 2020 and the company must provide cash collateral for five years following commencement of either production (for industrial projects) or operation (for all other projects).

The ownership of land by foreigners is governed by three laws: Law 15//1963, Law 143//1981, and Law 230//1996.  Law 15//1963 stipulates that no foreigners, whether natural or juristic persons, may acquire agricultural land.  Law 143//1981 governs the acquisition and ownership of desert land. Certain limits are placed on the number of feddans (one feddan is equal to approximately one hectare) that may be owned by individuals, families, cooperatives, partnerships and corporations.  Partnerships are permitted to own up to 10,000 feddans. Joint stock companies are permitted to own up to 50,000 feddans.

Partnerships and joint stock companies may own desert land within these limits, even if foreign partners or shareholders are involved, provided that at least 51 percent of the capital is owned by Egyptians.  Upon liquidation of the company, however, the land must revert to Egyptian ownership. Law 143 defines desert land as the land lying two kilometers outside city borders. Furthermore, non-Egyptians owning non-improved real estate in Egypt must build within a period of five years from the date their ownership is registered by a notary public.  Non-Egyptians may only sell their real estate five years after registration of ownership, unless the consent of the Prime Minister for an exemption is obtained.

Intellectual Property Rights

Egypt remains on the Special 301 Watch List in 2020.  Egypt’s IPR legislation generally meets international standards, and the government has made progress enforcing those laws, reducing patent application backlogs, and in 2019 shut down a number of online illegal streaming websites.  It has also made progress establishing protection against the unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure, of undisclosed test or other data generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products.  Stakeholders note continued challenges with widespread counterfeiting and piracy, biotechnology patentability criteria, patent and trademark examination criteria, and pharmaceutical-related IP issues.

Multinational pharmaceutical companies complain that local generic drug-producing companies infringe on their patents.  Delays and inefficiencies in processing patent applications by the Egyptian Patent Office compound the difficulties pharmaceutical companies face in introducing new drugs to the local market.  The government views patent linkage as “a legal violation” against the concept of separation of authorities between institutions such as the Egyptian Drug Authority, the Ministry of Health, and the Egyptian Patent Office. As a result, permits for the sale of pharmaceuticals are generally issued without first cross-checking patent filings.

Decree 251/2020, issued in January, 2020, established a ministerial committee to address compulsory patent licensing.  According to Egypt’s 2002 IPR Law, which allows for compulsory patent licenses in some cases, the committee will have the power to issue compulsory patent licenses according to a number of criteria set forth in the law; to determine financial renumeration for the original patent owners; and to approve the expropriation of the patents.

Book, music, and entertainment software piracy is prevalent in Egypt, and a significant portion of the piracy takes place online.  American film studios represented by the Motion Pictures Association of America are concerned about the illegal distribution of American movies on regional satellite channels.

Eight GoE ministries have the responsibility to oversee IPR concerns: Supply and Internal Trade for trademarks, Higher Education and Research for patents, Culture for copyrights, Agriculture for plants, Communications and Information Technology for copyright of computer programs, Interior for combatting IPR violations, Customs for border enforcement, and Trade and Industry for standards and technical regulations.  Article 69 of Egypt’s 2014 Constitution mandates the establishment of a “specialized agency to uphold [IPR] rights and their legal protection.” A National Committee on IPR was established to address IPR matters until a permanent body is established. All IPR stakeholders are represented in the committee, and members meet every two months to discuss issues. The National Committee on IPR is chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and reports directly to the Prime Minister.

The Egyptian Customs Authority (ECA) handles IPR enforcement at the national border and the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Investigation handles domestic cases of illegal production. The ECA cannot act unless the trademark owner files a complaint.  Moreover, Egypt’s Economic Courts often take years to reach a decision on IPR infringement cases.

ECA’s customs enforcement also tends to focus on protecting Egyptian goods and trademarks. The ECA is taking steps to adopt the World Customs Organization’s (WCO) Interface Public-Members platform, which allows customs officers to detect counterfeit goods by scanning a product’s barcode and checking the WCO trademark database system.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://wipo.int/directory/en/ 

IPR Contact at Embassy Cairo:
Christopher Leslie
Trade & Investment Officer
20-2-2797-2735
LeslieCG@state.gov

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

To date, high returns on Egyptian government debt have crowded out Egyptian investment in productive capacity.  Consistently positive and relatively high real interest rates have attracted large foreign capital inflows since 2017, most of which has been volatile portfolio capital.  Returns on Egyptian government debt have begun to come down, which could presage investment by Egyptian capital in the real economy.

The Egyptian Stock Exchange (EGX) is Egypt’s registered securities exchange.  About 246 companies were listed on the EGX, including Nilex, as of April 2020.  There were more than 500,000 investors registered to trade on the exchange in 2019 as the Egyptian market attracted 32,000 new investors.  Stock ownership is open to foreign and domestic individuals and entities.  The Government of Egypt issues dollar-denominated and Egyptian pound-denominated debt instruments.  Ownership is open to foreign and domestic individuals and entities.  The government has developed a positive outlook toward foreign portfolio investment, recognizing the need to attract foreign capital to help develop the Egyptian economy.  During 2019 foreign investors’ percentage of total transactions on the EGX reached 33 percent versus Egyptian investors’ percentage of 67 percent.

The Capital Market Law 95/1992, along with the Banking Law 88/2003, constitutes the primary regulatory frameworks for the financial sector. The law grants foreigners full access to capital markets, and authorizes establishment of Egyptian and foreign companies to provide underwriting of subscriptions, brokerage services, securities and mutual funds management, clearance and settlement of security transactions, and venture capital activities. The law specifies mechanisms for arbitration and legal dispute resolution and prohibits unfair market practices.  Law 10//2009 created the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority (EFSA) and brought the regulation of all non-banking financial services under its authority.  In 2017, EFSA became the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA).

Settlement of transactions takes one day for treasury bonds and two days for stocks. Although Egyptian law and regulations allow companies to adopt bylaws limiting or prohibiting foreign ownership of shares, virtually no listed stocks have such restrictions. A significant number of the companies listed on the exchange are family-owned or dominated conglomerates, and free trading of shares in many of these ventures, while increasing, remains limited.  Companies are de-listed from the exchange if not traded for six months.

The Higher Investment Council extended the suspension of capital gains tax for three years, until 2020 as part of efforts to draw investors back. In March 2017, the government announced plans to impose a stamp duty on all stock transactions with a duty of 0.125 percent on all buyers and sellers starting in May 2017, followed by an increase to 0.150 percent in the second year and 0.175 percent thereafter. Egypt’s provisional stamp duty on stock exchange transactions includes for the first time a 0.3 percent levy for investors acquiring more than a third of a company’s stocks. I n May 2019 the government decided to keep the stamp duty at 0.15% without further increase, then in March 2020 the government decided to reduce the stamp tax to 0.125% for non-residents and to 0.05% for non-residents and to push back the introduction of the capital gain tax till January 2022.  Foreign investors will be exempted from the tax.

Foreign investors can access Egypt’s banking system by opening accounts with local banks and buying and selling all marketable securities with brokerages. The government has repeatedly emphasized its commitment to maintaining the profit repatriation system to encourage foreign investment in Egypt, especially since the pound floatation and implementation of the IMF loan program in November 2016. The current system for profit repatriation by foreign firms requires sub-custodian banks to open foreign and local currency accounts for foreign investors (global custodians), which are exclusively maintained for stock exchange transactions. The two accounts serve as a channel through which foreign investors process their sales, purchases, dividend collections, and profit repatriation transactions using the bank’s posted daily exchange rates. The system is designed to allow for settlement of transactions in fewer than two days, though in practice some firms have reported significant delays in repatriating profits due to problems with availability.  Foreign firms and individuals continue to report delays in repatriating funds and problems accessing hard currency for the purpose of repatriating profits.

The Egyptian credit market, open to foreigners, is vibrant and active. Repatriation of investment profits has become much easier, as there is enough available hard currency to execute FX trades. Since the floatation of the Pound in November 2016 FX trading is considered straightforward, given the re-establishment of the interbank foreign currency trading system.

Money and Banking System

Benefitting from the nation’s increasing economic stability over the past two years, Egypt’s banks have enjoyed both ratings upgrades and continued profitability.  Thanks to economic reforms, a new floating exchange system, and a new Investment Law passed in 2017, the project finance pipeline is increasing after a period of lower activity.  Banking competition is improving to serve a largely untapped retail segment and the nation’s challenging, but potentially rewarding, small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) segment.  The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has mandated that 20 percent of bank loans go to SMEs within the next three years (four years from 2016).  In December 2019, the Central Bank launched a 100 billion initiative to spur domestic manufacturing through subsidized loans.  Also, with only about a quarter of Egypt’s adult population owning or sharing an account at a formal financial institution (according press and comments from contacts), the banking sector has potential for growth and higher inclusion, which the government and banks discuss frequently.  A low median income plays a part in modest banking penetration.   But the CBE has taken steps to work with banks and technology companies to expand financial inclusion.  The employees of the government, one of the largest employers, must now have bank accounts because salary payment is through direct deposit.

