Kenya: What the business traveller needs to know
At the recent African Business Travel Association Conference; representatives from nine African countries shared important tips about their countries that business travellers should know.
From the basics like payment and hotel options to the requirements for doing business; their ‘on the ground’ tips will benefit travellers.
Spotlight on Kenya
Kenya has the 72nd-largest economy in the world and with a per capita GDP of around $1455 is one of the larger ones in sub-Saharan Africa.
75% of the population is employed in either the agriculture, forestry or the fishing industry but mining and industrial manufacturing are on the rise. Many travellers visit Kenya for the Maasai Mara and the annual migration; making tourism a large economic driver for the country. Kenya is also a major exporter of coffee and tea.
Business culture is traditional and formal and technological adoption is slow. Mpesa (a mobile phone-based money transfer, financing and microfinancing service; launched in 2007 by Vodafone for Safaricom and Vodacom, the largest mobile network operators in Kenya and Tanzania), however, is worth noting as a technology development from Kenya that has changed the way many Africans make payments.
Nairobi airport is a world-class facility that was recently rebuilt and is the main hub for Kenya Airways. Kenya is serviced by major airlines either daily or twice daily. British Airways, KLM, Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, SAA, Lufthansa, Air Mauritius, Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian and more fly to the country.
There are various payment options other than Mpesa. The infrastructure is there, the banking system is very efficient, and the exchange controls are not too stringent, making card payments easy and feasible. Domestic airlines like Safari Link and Air Kenya are not often on the GDS so TMCs have difficulty in having multiple processes to service their customers. A challenge is traffic into and around major metro areas. It is therefore common practice to hire a car with a driver.
Safety in Nairobi is reasonably good due to the large NGO presence any incidents are widely reported to keep people abreast of situations. Travellers should remember that it is a legal requirement to carry an official form of identity on one’s person at all times.
Mary Wanjohi, Marketing and Communications Manager at Radisson Blu Hotel Nairobi Upper Hill, offers the following courtesy guidelines:
- Expect the meeting to start a few minutes later than the appointment and not on the dot.
- Handshaking is seen as respectful and you should start with the most senior person in the room.
- Expect to start a meeting or a phone call with a few pleasantries before getting to the main subject.
- Diving straight into the subject is seen as impolite. Do not look down on the local culture or habits, rather find common ground, which you can highlight to create a connection.
- Having a local contact to help bridge the connection with a new acquaintance will go a long way.
- Address someone as Mr/Miss if you are not familiar with them.
- Kenyans are very hospitable and go out of their way to assist visitors, however when making enquiries make an effort to be warm, open and friendly.
- When declining an offer, be very polite but firm with your answer. However, if offered a cup of tea or other forms of refreshment, you should not decline, especially when invited to someone’s home or office. This will be deemed rude.
- You could bring a gift for your host. It’s not strictly necessary, but will be viewed as thoughtful.
- Transactions are mainly based on trust and this will determine the success of the business transaction.
- The Queen’s English is preferred in written communication and may appear rather formal.