For the past two summers, I’ve visited Kenya. First, to mainly see old friends and family; and on the second occasion, to explore a business idea. On both instances, I’ve found that my stay could have been more convenient and efficient had I taken time to get the following done before I departed. ………
Disclaimer – While examples in this article are specific to Kenya, they are also generally applicable to other African countries
Get a local bank accounts:
The last thing you want to do when you travel back home is to spend time lining up at a bank to exchange or withdraw money every time you run out. Using your international debit/credit card at home, or asking friends to send you (your own money) western union/money grams can be both super expensive and inconvenient. Thankfully, and given the amount of money that the Kenyan diaspora ($143M= 2014) remits back home every year, it is only given that any financial institution worth their salt would be interested in tapping into that market. And Kenyan banks seem to have done that, almost to the last man. Most banks IN Kenya offer banking services specifically tailored for the diaspora. You can apply for a bank account online, receive it in the mail (pick it up where you land) and have it ready to use when you land. Equity bank even has agents in the diaspora.You can have the account in local currencies or in any major foreign currency.
The NIC Bank diaspora account is available in ten major currencies. You can send money to anyone in Kenya through MPesa, conduct same day transfers to any bank in Kenya and SWIFT transfer to any bank worldwide, according to the bank’s website.
Most of the banks require that you attach a passport size photo, a copy of your passport, and, in Equity’s case, to sign an email indemnity form.
Furthermore, most of the banks allow you to conduct online transactions, offer debit cards, give loans after banking with them over a certain period and promise a dedicated customer service team. Other banks that offer diaspora banking accounts include KCB group, I&M Bank. CBA group, Family Bank, ABC bank,
Staying with friends and family is all fun but sometimes you want your own space. Especially if you have to move between different cities or if you are visiting people that you haven’t seen for a long time or looking to get some work done during your stay.
Apart from hotels, you can get very affordable accommodation in the city if you are willing to consider alternative arrangements. That includes furnished apartments, and having a local host through Airbnb. I used Airbnb during my trip this year and it was amazing. My host was caring and informative. She referred me to a business associate and was able to close a deal.
Airbnb is not as widespread as in the Western capitals, but there is a vibrant and growing community. You can check online for options but most of the people who have used the service in Nairobi have had positive experiences. Prices can be as low as $20 and go up to$80, a night.
Furnished apartments have been around for a while, and there are quite a number in the city. It is quite rare for one to miss one, even on short notice. They normally come fully furnished and there is an in-house cook to cater for your culinary needs. alternatively, you can opt to prepare your own meals. Prices range from $50 upwards depending on location, size and the level of services that come with the apartment.
They are mostly located in upmarket areas and close to shopping malls, hospitals and recreational joints. Some of these areas are served with public transport, but if you are not sure about finding your way around, it is advisable you use taxis. They are abundant as we will be able to see in a bit.
Staying in alternative accommodation gives you flexibility, affords you interaction with the locals, you get to experience more as compared to staying in the hotel, and it comes with a friend/local host, sometimes. You get to experience hospitality similar to that in hotels but at lower rates and more nuanced.
You will need to move around, you will need a reliable mode of transportation.
The most common means of transport in Nairobi is public transport, but it is not advisable to use it unless you understand your way around the city well, or you are up for adventure. Nairobi is well served with semi private transport; either in form of taxis, either by companies or individual drivers, car hire companies or if you already use Uber… Uber on. If not, sign up using this code > TAPUBERAFRICA < and get a free ride worth Ksh 1000. Uber also operates in Nairobi/Mombasa. So do other taxi hailing companies like Easy taxi and Maramoja Transport.
You can hire a car which you can use throughout your stay. The rates start at $200 a day depending on the size of the car and the geographical location where you are going to use it. Drives out of town cost more. Most travel and tours companies provide car hire services, or they can organize one for you. So, if your travel was organized by an agent, it is advisable to ask them to arrange for a car for you if you need one.
There are companies that solely deal with car hire services. A simple online search can yield you impressive results. But as all things sold online, it is advisable to look at what other people have to say about the particular companies. You can make arrangements for the car for various time periods. Most dealers are open to lengthy as well as short car hire periods.
Taxi companies are a dime a dozen. You can also find individual taxi drivers with their cars parked at several locations in the city, and outside entertainment and recreation joints and shopping malls. Prices vary but they averagely start at $1 a kilometre. They go slightly higher during rush hour, but prices are sometimes negotiable. Airport transfers cost higher than the normal rates. For instance, if you are moving from Karen to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, your cab fare should be around the conines of $30.
While at home, you will want to know what are some of the opportunities you can pursue or even invest in.
KenInvest is a good place to start. It is a state parastatal charged with the task of promoting investments in Kenya. They have a depth of knowledge in the investments trends in the country and are in a position to advise you on how to go around investing in Kenya. Some of the services they offer include providing information around the the business climate, operating rules, investment opportunities and sources of capital.
On top of that, they assist investors in navigating the legal structures in the country. They will help you get licences and approvals even those directly not handled by them.
Banks and investment companies also provide information around investments opportunities in the country. However, it is always advisable to check out the nature of some of these entities with the relevant government bodies before engaging them.
You will only be around for a short time, do not waste that precious time running errands you shouldn’t. Far too many Nairobians have cars. That translates to almost crippling traffic gridlocks. It limits movements, which means it makes economic sense to have someone else who knows how to quickly navigate the city handle your errands.
There are local companies that run errands, depending on your needs. TasKwetu stands out because of the spectrum of issues they handle on behalf of customers; This ranges from the usual parcel deliveries to complex matters like getting birth certificates and pupil pass, business registration on behalf of the owners, renewals and follow ups of passports, driving license, insurance, work permits , filing tax returns, collections of school certificates and managing projects that include land acquisition and securing it and handling of investments and construction projects on behalf of Kenyans in the diaspora. I have used them extensively and will recommend them to anyone.
By Moses Mutabaruka and Leila Khadifha – CEO TasKwetu