Egypt’s banking sector is generally regarded as healthy and well-capitalized, due in part to its deposit-based funding structure and ample liquidity, especially since the floatation and restoration of the interbank market.  The CBE declared that 4.1 percent of the banking sector’s loans were non-performing in June 2020.  However, since 2011, a high level of exposure to government debt, accounting for over 40 percent of banking system assets, at the expense of private sector lending, has reduced the diversity of bank balance sheets and crowded out domestic investment.  Given the floatation of the Egyptian Pound and restart of the interbank trading system, Moody’s and S&P have upgraded the outlook of Egypt’s banking system to stable from negative to reflect improving macroeconomic conditions and ongoing commitment to reform.  In April 2019 Moody’s upgraded Egypt’s government issuer rating to B2 with stable outlook from B3 positive and affirmed this rating in April 2020 while also changing Egypt’s Macro Profile to “weak-” from “very weak”.

Thirty-eight banks operate in Egypt, including several foreign banks. The CBE has not issued a new commercial banking license since 1979.  The only way for a new commercial bank, whether foreign or domestic, to enter the market (except as a representative office) is to purchase an existing bank.  To this end, in 2013, QNB Group acquired National Société Générale Bank Egypt (NSGB).  That same year, Emirates NBD, Dubai’s largest bank, bought the Egypt unit of BNP Paribas.  In 2015, Citibank sold its retail banking division to CIB Bank.  In 2017, Barclays Bank PLC transferred its entire shareholding to Attijariwafa Bank Group.  In 2016 and 2017, Egypt indicated a desire to partially (less than 35 percent) privatize at least one state-owned banks and a total of 23 firms through either expanded or new listings on the Egypt Stock Exchange.  As of April 2020 the only steps towards implementing this privatization program were offering 4.5 percent of the shares of state-owned Eastern Tobacco Company on the stock market.  The state owned Banque De Caire was planning to IPO some of its shares on the EGX in April but postponed due to the novel coronavirus.

According to the CBE, banks operating in Egypt held nearly EGP 6 trillion ($379 billion) in total assets as of February 2020, with the five largest banks holding EGP 3.9 trillion ($247 billion) at the end of 2019.  Egypt’s three state-owned banks (Banque Misr, Banque du Caire, and National Bank of Egypt) control nearly 40 percent of banking sector assets.

The chairman of the EGX recently stated that Egypt is allowing exploration of the use of blockchain technologies across the banking community.  The FRA will review the development and most likely regulate how the banking system adopts the fast-developing blockchain systems into banks’ back-end and customer-facing processing and transactions. Seminars and discussions are beginning around Cairo, including visitors from Silicon Valley, in which leaders and experts are still forming a path forward.  While not outright banning cryptocurrencies, which is distinguished from blockchain technologies, authorities caution against speculation in unknown asset classes.

Alternative financial services in Egypt are extensive, given the large informal economy, estimated to be from 30 to 50 percent of the GDP.  Informal lending is prevalent, but the total capitalization, number of loans, and types of terms in private finance is less well known.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There had been significant progress in accessing hard currency since the floatation of the Pound and re-establishment of the interbank currency trading system in November 2016.  While the immediate aftermath saw some lingering difficulty of accessing currency, as of 2017 most businesses operating in Egypt reported having little difficulty obtaining hard currency for business purposes, such as importing inputs and repatriating profits.   In 2016 the Central Bank lifted dollar deposit limits on households and firms importing priority goods which had been in place since early 2015.  Into 2016, businesses, including foreign-owned firms, which were not operating in priority sectors, encountered difficulty accessing currency, including importers.  But 2017 has seen an elimination of the backlog for demand for foreign currency.  With net foreign reserves of $37 billion as of April 2020, Egypt’s foreign reserves appeared to be well capitalized.

Funds associated with investment can be freely converted into any world currency, depending on the availability of that currency in the local market.  Some firms and individuals report the process taking some time.  But the interbank trading system works in general and currency is available as the foreign exchange markets continue to react positively to the government’s commitment to macro and structural reform.

The stabilized exchange rate operates on the principle of market supply and demand: the exchange rate is dictated by availability of currency and demand by firms and individuals.  While there is some reported informal Central Bank window guidance, the rate generally fluctuates depending on market conditions, without direct market intervention by authorities.  In general, the EGP has stabilized within an acceptable exchange rate range, which has increased the foreign exchange market’s liquidity.  Since the early days following the floatation, there has been very low exchange rate volatility.

Remittance Policies

The 1992 U.S.-Egypt Bilateral Investment Treaty provides for free transfer of dividends, royalties, compensation for expropriation, payments arising out of an investment dispute, contract payments, and proceeds from sales.  Prior to reform implementation throughout 2016 and 2017, large corporations had been unable to repatriate local earnings for months at a time, but given the current record net foreign reserves, repatriation is no longer an issue that companies complain about.

The Investment Incentives Law stipulates that non-Egyptian employees hired by projects established under the law are entitled to transfer their earnings abroad.  Conversion and transfer of royalty payments are permitted when a patent, trademark, or other licensing agreement has been approved under the Investment Incentives Law.

Banking Law 88//2003 regulates the repatriation of profits and capital.  The current system for profit repatriation by foreign firms requires sub-custodian banks to open foreign and local currency accounts for foreign investors (global custodians), which are exclusively maintained for stock exchange transactions.  The two accounts serve as a channel through which foreign investors process their sales, purchases, dividend collections, and profit repatriation transactions using the bank’s posted daily exchange rates.  The system is designed to allow for settlement of transactions in fewer than two days, though in practice some firms have reported short delays in repatriating profits, no longer due to availability but more due to processing steps.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Egypt’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF), approved by the Cabinet and launched in late 2018, holds 200 billion EGP ($12.7 billion) in authorized capital.  The SWF aims to invest state funds locally and abroad across asset classes and manage underutilized government assets.  The SWF focuses on sectors considered vital to the Egyptian economy, particularly industry, energy, and tourism. The SWF participates in the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds.  The government is currently in talks with regional and European institutions to take part in forming the fund’s sector-specific units.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State and military-owned companies compete directly with private companies in many sectors of the Egyptian economy. According to Public Sector Law 203/1991, state-owned enterprises should not receive preferential treatment from the government, nor should they be accorded any exemption from legal requirements applicable to private companies.  In addition to the state-owned enterprises groups above, 40 percent of the banking sector’s assets are controlled by three state-owned banks (Banque Misr, Banque du Caire, and National Bank of Egypt).   The 226 SOEs in Egypt subject to Law 203/1991 are affiliated with 10 ministries and employ 450,000 workers. The Ministry of Public Sector Enterprises controls 118 companies operating under eight holding companies that employ 209,000 workers.  The most profitable sectors include tourism, real estate, and transportation.  The ministry publishes a list of its SOEs on its website, http://www.mpbs.gov.eg/Arabic/Affiliates/HoldingCompanies/Pages/default.aspx  and http://www.mpbs.gov.eg/Arabic/Affiliates/AffiliateCompanies/Pages/default.aspx .

In an attempt to encourage growth of the private sector, privatization of state-owned enterprises and state-owned banks accelerated under an economic reform program that took place from 1991 to 2008.  Following the 2011 revolution, third parties have brought cases in court to reverse privatization deals, and in a number of these cases, Egyptian courts have ruled to reverse the privatization of several former public companies. Most of these cases are still under appeal.

The state-owned telephone company, Telecom Egypt, lost its legal monopoly on the local, long-distance, and international telecommunication sectors in 2005.  Nevertheless, Telecom Egypt held a de facto monopoly until late 2016 because the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) had not issued additional licenses to compete in these sectors.  In October 2016, NTRA, however, implemented a unified license regime that allows companies to offer both fixed line and mobile networks.  The agreement allows Telecom Egypt to enter the mobile market and the three existing mobile companies to enter the fixed line market.  The introduction of Telecom Egypt as a new mobile operator in the Egyptian market will increase competition among operators, which will benefit users by raising the bar on quality of services as well as improving prices.  Egypt is not a party to the World Trade Organization’s Government Procurement Agreement.

OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs 

SOEs in Egypt are structured as individual companies controlled by boards of directors and grouped under government holding companies that are arranged by industry, including Petroleum Products & Gas, Spinning & Weaving; Metallurgical Industries; Chemical Industries; Pharmaceuticals; Food Industries; Building & Construction; Tourism, Hotels & Cinema; Maritime & Inland Transport; Aviation; and Insurance.  The holding companies are headed by boards of directors appointed by the Prime Minister with input from the relevant Minister.

