Whenever businesses ponder branching out into international markets, they take several factors into consideration. These include the demand for their product or service in that market, the potential for growth, and the ease with which a workforce can be created.
In Africa, untapped markets create many ripe opportunities for international businesses to expand, and Kenya may prove to be one of the most attractive options, according to a report published by the Society for Human Resource Management.
Recent improvements are a draw
Pat DeDonato, senior vice president of supply chain management at Cartus, a provider of global relocation solutions, wrote a column for the Society for Human Resource Management that discussed why Kenya is a good choice for business expansion, and covered the issues most pertinent to making a smooth transition for expatriates.
“The East African country has seen improved economic activity in recent years,” DeDonato’s column read. “This activity has been driven by a growing commercial relationship with India and China, the growth of the technology sector, and increased investment in the agricultural, tourism and manufacturing industries. The 2012 discovery of oil along Kenya’s coastline also adds to the country’s economic prospects.”
In Kenya, English and Swahili are the two official languages. This means that communication in business may be easier there compared to several other African countries, but expatriates living in the country should probably invest in language training courses to make everyday interaction with the locals smoother. During business transactions, DeDonato noted that it is important to use strong eye contact and a firm handshake. When trying to make a point, it may be helpful to use anecdotal stories rather than direct statements.
Since the government dealt with recent terrorist attacks, security in the country has been tightened, resulting in immigrant and work permit processes that are lengthier and more stringent than before. Housing in Nairobi may be difficult to find because of the high proportion of expatriates in the city. Rent is usually paid quarterly, with security deposits covering three months of residence. Break clauses require three months’ notice to the landlord. If companies are willing to send workers to more upscale areas, they should consider investing in gated communities or properties that have reliable alarm systems. Due to the country’s deficient and unreliable infrastructure, the provision of a car with a designated driver may be more desirable than having workers drive themselves in cars leased by their companies.
For workers who have children, there are several international and private schools that model their curricula after what is seen in the U.S. or U.K. The most prevalent religions in Kenya are Christianity and Islam, with 10 percent of the population practicing indigenous religions.
Medical issues require preparation
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who travel to Kenya first need to ask their physicians about whether any vaccines are necessary. In addition to receiving all routine inoculations given in the U.S., travelers to Kenya also need shots or proof of immunity for hepatitis A, polio, typhoid, hepatitis B, meningitis, yellow fever and, in cases that require close contact with animals, rabies. Protective measures against malaria include prescription medication and avoidance of mosquitos.
Visitors are advised to consume food items that are cooked and served hot, hard-cooked eggs, pasteurized dairy, and produce that was washed in clean water or peeled by the person who will eat it. Expatriates should never eat food at room-temperature, unwashed produce, runny eggs, unpasteurized dairy or bush meat. Acceptable beverages include bottled water, disinfected water, hot drinks, pasteurized milk and carbonated drinks. Foreigners need to avoid unpasteurized milk, tap water, well water, reconstituted juice, or anything else made with tap water or well water.