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The economy in Kenya has great potential for growth, benefitting from a skilled and youthful workforce, constantly improving infrastructure and its geographical location as an economic hub in East Africa. Although expats employed in Kenya have well-paid jobs, the reality on the ground can make it difficult to secure employment.
Unemployment levels remain high and poverty is a major challenge to development. Working in Kenya and earning a decent salary to afford the cost of living can prove difficult for expats that have not secured a job before arrival. Still, Kenya has one of the largest economies in sub-Saharan Africa, and expats who do their research on the job market will find a bunch of work opportunities.
Job market in Kenya
Kenya, especially Nairobi, is a major business hub. Several multinational companies have set up their African headquarters and main offices there, including Google, General Electric and Coca-Cola. However, even with the presence of these branches, the country lacks the financial and business draw that encourages the level of immigration found in other, more attractive expat destinations, such as across Western Europe. Most expats who work for these multinational corporations move to Kenya on an intra-company transfer, where they have previously been working for the company in their home country.
Industry sectors most likely to employ foreigners include telecommunications, information- and communication technology, oil and gas, and exploration and production. Tourism, logistics, agriculture, construction and real estate are other key sectors that Kenya’s external investors are interested in.
Given the diverse presence of expats, many expatriates work for foreign embassies and consulates. The host of international schools also sees teachers coming and going as they travel and experience life in Kenya.
There are also volunteer positions in Kenya with government and NGO organisations. The country is a regional hub for not-for-profit organisations and serves as the administrative centre for the operations of aid organisations in East Africa, especially for matters related to Somalia and Sudan. For this reason, expats working in Kenya could find themselves in volunteering, teaching or development positions, regardless of their skill set.
Entrepreneurial expats may consider running their own company, and expat start-ups are thriving in Kenya. We recommend seeking professional guidance on which sectors allow foreign investment and which do not, as well as additional requirements for starting a business, including minimum start-up capital and the ratio of local Kenyan to foreign shareholders.
Finding a job in Kenya
On the whole, expats rarely show up in Kenya looking for a job but are instead relocated and transferred there or hired from overseas by a company familiar with the immigration and work visa process. These companies usually provide relocation services and support with work permit applications.
As with most job applications, an attractive CV and strong cover letter highlighting relevant qualifications and experience establish a good starting point when searching for a job in Kenya. Online job platforms, such as BrighterMonday, MyJobMag, LinkedIn and PigiaMe, are one of the best ways to find available positions and send out applications. These searches can be done from abroad or while in the country.
Directly searching a company’s website is a good idea for expats with a specific organisation in mind. Expat forums on social media can also be beneficial along with word of mouth. Networking is probably best done from within Kenya or by knowing Kenyans in business and making useful connections.
Work culture in Kenya
English-speaking expats doing business in Kenya should not be too worried about language barriers, as English is widely spoken as a business language. Working hours are typically 8am or 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, although banks often close earlier.
Business culture in Kenya places emphasis on relationships, both personal and professional. We don’t advise rushing work meetings, but instead getting to know business partners and colleagues.
►Learn more about the country's work culture on the Doing Business in Kenya page
►For specific info on the job market in Nairobi's capital, see Working in Nairobi
"Somebody recently described Nairobi as ‘being on steroids’ and I think that she was spot on. The speed of how fast the city is developing is breathtaking. There has been a building boom for the past 10 years and infrastructure is struggling to keep up." Read about the economic climate in Kenya and tips on finding employment in our interview with Frances.
"Most expats working in Kenya work for embassies, NGOs, UN agencies, or international media. My advice would be to find a job BEFORE you arrive, so that hopefully your employer will sort out your visa and work permit for you." Tara's interview shares suggested online resources and advice on finding a job in Kenya.
Are you an expat living in Kenya?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Kenya. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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