Privatization Program

The Egyptian government’s most recent plans to privatize stakes in SOEs began in March 2018 with the successful public offering of a minority stake in the Eastern Tobacco Company.  Since then plans for privatizing stakes in 22 other SOEs, including up to 30 percent of the shares of Banque du Caire, have been delayed due to adverse market conditions and increased global volatility.  Egypt’s privatization program is based on Public Enterprise Law 203//1991, which permits the sale of SOEs to foreign entities.  In 1991, Egypt began a privatization program for the sale of several hundred wholly or partially SOEs and all public shares of at least 660 joint venture companies (joint venture is defined as mixed state and private ownership, whether foreign or domestic).  Bidding criteria for privatizations were generally clear and transparent.

In 2014, President Sisi signed a law limiting appeal rights on state-concluded contracts to reduce third-party challenges to prior government privatization deals.  The law was intended to reassure investors concerned by legal challenges brought against privatization deals and land sales dating back to the pre-2008 period.  Ongoing court cases had put many of these now-private firms, many of which are foreign-owned, in legal limbo over concerns that they may be returned to state ownership.  In early 2018, the Egyptian government announced that it would begin selling off stakes in some of its state-owned enterprises over the next few years through Egypt’s stock exchange.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) programs have grown in popularity in Egypt over the last ten years.   Most programs are limited to multinational and larger domestic companies as well as the banking sector and take the form of funding and sponsorship for initiatives supporting entrepreneurship and education and other social activities.  Environmental and technology programs are also garnering greater participation.  The Ministry of Trade has engaged constructively with corporations promoting RBC programs, supporting corporate social responsibility conferences and providing Cabinet-level representation as a sign of support to businesses promoting RBC programming.

A number of organizations and corporations work to foster the development of RBC in Egypt.  The American Chamber of Commerce has an active corporate social responsibility committee.  Several U.S. pharmaceutical companies are actively engaged in RBC programs related to Egypt’s hepatitis-C epidemic.  The Egyptian Corporate Responsibility Center, which is the UN Global Compact local network focal point in Egypt, aims to empower businesses to develop sustainable business models as well as improve the national capacity to design, apply, and monitor sustainable responsible business conduct policies.  In March 2010, Egypt launched an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) index, the second of its kind in the world after India’s, with training and technical assistance from Standard and Poor’s.  Egypt does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.  Public information about Egypt’s extractive industry remains limited to the government’s annual budget.

9. Corruption

Egypt has a set of laws to combat corruption by public officials, including an Anti-Bribery Law (which is contained within the Penal Code), an Illicit Gains Law, and a Governmental Accounting Law, among others. Countering corruption remains a long-term focus.  There have been cases involving public figures and entities, including the arrests of Alexandria’s deputy governor and the secretary general of Suez on several corruption charges and the investigation into five members of parliament alleged to have sold Hajj visas.  However, corruption laws have not been consistently enforced.  Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Egypt 117 out of 180 in its 2017 survey, a drop of 9 places from its rank of 108 in 2016.  Transparency International also found that approximately 50 percent of Egyptians reported paying a bribe in order to obtain a public service.

Some private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials.  There is no government requirement for private companies to establish internal codes of conduct to prohibit bribery.

Egypt ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in February 2005.  It has not acceded to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery or any other regional anti-corruption conventions.

While NGOs are active in encouraging anti-corruption activities, dialogue between the government and civil society on this issue is almost non-existent, the OECD found in 2009 and a trend that continues today.  While government officials publicly asserted they shared civil society organizations’ goals, they rarely cooperated with NGOs, and applied relevant laws in a highly restrictive manner against NGOs critical of government practices.  Media was also limited in its ability to report on corruption, with Article 188 of the Penal Code mandating heavy fines and penalties for unsubstantiated corruption allegations.

U.S. firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI in Egypt.  Companies might encounter corruption in the public sector in the form of requests for bribes, using bribes to facilitate required government approvals or licenses, embezzlement, and tampering with official documents.  Corruption and bribery are reported in dealing with public services, customs (import license and import duties), public utilities (water and electrical connection), construction permits, and procurement, as well as in the private sector.  Businesses have described a dual system of payment for services, with one formal payment and a secondary, unofficial payment required for services to be rendered.

Resources to Report Corruption

Several agencies within the Egyptian government share responsibility for addressing corruption.   Egypt’s primary anticorruption body is the Administrative Control Authority (ACA), which has jurisdiction over state administrative bodies, state-owned enterprises, public associations and institutions, private companies undertaking public work, and organizations to which the state contributes in any form.  In October 2017, Parliament approved and passed amendments to the ACA law, which grants the organization full technical, financial, and administrative authority to investigate corruption within the public sector (with the exception of military personnel/entities).  The law is viewed as strengthening an institution which was established in 1964.  The ACA appears well funded and well trained when compared with other Egyptian law enforcement organizations.  Strong funding and the current ACA leadership’s close relationship with President Sisi reflect the importance of this organization and its mission.  It is too small for its mission (roughly 300 agents) and is routinely over-tasked with work that would not normally be conducted by a law enforcement agency.

The ACA periodically engages with civil society.  For example, it has met with the American Chamber of Commerce and other organizations to encourage them to seek it out when corruption issues arise.

In addition to the ACA, the Central Auditing Authority (CAA) acts as an anti-corruption body, stationing monitors at state-owned companies to report corrupt practices.  The Ministry of Justice’s Illicit Gains Authority is charged with referring cases in which public officials have used their office for private gain.  The Public Prosecution Office’s Public Funds Prosecution Department and the Ministry of Interior’s Public Funds Investigations Office likewise share responsibility for addressing corruption in public expenditures.

Resources to Report Corruption

Minister of Interior
General Directorate of Investigation of Public Funds
Telephone: 02-2792-1395 / 02-2792 1396
Fax: 02-2792-2389

10. Political and Security Environment

Stability and economic development remain Egypt’s priorities.  The Egyptian government has taken measures to eliminate politically motivated violence while also limiting peaceful protests and political expression.  Political protests are rare, with the last known demonstrations occurring on September 20, 2019.  Egypt’s presidential elections in March 2018 and senatorial elections in August 2020 proceeded without incident.  A number of small-scale terrorist attacks against security and civilian targets in Cairo and elsewhere in the Nile Valley occurred in 2019.  An attack against a tourist bus in May 2019 injured over a dozen people, and a car bombing outside the National Cancer Institute in Cairo in August 2019 killed 22 people.  Militant groups also committed attacks in the Western Desert and Sinai.  The government has been conducting a comprehensive counterterrorism offensive in the Sinai since early 2018 in response to terrorist attacks against military installations and personnel by ISIS-affiliated militant groups.  In February 2020, ISIS-affiliated militants claimed responsibility for an attack against a domestic gas pipeline in the northern Sinai.  Although the group claimed that the attack targeted the recently-opened natural gas pipeline connecting Egypt and Israel, the pipeline itself was undamaged and the flow of natural gas was not interrupted.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Official statistics put Egypt’s labor force at approximately 29 million, with an official unemployment rate of 9.6 percent as of July 2020.  Prior to the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Egypt’s official unemployment rate had been steadily decreasing, reaching a low of 7.5 percent in July 2019.  Women accounted for 25 percent of those unemployed as of May 2020, according to statistics from Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).  Accurate figures are difficult to determine and verify given Egypt’s large informal economy in which some 62 percent of the non-agricultural workforce is engaged, according to ILO estimates.

The government bureaucracy and public sector enterprises are substantially over-staffed compared to the private sector and other international norms.  According to the World Bank, Egypt has the highest number of government workers per capita in the world.  Businesses highlight a mismatch between labor skills and market demand, despite high numbers of university graduates in a variety of fields.  Foreign companies frequently pay internationally competitive salaries to attract workers with valuable skills.

The Unified Labor Law 12//2003 provides comprehensive guidelines on labor relations, including hiring, working hours, termination of employees, training, health, and safety.  The law grants a qualified right for employees to strike, as well as rules and guidelines governing mediation, arbitration, and collective bargaining between employees and employers.   Non-discrimination clauses are included, and the law complies with labor-related International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions regulating the employment and training of women and eligible children. Egypt ratified ILO Convention 182 on combating the Worst Forms of Child Labor in April 2002. On July 2018, Egypt launched the first National Action Plan on combating the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The law also created a national committee to formulate general labor policies and the National Council of Wages, whose mandate is to discuss wage-related issues and national minimum-wage policy, but it has rarely convened and a minimum wage has rarely been enforced in the private sector. .

Parliament adopted a new Trade Unions Law in late 2017, replacing a 1976 law, which experts said was out of compliance with Egypt’s commitments to ILO conventions.  After a March 2016 Ministry of Manpower and Migration (MOMM) directive not to recognize documentation from any trade union without a stamp from the government-affiliated Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), the new law established procedures for registering independent trade unions, but some of the unions noted that the directorates of the Ministry of Manpower didn’t implement the law and placed restrictions on freedoms of association and organizing for trade union elections.  Executive regulations for trade union elections stipulate a very tight deadline of three months for trade union organizations to legalize their status, and one month to hold elections, which, critics said, restricted the ability of unions to legalize their status or to campaign.  On April 3, 2018, the government registered its first independent trade union in more than two years.

