Explaining the Business Culture in Kenya

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

businessman in the front with his colleagues in the background

Every country has their own specific customs and habits for carrying out business transactions.

In continents like Africa, what may be accepted by one region in one country, may not be appropriate in another.

African countries like Kenya may be more particular about their business cultures. However, it’s vital to understand and respect those cultures if you want to succeed in doing business there.

Business Etiquette in Kenya

If you have a business meeting in Kenya, consider these tips on etiquette:

  • Meetings should be scheduled at least two weeks in advance and it’s important to confirm the meeting a few days prior.

  • Business meetings may be held for hours because everyone is expected to contribute their opinions equally. Rushing a meeting is considered rude and often results in an extended meeting.

  • If a business meeting is set to begin at 8:00AM, it may not properly start until 9:00AM. However, showing up late may be seen as a form of disrespect because employees go to great lengths to arrive on time for work.

  • There are geographical differences in Kenyan business practices. The capital city Nairobi, for instance, is fast paced while the coastal city of Mombasa is slower paced.

  • Kenyans start and end business meetings by shaking hands, exchanging business cards, and engaging in small talk. Meetings will typically start with everyone standing up and formally introducing themselves.

  • Titles are of the utmost importance in Kenyan culture. Individuals typically address each other by their academic or professional title, followed by their last name.

  • Once you have developed a personal relationship, it’s acceptable to address your Kenyan counterpart by their first name, or title and first name. It is best for this level of informality to be determined by your colleague.

  • Your level of education will be considered by your Kenyan colleagues, regardless of your work experience. The person with higher education will be highly respected by others in the room.

  • Business attire for men and women is formal, despite the high temperatures.

  • When discussing a deal, expect to barter and haggle but always keep your tone as calm as possible.

  • English is widely spoken in business settings. Most meetings in Kenya are carried out in the English language.

Respect is vital to having a successful business meeting anywhere in the world. Since respect varies by culture, here are some tips on what you should and shouldn’t do in Kenya:

  • Eye contact is a sign of respect in Kenyan business culture, even if you're in a rural area in East Africa.

  • When greeting someone of higher status in a meeting, you should lower your eyes and support the right forearm with the left, while shaking hands.

  • After greeting each other, it’s vital to ask questions about the well-being of your Kenyan business partner, their family, and business. Skipping this portion of the greeting is considered poor etiquette.

  • Since everyone is expected to contribute during business meetings, every comment, criticism, or suggestion will be considered. Make sure that you’re respecting everyone’s thoughts and remarks by listening and politely responding.

  • Avoid suggesting a solution unless you are asked. Kenyans tend to communicate indirectly, and blunt comments may be perceived as disrespectful.

Every country has their own way of doing business and what may be common in one country, may not be in another.

When doing business in Kenya, is it of the utmost importance to remember a few tips. Respecting the Kenyan business culture means showing up on time, respectably greeting your counterparts, engaging in small talk, and contributing to the conversation as politely as possible.

#Kenya #Businessculture #Work


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