To start a business in Kenya, you need to register your business and obtain the necessary business licenses and permits. Some of these business permits you can obtain them when registering your company. Failure to secure a business permit is a direct ticket to having trouble with the government. The following are the different types of business permits in Kenya.
Categories of Business Permits You Need in Kenya
There is a broad category of business permits that you need to start a business in Kenya. Some are under the County Governments while others are under the National Government. For some, you can apply manually or online. You will need to renew most of these business permits after a year. For renewals, you will need the license of the previous year. They include the following.
You can register your business as a sole proprietorship, partnership or a company. If you have a limited budget, you can start by registering your business name. To register a business name, you can register online through eCitizen portal or go to Huduma Center and do a business name search. You need to present three names of your choice that you would like to use as your business names. The process takes three business days and you need to pay Ksh 150 for each name search. If the first name you suggested is available, you will manage to register it.
After searching, you can register the available business name. The process takes five days and attracts a fee of Ksh 1,000. You will be presented with a business name certificate and no one can use your business name in future.
If it is a company, you can register it through a lawyer. The charges of registering a company range between Ksh 25,000 and Ksh 30,000. The process takes around 2 weeks. You will get a certificate of incorporation and a company seal at an extra fee of Ksh 2,500.
Read more: How to register a business in Kenya.
City Council Business Permit
You need a city-county council permit to operate any business in any county in Kenya. The charges for getting county council business permit depends on the size of your business and the industry your company is in. For most medium-sized businesses, the costs are Ksh 10,000 every year.
You need to visit your county or municipal council offices and tell them about the nature of your business. They will advise you on the best permit. Once you make a payment, you should get a receipt and after a week, you can collect the permit.
Food and Health Permits
You need a health permit if your business is related to food and health. Therefore, if you are operating a hotel, clinic, bakery or a salon, you will need to get the food and health permit. Health officials will visit your premises for inspection. If you meet their requirements, you will be given food and health certificate. The process takes around one week.
Fire Safety Certificate
The fire safety certificate is a new introduction for businesses. Businesses need to have fire extinguishers and one of the requirements to get certified. The concerned authorities will inspect your premises. If you meet the criteria, you will be presented with a fire safety certificate.
Advertising Signage License
You need a permit to display advertising signage for your business, be it a billboard, banner or a lightbox. Apart from the business signage, you also need a license for branding your vehicle. Advertising and signage license prices vary depending on the nature of your business and your county of residence. Also, the size of the signage determines the charges.
Unified Business Permit
A unified business permit is an introduction by the Nairobi County Government. It was previously known as single business permit and it consolidates all the necessary licenses for operating a business. Among the licenses it incorporates are; trading licenses, fire safety license, health permits and signage licenses. This business permit makes it easy since you will apply for all the necessary licenses in a single application.
Why You Need a Business Permit for Your Business in Kenya
- The permits help the government to raise revenues for service delivery and development
- Business permits allow you to transact with the government so that you can get tenders
- You will need permits whenever you need to expand your business or merge companies. This is important to get a better deal whenever you want to merge companies.
- You will need to present a business permit whenever you are borrowing money from financial institutions and donors.
- It is a legal requirement for any business operating in Kenya.
Read more: Lucrative business ideas in Kenya.
A business permit is an important document necessary for the smooth running of your business; without it, you will be in frequent conflict with government officials. Make sure to renew the business permits from time to time.