In July 2019 the Egyptian Parliament passed a series of amendments to the Trade Unions Law that reduced the minimum membership required to form a trade union and abolished prison sentences for violations of the law.  The amendments reduced the minimum number of workers required to form a trade union committee from 150 to 50, the number of trade union committees to form a general union from 15 to 10 committees, and the number of workers in a general union from 20,000 to 15,000.  The amendments also decreased the number of unions necessary to establish a trade union federation from 10 to 7 and the number of workers in a trade union from 200,000 to 150,000.  Under the new law, a trade union or workers’ committee may be formed if 150 employees in an entity express a desire to organize.

Based on the new amendments to the Trade Unions Law and a request from the Egyptian government for assistance implementing them and meeting international labor standards, the International Labor Organization’s and International Finance Corporation’s joint Better Work Program launched in Egypt in March 2020.

The Trade Unions law explicitly bans compulsory membership or the collection of union dues without written consent of the worker and allows members to quit unions.  Each union, general union, or federation is registered as an independent legal entity, thereby enabling any such entity to exit any higher-level entity.

The 2014 Constitution stipulated in Article 76 that “establishing unions and federations is a right that is guaranteed by the law.”  Only courts are allowed to dissolve unions.  The 2014 Constitution maintained past practice in stipulating that “one syndicate is allowed per profession.”   The Egyptian constitutional legislation differentiates between white-collar syndicates (e.g. doctors, lawyers, journalists) and blue-collar workers (e.g. transportation, food, mining workers).  Workers in Egypt have the right to strike peacefully, but strikers are legally obliged to notify the employer and concerned administrative officials of the reasons and time frame of the strike 10 days in advance.  In addition, strike actions are not permitted to take place outside the property of businesses.  The law prohibits strikes in strategic or vital establishments in which the interruption of work could result in disturbing national security or basic services provided to citizens.  In practice, however, workers strike in all sectors, without following these procedures, but at risk of prosecution by the government.

Collective negotiation is allowed between trade union organizations and private sector employers or their organizations.  Agreements reached through negotiations are recorded in collective agreements regulated by the Unified Labor law and usually registered at MOMM.  Collective bargaining is technically not permitted in the public sector, though it exists in practice.  The government often intervenes to limit or manage collective bargaining negotiations in all sectors.

MOMM sets worker health and safety standards, which also apply in public and private free zones and the Special Economic Zones (see below).  Enforcement and inspection, however, are uneven.  The Unified Labor Law prohibits employers from maintaining hazardous working conditions, and workers have the right to remove themselves from hazardous conditions without risking loss of employment.

Egyptian labor laws allow employers to close or downsize operations for economic reasons.  The government, however, has taken steps to halt downsizing in specific cases.  The Unemployment Insurance Law, also known as the Emergency Subsidy Fund Law 156//2002, sets a fund to compensate employees whose wages are suspended due to partial or complete closure of their firm or due to its downsizing.  The Fund allocates financial resources that will come from a 1 percent deduction from the base salaries of public and private sector employees.  According to foreign investors, certain aspects of Egypt’s labor laws and policies are significant business impediments, particularly the difficulty of dismissing employees.  To overcome these difficulties, companies often hire workers on temporary contracts; some employees remain on a series of one-year contracts for more than 10 years.  Employers sometimes also require applicants to sign a “Form 6,” an undated voluntary resignation form which the employer can use at any time, as a condition of their employment. Negotiations on drafting a new Labor Law, which has been under consideration in the Parliament for two years, have included discussion of requiring employers to offer permanent employee status after a certain number of years with the company and declaring Form 6 or any letter of resignation null and void if signed prior to the date of termination.

Egypt has a dispute resolution mechanism for workers.  If a dispute concerning work conditions, terms, or employment provisions arises, both the employer and the worker have the right to ask the competent administrative authorities to initiate informal negotiations to settle the dispute. This right can be exercised only within seven days of the beginning of the dispute. If a solution is not found within 10 days from the time administrative authorities were requested, both the employer and the worker can resort to a judicial committee within 45 days of the dispute.  This committee is comprised of two judges, a representative of MOMM and representatives from the trade union, and one of the employers’ associations.  The decision of this committee is provided within 60 days. If the decision of the judicial committee concerns discharging a permanent employee, the sentence is delivered within 15 days.  When the committee decides against an employer’s decision to fire, the employer must reintegrate the latter in his/her job and pay all due salaries.  If the employer does not respect the sentence, the employee is entitled to receive compensation for unlawful dismissal.

Labor Law 12//2003 sought to make it easier to terminate an employment contract in the event of “difficult economic conditions.”  The Law allows an employer to close his establishment totally or partially or to reduce its size of activity for economic reasons, following approval from a committee designated by the Prime Minister.  In addition, the employer must pay former employees a sum equal to one month of the employee’s total salary for each of his first five years of service and one and a half months of salary for each year of service over and above the first five years.  Workers who have been dismissed have the right to appeal.  Workers in the public sector enjoy lifelong job security as contracts cannot be terminated in this fashion; however, government salaries have eroded as inflation has outpaced increases.

Egypt has regulations restricting access for foreigners to Egyptian worker visas, though application of these provisions has been inconsistent.  The government plans to phase out visas for unskilled workers, but as yet has not done so. For most other jobs, employers may hire foreign workers on a temporary six-month basis, but must also hire two Egyptians to be trained to do the job during that period.  Only jobs where it is not possible for Egyptians to acquire the requisite skills will remain open to foreign workers. Application of these regulations is inconsistent.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is operating in Egypt to provide the capital and risk mitigation tools that investors need to overcome the barriers faced in this region. In 2012, DFC’s predecessor, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), launched the USD 250 million Egypt Loan Guaranty Facility (ELGF), in partnership with USAID, to support bank lending and stimulate job creation.  The ELGF’s main objective is to help SMEs access finance for growth and development, by providing creditors the needed guarantees to help them mitigate loan risks.  This objective goes hand-in-hand with the Central Bank of Egypt’s initiative to support SMEs.  The ELGF expands lending to SMEs by supporting local partner banks as they lend to the target segment and increase access to credit for SMEs.  The result is the promotion of jobs and private sector development in Egypt.  The ELGF and partner banks sign a Guarantee Facility Agreement (GFA) to outline main terms and conditions of credit guarantee.  The two bank partners are Commercial International Bank (CIB) and the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK).  USAID has collaborated with OPIC/ELGF and the CIB to provide training to SME owners and managers on the basics of accounting and finance, banking and loan processes, business registration, and other topics that will help SMEs access financing for business growth.

As of March, 2020, the DFC’s financing tools provide $1.25 billion in financial and insurance support to 12 renewable energy, oil and gas, water supply, and health sector projects in Egypt in addition to the ELGF.  Apache Corporation, the largest U.S. investor in Egypt, has supported its natural gas investment with OPIC and DFC risk insurance since 2004.  In December 2018, the OPIC Board approved a project to provide $430 million in political risk insurance to Noble Energy, Inc. to support the restoration, operation, and maintenance of a natural gas pipeline in Egypt and the supply of natural gas through a pipeline from Israel.  In June 2019, OPIC’s Board approved an $87 million loan guarantee for the development, construction, and operation of the 252 megawatt Lekela Egypt Wind Power project.

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 $335,780 2019 $303,175 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2018 $2,244 2019 $11,000 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $1 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2019 41.9% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/
DIAE/World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 
 

* Sources for Host Country Data: Central Bank of Egypt; CAPMAS; GAFI

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

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars, 2019)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 985 100% All Countries 377 100% All Countries 608 100%
United States 242 25% International Organizations 216 57% United States 233 38%
International Organizations 216 22% Saudi Arabia 27 7% Saudi Arabia 92 15%
Saudi Arabia 120 12% Italy 23 6% United Arab Emirates 56 9%
United Arab Emirates 59 6% Switzerland 17 5% United Kingdom 46 8%
United Kingdom 50 5% Singapore 16 4% China 40 7%

14. Contact for More Information

Chris Leslie, Economic Officer, U.S. Embassy Cairo
02-2797-2735
LeslieCG@state.gov

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 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. In the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report Kenya improved 7 places, ranking 56 of 190 economies reviewed. In the last three years, it has moved up 54 places on this index. Year-on-year, Kenya continues to improve its regulatory framework and its attractiveness as a destination for foreign direct investment. Despite this progress in the ease of doing business rankings, U.S. businesses operating in Kenya still face aggressive tax collection attempts and significant bureaucratic processes and delays in issuing necessary business licenses. Corruption remains endemic and Transparency International’s (TI) 2019 Global Corruption Perception Index ranked Kenya 137 out of 198 countries, worsening by seven spots compared to 2018.

