There are various legal requirements that you need to start a business in Kenya. Only through meeting these requirements that you can run a business legally. Most of them are mandatory and lack of any could lead you to prosecution or business closure.

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This is the reason why you need to conduct deep market research before starting a business to understand all the requirements and how to meet them. Hence, this article will focus on some of the major legal requirements as per the Kenyan laws. However, there could be minor differences depending on the area of operation.

1. Registration certificate/Certificate of incorporation

Starting a formal business requires registration either as a sole proprietorship or a company. These two vary depending on the type of business. For individuals, it is known as a business name registration certificate while for a company it is the company registration certificate

a. Business registration

Business name registration is easier and cheaper to get. Below is the process of Business name registration in Kenya.

Step 1: Log in to the Ecitizen portal and then business registration to reserve the business name after ensuring it is available for use.

Step 2: After reservation, you should proceed to register the business name. The reservation process involves providing 5 names for the search process.

Step 3: Specify the nature of business. Examples include Stationary, furniture and Hardware.

Step 4: Provide the physical address of the business.This should include details such as plot number, Road, and Town.

Step 5: Provide the contact address for the business. This includes postal code, address, and town of the business.

Step 6: Indicate the proprietor(s) details: the name(s) should be in full as per the ID Number and all details must be filled in.

Step 7: Download the system-generated form for signing. The signature should be in the order of the names on the form if the registration has more than one owner.

Registration fees for a business name are 1,000 shillings

Upon completing this process, the registration certificate takes at least one week to process.

b. Company registration

Company registration is more complex and most people do engage lawyers to assist them with the process. This is because the preparation of some documents like the Memorandum of association is technical.

It costs an average of 25,000 Shillings for the process and takes between 2 weeks and One month to get a certificate of incorporation. Learn more on how to register a company in Kenya.

2. Business Permit

A business permit indicates that you are licensed to operate by the local county government. The costs of getting one depends on the county of operations. As an example, it costs an average of 3500 to get a business permit in Isiolo while the same goes for 15,000 in Nairobi. How to get a single business permit in Nairobi.

In most places, a permit is normally valid for a year. Hence, you should renew it after that. Some of the factors that determine the cost of a business permit include the size and nature of the business. Bigger businesses pay more.

Upon getting the permit, you should ensure to display it on your premises as a sign of compliance. Operating without a permit is illegal and could lead to business closure or prosecution in a court of law.

3. Specific regulatory licenses

These are licensees offered if you are operating a business that needs special licenses such as a pharmacy, insurance business, or bank.  For example, If you want to operate a bank, you need licensing by the central bank of Kenya.

For a telecommunication business, you need licensing by the communications authority of Kenya. If you want to operate a business dealing with medicine, you require a license from the pharmacies and poisons board of Kenya. Other business such as insurance needs a license from the insurance regulatory authority if Kenya.

Hence, you need to conduct deep research to understand all the licensing requirements for your business. In case of any challenges, you should engage a professional for guidance.

4. Food and Health License

This is a license given to those businesses dealing with food products. Food is a sensitive product making it necessary to have a compliance license. Before getting it, inspectors much evaluate your business premises to ensure you have met all the requirements.

Hygiene is also a critical element to check when applying for this license. This ensures food is being sold in a clean environment minimizing the chances of contamination. In case of lapse. This could lead to food-related disease outbreaks.

Some of the businesses that require this license include

  • Hotels and restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Food-related schools
  • Fast food cafes
  • Grocery stores
  • Supermarkets

To get the license, a health inspector has to visit your business premise and certify that all the requirements are met. If all is okay, your license is ready for processing.

5. Fire Prevention and Safety certificate

This certification ensures the business has the necessary tools and preparation to maintain fire safety. Some of the requirements to get the certificate are;

  • Presence of fire extinguishers
  • Fire escape/exit space

The get the clearance, a fire certification officer visits the business premise to inspect if it is compliant. It costs an average of 3,000 Shillings to get the certificate. However, this depends on the county.


A Kenya Revenue Authority PIN is among the legal requirements that you need to start a business in Kenya. It is used to facilitate tax compliance with all Kenyans and businesses required to file their tax returns yearly.

The process of getting a KRA pin is straightforward and fast. How to get a KRA PIN in Kenya.  This pin is also a mandatory requirement if you want to register a business or company. It is also key during the single business permit application.

To get the pin, you can either do it online by visiting the KRA website or one of their many offices across the country and Huduma centers. Find the list of KRA offices and contacts.

7. NHIF Registration

The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) is a government body whose mandate is to offer medical insurance services to Kenyans. As an employer, you have to register to make the mandatory monthly contributions for your employees. The amount of contribution depends on the amount they earn.

Failure to make these payments could result in prosecution or penalties. Failure to make these payments could also lead to a lack of medical services by your employees.

How to register for NHIF as an employer

Step 1: Visit the NHIF employer portal and click registration.

Step 2: Fill in the registration form. This includes information such as registration name, business name, KRA pin, address, and business type.

Step 3: Attach both the registration certificate and KRA pin.

Step 4: Submit your application. This is the last step after ensuring the application form is filled out. NHIF will review it and if successful, you will receive confirmation and the number on your address.

8. NSSF registration

NSSF means the National Social Security Fund. This is the final legal requirements that you need to start a business in Kenya. It is a government body whose mandate is to manage pension contributions for Kenyans. Every Kenyan is required to contribute towards their pension by paying a minimum of 200 Shillings monthly.  To make the payments, you can either do it through a bank or a mobile money channel such as M-PESA.

How to register for NSSF as an employer

Step 1: Visit the NSSF self-service portal then click employer.

Step 2: Fill in the application form on the portal. This includes providing details such as registration number, number of employees, KRA pin, and business name. Other important details include contacts such as business location, address, and branch details if there are any.

Step 3: Submit your application. After filling out the application form, you should submit your details for review. If successful, you will get the NSSF employer number.

Step 4: Payments. The employer’s NSSF number allows you to start making monthly contributions for the employees ensuring you are compliant.


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