Kenya has strong telecommunications infrastructure, a robust financial sector, a developed logistics hub, and 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 most of the East African trade. Kenya’s membership in the East African Community (EAC), the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and other regional trade blocs provides growing access to larger regional markets.

In 2017 and 2018 Kenya instituted broad reforms to improve its business environment, including passage of the Tax Laws (amended) Bill (2018) and the Finance Act (2018), establishing new procedures and provisions relating to taxes, simplifying registration procedures for small businesses, reducing the cost of construction permits, easing the payment of taxes through the iTax platform, and establishing a single window system to speed movement of goods across borders. But the Finance Act 2019 introduced taxes to non-resident ship owners, and the Finance Act 2020 enacted a 1.5 percent Digital Service Tax (DST), which will be implemented in January 2021. 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, with five to six percent GDP growth over the past five years, six to eight percent inflation, improving infrastructure, and strong consumer demand from a growing middle class. However, GDP growth is projected to slow to 1.5-2.0 percent in 2020 due to COVID-19. The GOK has responded by loosening fiscal policies like corporate income tax and other measures to cushion companies and individuals. There is relative political stability due to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and President Kenyatta has remained focused on his second term “Big Four” development agenda, seeking to provide universal healthcare coverage; establish national food security; build 500,000 affordable new homes; and increase employment by doubling the manufacturing sector’s share of the economy.

The World Bank’s annual Kenya Economic Update, released in April 2020, cites some short term economic risks to Kenya’s continued growth such as the locust invasion, COVID-19 pandemic, and flooding, but also noted positive developments including measures taken by the GOK and the Central Bank of Kenya to reduce the impacts of these risks. 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 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 2019 137 of 198 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 2019 77 of 126 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 foreign direct investment (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 major 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, KenInvest 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 investment policy intends to guide laws being drafted to promote and facilitate investments in Kenya.

The Central Bank has successfully maintained macroeconomic stability with relatively low inflation and stable exchange rates. The National Treasury is increasingly focused on efforts to ensure prudent debt management. Kenya puts significant effort into assuring the health and growth of its tourism industry. To strengthen Kenya’s manufacturing capacity, the government offers incentives to produce goods for export.

Investment Promotion Agency

Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest), the country’s official investment promotion agency, is viewed favorably by international investors (http://www.invest.go.ke/). KenInvest’s mandate is to promote and facilitate investment by assisting investors in obtaining the licenses necessary to invest and by providing other assistance and incentives to facilitate smoother operations. To help investors navigate local regulations, KenInvest has developed an online database known as eRegulations, designed to provide investors and entrepreneurs with full transparency on Kenya’s investment-related regulations and procedures (https://eregulations.invest.go.ke/?l=en ).

KenInvest is part of the National Business and Economic Response of the GOK and has been instrumental in assessing and relaying information about the private sector effects of Covid-19 to inform policy measures during the pandemic. The agency is also tracking post-Covid-19 investment sectors.

The GOK prioritizes investment retention and maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors. All proposed legislation must pass through a period of public consultation in which investors have an opportunity 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 apex private sector business association, has had bi-annual round table meetings with President Kenyatta and his cabinet. Investors’ concerns are considered by a Cabinet committee on the ease of doing business, chaired by President Kenyatta. The American Chamber of Commerce has also taken an increasingly active role in engaging the GOK on Kenya’s business environment, often providing a forum for dialogue.

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. In an effort to encourage foreign investment, the GOK in 2015 repealed regulations that imposed a 75 percent foreign ownership limitation for firms listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, allowing such firms to be 100 percent foreign-owned. Also in 2015, the government established regulations requiring Kenyans own at least 15 percent of the share capital of derivatives exchanges, through which derivatives such as options and futures can be traded.

Kenya considered imposing “local content” requirements on foreign investments under the Companies Act (2015), which initially contained language requiring all foreign companies to demonstrate at least 30 percent of shareholding by Kenyan citizens by birth. United States business associations, however, raised concerns over the bill, pointing to its lack of clarity and the possibility such measures could run afoul of Kenya’s commitments under the WTO. After the U.S. government also raised the issue with the Kenyan government, the clause was repealed.

Kenya’s National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) policy guidelines, published in August 2020, increase the requirement for Kenyan ownership in foreign companies providing ICT services from 20% to 30%, and broadens its applicability within the telecommunications, postal, courier, and broadcasting industries. The foreign entities will have 3 years to comply with the increased local equity participation rule. The Mining Act (2016) restricts foreign participation in the mining sector and reserves the acquisition of mineral rights to Kenyan companies, requiring 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 that at least 25 percent of shares in private security firms be held by Kenyans. The National Construction Authority Act (2011) imposes 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 to enter into subcontracts or joint ventures assuring that at least 30 percent of the contract work is done by local firms. Regulations implementing these requirements remain in process. The Kenya Insurance Act (2010) restricts foreign capital investment to two-thirds, with no single person controlling more than 25 percent of an insurers’ capital.

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 a state agency called KenTrade to address trading partners’ concerns regarding the complexity of trading regulations and procedures. KenTrade is mandated to facilitate cross-border trade and to implement the National Electronic Single Window System. In 2017, KenTrade launched InfoTrade Kenya, located at infotrade.gov.ke, which provides a host of investment products and services to prospective investors in Kenya. The site documents the process of exporting and importing by product, by steps, by paperwork, and by individuals, including contact information for officials’ responsible relevant permits or approvals.

In February 2019, Kenya implemented a new Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS) which includes automated valuation benchmarking, automated release of green-channel cargo, importer validation and declaration, and linkage with iTax. The iCMS features enable Customs 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 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 Financial Centre Authority to establish and maintain an efficient operating framework to attract and retain firms. 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 both receive complaints and undertake investigations in line with the 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 for the investigation and imposition of anti-dumping, countervailing duty, and trade safeguards, to protect domestic industries from unfair trade practices.

The Companies Amendment Act (2017) amended the prior Companies Act clarifying ambiguities in the act and conforms to global trends and best practices. The act amends provisions on the extent of directors’ liabilities, on the extent of directors’ disclosures, and on shareholder remedies to better protect investors, including minority investors. The amended act eliminates the requirement for small enterprises to have lawyers register their firms, the requirement for company secretaries for small businesses, and the need for small businesses to hold annual general meetings, saving regulatory compliance and operational costs.

The Business Registration Services (BRS) Act (2015) established a state corporation known as the Business Registration Service to ensure effective administration of the laws relating to the incorporation, registration, operation and management of companies, partnerships, and firms. The BRS also devolves to the counties business registration services such as registration of business names and promoting local business ideas/legal entities, thus reducing costs of registration. 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 challenges facing investors in the country. The unit focuses on reducing the bureaucratic steps related to setting up and doing business in the country. Separately, the Business Regulatory Reform Unit operates a website (http://www.businesslicense.or.ke/ ) offering online business registration and providing information on how to access detailed information on additional relevant business licenses and permits, including requirements, costs, application forms, and contact details for the relevant regulatory agency. 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/ ).

An investment guide to Kenya, also referred to as iGuide Kenya, can be found at http://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/kenya/about# . iGuides designed by UNCTAD and the International Chamber of Commerce provide 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. Outward investment has been focused in the East Africa Community and select central African countries, taking advantage of the EAC preferential access between the EAC member countries. The EAC advocates for free movement of capital across the 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/  and 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 to increase transparency and close avenues for corrupt behavior is ongoing.

The 2010 Kenyan Constitution requires government to incorporate public participation before officials and agencies make certain decisions. The draft Public Participation Bill (2016) would 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 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 information is published on the Public Procurement Information Portal enhances transparency and accountability (https://www.tenders.go.ke/website). However, the directive is yet to be fully implemented.

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 state of the East African Community (EAC), and generally applies EAC policies to trade and investment. Kenya operates under the EAC Custom Union Act (2004) and decisions on the tariffs to levy on imports from countries outside the EAC zone are made at the EAC Secretariat level. 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 best 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 East African Community Integration within the Ministry of East Africa and Regional Development. Kenya generally adheres to international regulatory standards. The country 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, private sector, not-for-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

The legal system is based on English Common Law, and the 2010 constitution establishes an independent judiciary with a Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Constitutional Court, and High Court. Subordinate courts include: Magistrates, Khadis (Muslim succession and inheritance), Courts Martial, the Employment and Labor Relations Court (formerly the Industrial Court), and the Milimani Commercial Courts – the latter two of which both have jurisdiction over economic and commercial matters. In 2016, Kenya’s judiciary instituted specialized 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 face allegations of corruption, as well as political manipulation in the form of unjustified budget cuts which significantly impact the ability of the judiciary to deliver on its mandate and delayed confirmation of nominated Judges by the President resulting in an understaffed judiciary and long delays in rendering judgments.

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 the 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 entitled 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 entitled 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.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

Kenya does not have a competition or Anti-Trust policy, however the Competition Act (2010) created the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) which covers restrictive trade practices, mergers and takeovers, unwarranted concentrations, and price control. All mergers and acquisitions require the CAK’s authorization before they are finalized, and the CAK regulates abuse of dominant position and other competition and consumer-welfare related issues in Kenya. In 2014, CAK imposed a filing fee for mergers and acquisitions set at one million Kenyan shillings (KSH) (approximately USD 10,000) for mergers involving turnover of between one and KSH 50 billion (up to approximately USD 500 million). KSH two million (approximately USD 20,000) will be charged for larger mergers. Company takeovers are possible if the share buy-out is more than 90 percent, although such takeovers are rarely seen in practice.

Expropriation and Compensation

The 2010 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 in land acquisition, although land rights remain contentious and can cause significant project delays. However, there are cases where government measures could be deemed indirect expropriation that may impact foreign investment. Companies report an emerging trend in land lease renewal where foreign investors face uncertainty in lease renewals by county governments in instances where the county wants to confiscate some or all of the foreign investor’s project property.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Kenya is a member of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, also known as the ICSID Convention or the Washington 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 the Kenyan 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.” Kenya in 2020 prevailed in an ICSID international arbitration case against WalAm Energy Inc, a U.S./Canadian geothermal company in a geothermal exploration license revocation dispute.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

There have been very few investment disputes involving U.S. and international companies. Commercial disputes, including those involving government tenders, are more common. There are different bodies established to settle investment disputes. 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, the private sector cites weak institutional capacity, inadequate transparency, and inordinate delays in dispute resolution in lower courts. The resources and time involved in settling a dispute through the Kenyan courts often render them ineffective as a form of dispute resolution.

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 anchored entirely 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 seeks to serve as an independent, not-for-profit international organization for commercial arbitration, and may offer a quicker alternative to the court system. In 2014, the Kenya Revenue Authority launched an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism aiming to provide taxpayers with an alternative, fast-track avenue for resolving tax disputes.

Transcription of Court Proceedings in the Commercial and Tax Division

The Kenyan Judiciary reported in its 2018-2019 State of the Judiciary and Administration Report that it had commenced its court recording and transcription project with the installation of recording equipment in six courtrooms in the Commercial and Tax Division in Nairobi. The project will significantly speed up the hearing of cases as judges will no longer be required to record proceedings by hand.

Court Annexed Mediation and Small Claims Courts

The National Council on the Administration of Justice spearheaded legislative reforms to accommodate mediation in the formal court process as well as introduce small claims courts to expedite resolution of commercial cases. The Judiciary reported in its State of the Judiciary Address (2018-2019), that the Mediation Accreditation Committee accredited 645 mediators that were handling a total of 411 commercial matters during the reporting period. Additionally, the Judiciary reported that disputes with a total value of over three billion Kenyan shillings (KSH) (approximately USD 30,000,000) had been resolved through Court Annexed Mediation during the reporting period. Court Annexed Mediation serves as an effective case resolution mechanism that will significantly reduce pressure on the justice system and eventually result in expeditious determination of commercial cases.

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 and incorporated and unincorporated bodies. Section 720 of the Insolvency Act (2015) grants the force of law to the UNCITRAL Model Law.

Creditors’ rights are comparable to those in other common law countries, and monetary judgments typically are made in Kenyan shillings. 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. Kenya moved up 6 ranks in the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2020 report, moving to 50 of 190 countries in the “resolving insolvency” category.

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, a potential deterrent to foreign small and medium enterprise investment, especially in the services sector. 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. The 2015 amendments to Kenya’s VAT rules clarified some items that are VAT exempt. 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 or goods for supply to the armed forces or to an approved aid-funded project. Investors in metal manufacturing and 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 located in Kenya. Under this provision, gains derived on the sale or transfer of property by an individual or company are subject to tax at rates of at least five percent. Sales and transfer of property related to the oil and gas industry are taxed up to 37.5 percent. 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); and the United Nations or its agencies.

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 designated EPZs, with 137 companies and 60,383 workers contributing KSH 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 all firms in the zones are fully-owned by foreigners – mainly from India – while the rest are locally owned or joint ventures with foreigners.

While EPZs are focused on encouraging production for export, SEZs are designed to boost local economies by offering benefits for goods that are consumed both internally and externally. SEZs will 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) must maintain an open investment environment to facilitate and encourage business by the establishment of simple, flexible, and transparent procedures for investor registration. In 2019 Kenya developed the revised draft SEZ regulations with simplified and improved incentives structure. The 2019 draft regulations include customs duty exemptions to goods and services in the SEZ and no trade related restrictions including quantitative ones in import of goods and services into the SEZ. The rules also empower county governments to set aside public land for establishment of industrial zones.

Companies operating in the SEZs will receive the following benefits: all SEZ supplies of goods and services to companies and developers will be exempted from VAT; the corporate tax rate for enterprises, developers, and operators will be 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), and Kisumu (700 sq. km), Naivasha, Machakos (100 acres) and private developments designated as SEZ include Tatu City in Kiambu. The Third Medium Term Plan of Kenya’s Vision 2030 economic development agenda calls for a study for an SEZ at Dongo Kundu, and an SEZ was also under consideration at a location 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 skills are not available in Kenya. Firms seeking to hire expatriates must demonstrate that the requisite skills are not available locally through an exhaustive search. 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 KSH 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 in a GOK strategy called “Buy Kenya Build Kenya” which mandates 40 percent of GOK procurement be locally produced goods and services. Tenders funded entirely by the government with a value of less than KSH 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 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 certain circumstances. Procuring entities will be 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.

Kenya passed the Data Protection Act (2019) which imposes restrictions on the transfer of data in and out of Kenya without consent of the Data Protection Commissioner and the subject, functionally requiring data localization. The Act is similar to the European General Data Protection Regulation requirements on data processing.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

The 2010 Constitution prohibits foreigners or foreign owned firms from owning freehold interest in land in Kenya. However, unless classified as agricultural, there are no restrictions on foreign-owned companies leasing land or real estate. The cumbersome and opaque process to acquire land raises concerns about security of title, particularly given past abuses relating to the distribution and redistribution of public land. The Land (Extension and Renewal of Leases) Rules (2017) stopped the automatic renewal of leases and tied renewals to the economic output of the land that must be beneficial to the economy. If property legally purchased remains unoccupied, the property ownership can revert to other occupiers, including squatters. Privately-owned land comprised six percent of the total land area in 1990; government land was about 20 percent of the total and included national parks, forest land and alienated and un-alienated land. Trust land is the most extensive type of tenure, comprising 64 percent of the total land area in 1990.

The 2010 Constitution and subsequent land legislation created the National Land Commission, an independent government body mandated to review historical land injustices and provide oversight of government land policy and management. This had the unintended side effect of introducing coordination and jurisdictional confusion between the commission and the Ministry of Lands mainly fueled by land interests by the political class. In 2015, President Kenyatta commissioned the new National Titling Center with a promise to increase the 5.6 million title deeds issued since independence to 9 million. From 2013 to 2018, an additional 4.5 million title deeds have been issued, however 70 percent of land in Kenya remained untitled. Land grabbing resulting from double registration of titles remains prevalent. Property legally purchased but unoccupied can revert ownership to other parties.

Mortgages and liens exist in Kenya, but the recording system is not reliable – Kenya has only some 24,000 recorded mortgages in a country of 47.6 million people – and there are often complaints of property rights and interests not being enforced. The legal infrastructure around land ownership and registration has changed in recent years, and land issues have delayed several major infrastructure projects. Kenya’s 2010 Constitution required all land leases to convert from 999 years to 99 years, giving the state the power to review leasehold land at the expiry of the 99 years, deny lease renewal, and confiscate the land if it determines the land has not been used productively. The constitution also converted foreign-owned freehold interests into 99-year leases at a nominal “peppercorn rate” sufficient to satisfy the requirements for the creation of a legal contract. The GOK has not yet effectively implemented this provision. In July 2020, the Ministry of Lands and Physical planning released draft electronic land registration regulations (2020) to guide the e-transaction of land. The Ministry together with the National Land Commission agreed to commence the e-transaction on land matters pending resolution of outstanding issues.

Intellectual Property Rights

The major intellectual property enforcement issues in Kenya related to counterfeit products are corruption, lack of penalty enforcement, failure to impound imports of counterfeit goods at the ports of entry, and reluctance of brand owners to file a complaint with the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA). The prevalence of “gray market” products – genuine products that enter the country illegally without paying import duties – also presents a challenge, especially in the mobile phone and computer sectors. Copyright piracy and the use of unlicensed software are also emerging challenges.

The Presidential Task Force on Parastatal Reforms (2013) proposed that the three intellectual property agencies, namely: the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) and the Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) be merged into one Government Owned Entity (GOE). A task force on the merger comprising staff from KIPI, ACA, KECOBO, the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development is drafting the instruments of the merger which has led to a draft GOE named Intellectual Property Office of Kenya (IPOK) and has also drafted Intellectual Property Office Bill, 2020 for establishing IPOK. In an attempt to combat the import of counterfeits, the Ministry of Industrialization and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) decreed in 2009 that all locally-manufactured goods must have a KEBS standardization mark. Several categories of imported goods, specifically food products, electronics, and medicines, must have an import standardization mark (ISM). Under this program, U.S. consumer-ready products may enter the Kenyan market without altering the U.S. label but must also carry an ISM. Once the product qualifies for a Confirmation of Conformity, KEBS will issue the ISM free of charge. From time to time KEBS and the Anti-Counterfeit Agency conduct random seizures of counterfeit imports but there is no clear database of seizures kept.

Kenya is not included on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see the World Intellectual Property Organization’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Kenya developed the draft Financial Markets Conduct bill (2018) to consolidate and harmonize the financial sector in the country. Among the proposals in the draft bill is the establishment of the financial markets conduct authority to be the sole body to regulate providers of financial products and services to retail financial customers and to curb irresponsible financial market practices, a move that will create a conflict with the current financial markets regulators. Though relatively small by Western standards, Kenya’s capital markets are the deepest and most sophisticated in East Africa. The Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) is the best ranked exchange in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of performance in the last decade. NSE operates under the jurisdiction of the Capital Markets Authority of Kenya. It is a full member of the World Federation of Exchange, a founder member of the African Securities Exchanges Association (ASEA) and the East African Securities Exchanges Association (EASEA). The NSE is a member of the Association of Futures Market and is a partner exchange in the United Nations-led SSE initiative. Foreign investor participation has always been high and a key determinant of the market performance in the NSE. The NSE in July 2019 launched the derivatives market that will facilitate trading in future contracts on the Kenyan market and will be regulated by the Capital Market Authority of Kenya. The bond market is underdeveloped and dominated by trading in government debt securities. The government domestic debt market, however, is deep and liquid. Long-term corporate bond issuances are uncommon, leading to a lack of long-term investment capital.

In November 2019, Kenya repealed the interest rate capping law passed in 2016 which had had the unintended consequence of slowing private sector credit growth. There are no restrictions for foreign investors to seek credit in the domestic financial market although it still struggles to fund big ticket projects. Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally aligned with international norms. The Kenyan National Treasury has launched its mobile money platform government bond to retail investors locally dubbed M-Akiba purchased at USD 30 on their mobile phones. M-Akiba has generated over 500,000 accounts for the Central Depository and Settlement Corporation and The National Treasury has made initial pay-outs to bond holders. The GOK expects to issue USD 10 million over this platform in 2019 in an effort to deepen financial inclusion and financial literacy.

According to the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA) 2014-2019 report on venture capital performance in Africa, Kenya is assessed as having a well-developed venture capitalist ecosystem ranking second in sub-Saharan Africa and accounted for 18 percent of the deals between 2014-2019 in Africa. The report further states that over 20 percent of the deals in the period were for companies that were headquartered outside Africa which sought expansion into the region’s markets.

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) is working with regulators in EAC member states through the Capital Market Development Committee (CMDC) and East African Securities Regulatory Authorities (EASRA) on a regional integration initiative and has successfully introduced cross-listing of equity shares. The combined use of both the Central Depository and Settlement Corporation (CDSC) and an automated trading system has moved the Kenyan securities market to globally accepted standards. Kenya is a full (ordinary) member of the International Organization of Securities Commissions Money and Banking System.

Money and Banking System

The Kenyan banking sector in 2020 included 40 operating commercial banks, one mortgage finance company, 13 microfinance banks, nine representative offices of foreign banks, 70 foreign exchange bureaus, 15 money remittance providers, and three credit reference bureaus which are licensed and regulated by the Central Bank of Kenya. Kenya also has 12 deposit-taking microfinance institutions. There has been increased foreign interest in Kenya’s banking sector with foreign owned banks making up 15 of the 40 operating banks. Major international banks operating in Kenya include Citibank, Absa bank (formerly Barclays bank Africa), Bank of India, Standard Bank (South Africa), and Standard Chartered. Kenya’s banking sector has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CBK, 32 out of 39 commercial banks restructured their loans to accommodate those affected. Non-performing loans (NPLs) rose to 13.1 percent in April 2020 fueled by the pandemic, however previous NPLs have averaged above 10 percent. The Banking sector has 12 listed banks in the Nairobi Securities Exchange which owned 89 percent of the banking assets in 2019.

In March 2017, CBK lifted its moratorium on licensing new banks, issued in November 2015 following the collapse of Imperial Bank and Dubai Bank. The CBK’s decision to restart licensing signaled a return of stability in the Kenyan banking sector. In 2018, Societé Generale (France) also set up a representative office in Nairobi. Foreign banks can apply for license to set up operations in Kenya and are guided by the CBK’s prudential guidelines 2013.

In November 2019, the Government of Kenya (GOK) enacted the Banking Amendment Act 2019, which effectively repealed the section within the Banking (Amendment) Act (2016) that capped the maximum interest rate banks can charge on commercial loans at four percent above Central Bank of Kenya’s (CBK) benchmark lending rate. This repeal effectively provides financial institutions flexibility with regards to pricing the risk of lending.

In the ongoing land registry digitization process, the Kenyan Government is working on a database, known as the single source of truth (SSOT), to eliminate fake title deeds in the Ministry of Lands. The SSOT database development plan is premised on blockchain technology – distributed ledger technology – as the primary reference for all land transactions. The SSOT database would help the land transaction process to be efficient, open, and transparent. The blockchain taskforce presented its 2019 report to the Ministry of Information, Communication Technology, Innovations and Youth Affairs on the viability and opportunities of the blockchain technology which is yet to be implemented.

The percentage of Kenya’s total population with access to financial services through conventional or mobile banking platforms is approximately 80 percent. According to the World Bank, M-Pesa, Kenya’s largest mobile banking platform, processes more transactions within Kenya each year than Western Union does globally. Data from the Communication Authority of Kenya shows that in the 3 months to December 2019, 30 million Kenyans had active mobile money subscriptions. The 2017 National ICT Masterplan envisages the sector contributing at least 10 percent of GDP, up from 4.7 percent in 2015. Several mobile money platforms have achieved international interoperability, allowing the Kenyan diaspora to conduct financial transactions in Kenya from abroad.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange Policies

Kenya has no restrictions on converting or transferring funds associated with investment. Kenyan law requires the declaration to customs of amounts greater than KSH 1,000,000 (approximately USD 10,000) or the equivalent in foreign currencies for non-residents as a formal check against money laundering. Kenya is an open economy with a liberalized capital account and a floating exchange rate. The CBK engages in volatility controls aimed exclusively at smoothing temporary market fluctuations. Between June 2015 and June 2016, the Kenyan shilling declined 3.5 percent after a sharp decline of 15 percent during the same period in 2014/2015. In 2018, foreign exchange reserves remained relatively steady. The average inflation rate was 5.2 percent in 2019 and the average rate on 91-day treasury bills had fallen to 7.2 percent in 2019. According to CBK figures, the average exchange rate was KSH 101.99to USD 1.00 in 2019.

Remittance Policies

Kenya’s Foreign Investment Protection Act (FIPA) guarantees capital repatriation and remittance of dividends and interest to foreign investors, who are free to convert and repatriate profits including un-capitalized retained profits (proceeds of an investment after payment of the relevant taxes and the principal and interest associated with any loan).

Foreign currency is readily available from commercial banks and foreign exchange bureaus and can be freely bought and sold by local and foreign investors. The Central Bank of Kenya Act (2014), however, states that all foreign exchange dealers are required to obtain and retain appropriate documents for all transactions above the equivalent of KSH 1,000,000 (approximately USD 10,000). Kenya has 15 money remittance providers as at 2020 following the operationalization of money remittance regulations in April 2013.

Kenya is listed as a country of primary concern for money laundering and financial crime by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. Kenya was removed from the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Watchlist in 2014 following progress in creating the legal and institutional framework to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

In 2019, the National Treasury published the Kenya Sovereign Wealth Fund policy (2019) and the Kenya Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill (2019) for stakeholders’ comments as a constitutional procedure. The fund would receive income from any future privatization proceeds, dividends from state corporations, oil and gas, and minerals revenues due to the national government, revenue from other natural resources, and funds from any other source. The Kenya Information and Communications Act (2009) provides for the establishment of a Universal Service Fund (USF). The purpose of the USF is to fund national projects that have significant impact on the availability and accessibility of ICT services in rural, remote, and poor urban areas. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the USF committee has partnered with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development to digitize the education curriculum for online learning.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

In 2013, the Presidential Task Force on Parastatal Reforms (PTFPR) published a list of all state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and recommended proposals to reduce the number of State Corporations from 262 to 187 to eliminate redundant functions between parastatals; close or dispose of non-performing organizations; consolidate functions wherever possible; and reduce the workforce — however, progress is slow. The taskforce’s report can be found at (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BytnSZLruS3GQmxHc1VtZkhVVW8/edit ) SOEs’ boards are independently appointed and published in the Kenya Gazette notices by respective Cabinet Secretary. The State Corporations Advisory Committee is mandated by the State Corporations Act 2015 to advise on matters of SOEs. Financial operations of most SOEs are not readily available due to their opaque operating procedures despite being public entities, only those that are listed in the Nairobi Securities Exchange publish their financial positions as guided by the Capital Markets Authority guidelines. Corporate governance in SOEs is guided by the 2010 Constitution chapter 6 on integrity, Leadership and Integrity Act 2012 and the Public Officer Ethics Act 2003 which provide integrity and ethical requirements governing the conduct of State and public officers.

In general, competitive equality is the standard applied to private enterprises in competition with public enterprises. Certain parastatals, however, have enjoyed preferential access to markets. Examples include Kenya Reinsurance, which enjoys a guaranteed market share; Kenya Seed Company, which has fewer marketing barriers than its foreign competitors; and the National Oil Corporation of Kenya (NOCK), which benefits from retail market outlets developed with government funds. Some state corporations have also benefited from easier access to government guarantees, subsidies, or credit at favorable interest rates. In addition, “partial listings” on the Nairobi Securities Exchange offer parastatals the benefit of financing through equity and GOK loans (or guarantees) without being completely privatized.

In August 2020, the executive reorganized the management of SOEs in the cargo transportation sector and mandated the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC) to oversee rail, pipeline and port operations through a holding company called Kenya Transport and Logistics Network (KTLN). ICDC assumes a coordinating role over the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) and Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC). KTLN is aimed at lowering the cost of doing business in the country, which will be achieved through the provision of port, rail, and pipeline infrastructure in a cost effective and efficient manner.

SOE procurement from the private sector is guided by the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act 2015 and the published Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Regulations 2020 which introduced exemptions from the Act for procurement on bilateral/multilateral basis commonly referred to government to government procurement; introduced E-procurement procedures; and preferences and reservations which gives preferences to the “Buy Kenya Build Kenya” strategy (http://kenyalaw.org/kl/fileadmin/pdfdownloads/LegalNotices/2020/LN69_2020.pdf ). The amendment reserves 30 percent government supply contracts for youth, women, and small and medium enterprises. Kenya is neither party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) nor an Observer Government.

Privatization Program

The Privatization Act 2003 establishes the Privatization Commission (PC) which is mandated to formulate, manage, and implement Kenya’s Privatization Program. GOK has been committed to implementing a comprehensive public enterprises reform program to increase private sector participation in the economy. The privatization commission ( https://www.pc.go.ke/  ) is fully constituted with a board which is responsible for the privatization program. The PC has 26 approved privatization programs (https://www.pc.go.ke/sites/default/files/2019-06/APPROVED%20PRIVATIZATION%20PROGRAMME.pdf  ). In 2020, GOK is implementing a sugar taskforce report that proposed privatization of some state-owned sugar firms to increase their efficiency and productivity. The process of privatization involves open bids by interested investors including foreign investors.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The Environmental Management and Coordination Act (1999) establishes a legal and institutional framework for the management of the environment while the Factories Act (1951) safeguards labor rights in industries. The Mining Act 2016 provides for holders of mineral rights to develop a comprehensive community development agreement that secures socially responsible investment and provides for employment preference for those living in communities around mining operations. The legal system, however, has remained slow to prosecute corporate malfeasance in both areas.

The GOK is not an adherent 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 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.

9. Corruption

Many businesses deem corruption to be pervasive and entrenched in Kenya. Transparency International’s (TI) 2019 Global Corruption Perception Index ranks Kenya 137 out of 198 countries, six places lower than in 2018 and Kenya’s score of 28 remains below the sub-Saharan Africa average of 32. Historical lack of political will, limited progress in prosecuting past corruption cases, and the slow pace of reform in key sectors were reasons cited for Kenya’s chronic low ranking. Corruption has been reported to be an impediment to FDI, with local media reporting allegations of high-level corruption related to health, energy, ICT, and infrastructure contracts. There are many reports that corruption often influences the outcomes of government tenders, and U.S. firms have had limited success bidding on public procurements. In 2018, President Kenyatta began a public campaign against corruption. The Anti-Corruption agencies mandated to fight corruption have been inconsistent in coordinating activities, especially in bringing cases against senior officials. However, there were cabinet level arrests in 2019 that signaled a commitment by the GOK to fight corruption. Despite these efforts, much still remains to be done in convicting high profile suspects.

In 2020, a high-level conviction was secured for a Member of Parliament setting a precedent for top officials’ convictions. 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; implementation of this act is ongoing. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (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 officers declare their income, assets, and liabilities every two years. Public officers must also include the income, assets, and liabilities of their spouses and dependent children under the age of 18. 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 public officer declarations without permission may be subject to fine or imprisonment.

On August 31, 2016, the president signed into law the Access to Information Act (2016) although the government has not yet issued regulations required to fully operationalize the act. The law allows citizens to request government information and requires government entities and private entities doing business with the government proactively to disclose certain information, such as government contracts. 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.

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 Bill of Rights of the 2010 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) calls for the protection of witnesses in criminal cases and created an independent Witness Protection Agency. A draft Whistleblowers Protection Bill (2016) is currently stalled in Parliament.

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

Political tensions over the protracted and contentious 2017 election cycle spilled well into 2018. In March 2018, however, President Kenyatta and opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga publicly shook hands and pledged to work together to heal the political, social, and economic divides revealed by the election. The 2017 electoral period had been marred by violence that claimed the lives of nearly 100 Kenyans, a contentious political atmosphere pitting the ruling Jubilee Party against NASA, and political interference and attacks by both sides on key institutions. 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. The court’s ruling brought a close to Kenya’s protracted 2017 election cycle, a period that included the Supreme Court’s historic September 2017 annulment of the August 2017 presidential election and the unprecedented repeat election. In November 2019, the Building Bridges Initiative Advisory Taskforce, established by President Kenyatta in May 2018 as part of his pledge to work with Odinga, issued a 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 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. Instability in Somalia has heightened security concerns and led to increased security measures aimed at businesses and public institutions around the country. 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 escaping drought and instability in neighboring countries, adding to the large refugee population already in Kenya from several countries. Security expenditures represent a substantial operating expense for businesses in Kenya.

Kenya and its neighbors are working together to mitigate the 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 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 allowed to work in Kenya provided they have a work (entry) permit issued under the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act 2011. In December 2018, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government issued a directive that requires foreign nationals to apply for their work permits while in their country of origin and will have to prove that the skills they have are not available in the Kenya labor market. 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 made additions to the list of requirements for work permits and special pass applications. Issuance of a work permit now requires an assured income of at least USD 24,000 annually. 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 bribes are sometimes solicited to speed the process. A tightening of work permit issuances and enforcement begun in 2018 is now one of the largest complaints of multinational companies doing business 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 non-agricultural employment in the formal sector was at 18.1 million, with nominal average earnings of Ksh778,248 (USD 7,200) 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 2.8million 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, which include a website (http://www.mygov.go.ke/category/jobs/ ). 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 2010 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 Wholesale and Retail trade sector recording the highest 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 labor standards to be upheld. 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 in the area of child labor.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

In 2016, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (formerly OPIC) established a regional office in Nairobi, but the office is not currently staffed. The agency is engaged in funding programs in Kenya with an active in-country portfolio of approximately USD 700 million, including projects in power generation, internet infrastructure, light manufacturing, and education infrastructure. 13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

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 2017 $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 2017 $6Mn BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_multinational_
companies_comprehensive_data.htm
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 $1.07bn 2019 1.3bn https://unctad.org/ sections/dite_dir/
docs/wir2018/wir18_fs_ke_en.pdf
 
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 $3,885 100% Total Outward $803 100%
U.K. $1,086 28% Uganda $395 49%
Mauritius $675 17% Mauritius $293 37%
Netherlands $652 17% South Africa $52 6%
France $315 8% Mozambique $37 5%
South Africa $309 8% Italy $12 2%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Source: IMF Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS). Figures are from 2012 (latest available). IMF no longer publishes Kenya data as part of its CDIS.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $3,885 100% All Countries $2,817 100% All Countries $833 100%
U.K. $1,086 27% U.K. $974 35% Netherlands $353 42%
Mauritius $675 17% Mauritius $618 22% France $174 21%
Netherlands $652 17% Netherlands $299 11% U.K. $112 13%
France $315 8% South Africa $290 10% Mauritius $57 7%
South Africa $309 8% Germany $181 6% Switzerland $55 7%

Source: IMF Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS). Figures are from 2012 (latest available). IMF no longer publishes Kenya data as part of its CPIS. 14. Contact for More Information

14. Contact for More Information

U.S. Embassy Economic Section
U.N. Avenue, Nairobi, Kenya
+254 (0)20 363 6050

Investment Climate Statements
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select a Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future