The Main Requirements for Company Registration or Incorporation in Kenya
When setting up a private company, you may choose either a company limited by shares or limited by guarantee. The company limited by shares is suited to commercial enterprises and the company limited by guarantee is better suited to non-profit organisations e.g. charities or foundations.
The company may be a local resident company or the branch of a foreign company.
Choosing the name
It is mandatory to provide 5 names when submitting the company registration application.
A search can be conducted prior to the application for registration to give you an idea if the names you intend are likely to be accepted by the Companies Registry or not; or alternatively, you can find out at the time of registration if the names you have chosen are available for registration.
A name will likely be unavailable for registration if it is too similar to a name existing on the register of companies and business names held by the Companies Registry.
Provide 5 potential names for your company in the order of priority and the top available name in your list of 5 names is what shall be assigned as your company name.
The Registrar of Companies may reject prohibited names e.g. vulgar names or names prohibited under the Companies Act such as names suggesting a connection with the State or a government body.
In certain cases, you may need to obtain the consent of regulatory bodies before approval of the company name e.g. the consent of the Central Bank of Kenya for financial services companies.
Each company must state its nominal capital in a signed statement of nominal capital form at the time of submitting the documents for company registration.
Except for specified regulated entities, the nominal capital is not stipulated under law, thus for instance an adequate nominal capital may be Kshs. 100,000 consisting of 1000 shares of value Kshs 100 each.
Some regulated companies have statutory capital amounts required to be stated at the time of incorporation; for instance, companies in the financial services industry or the capital markets. It is important to review the relevant statutes for these types of regulated companies prior to incorporation.
Generally, setting up an unregulated company requires a minimum of 1 shareholder and this shareholder may be foreign or local. The shareholder(s) may also be individual or corporate. There is no mandatory requirement to have a local shareholder for your company except in specified regulated companies e.g. certain companies regulated by the Communications Authority of Kenya.
It is a common misconception that you need a local shareholder to register your company, however as illustrated above this is only required in specified regulated industries.
The company will need to set out both individual and corporate shareholders.
Indicate the class of shares that each shareholder holds. Thus, shares may be ordinary shares meaning no special rights attach to the shares or preferential shares that have special rights (that are not granted to the ordinary class of shares.)
Shareholders will provide their passport copies, residential address, details of their nationality, date of birth, occupation, email and phone details during the incorporation.
If the company being incorporated is a subsidiary of another company, the corporate shareholder will additionally provide the incorporation documents from their original country of registration as well as details of directors and ultimate beneficial owners of the said body corporate shareholder.
The list of shareholders shall be availed to the registry at the time of incorporation and this is termed the register of members of the company that is incorporated.
Statutorily, for unregulated companies, they require a minimum of 1 director who may be local or foreign, however in practical terms, when it comes to companies with one foreign director, such a company at inception usually requires a local director for purposes of obtaining company taxpayer registration. This is due to the reason that administratively; the taxpayer registration of a foreign company is linked to the personal tax number of the local director. Subsequently the company may choose to retain only one foreign director and appoint a company secretary to be filing the annual returns.
Directors will provide their passport copies, residential address, details of their nationality, date of birth, occupation, email and phone details during the incorporation
Regulated companies have stipulations on the number of directors set out in their relevant statutory laws.
A director in Kenya must have attained 18 years to be validly appointed.
A company must have at least 1 director who is a natural person and may have body corporate directors.
It is up to the company to decide if the terms of the director’s appointment will be written into a director’s service agreement to provide a comprehensive memorandum in writing of the director’s rights and responsibilities.
This is only a mandatory requirement for branches of company’s set up in Kenya. This is an individual resident in Kenya appointed to be the company’s local representative and their Kenyan address must be provided.
Local registered address
Every company requires a local physical and postal address. Companies can be assisted to get this by the lawyer incorporating the company.
Ultimate beneficial owners
Every company must state all their ultimate beneficial owners at the time of incorporation, who is an individual owning shareholding of 10% or more of the company. Where there is a corporate shareholder of the company being incorporated in Kenya, also provide details of the ultimate beneficial owners of said corporate shareholder. Ultimate beneficial owners will provide their passport copies, residential address, details of their nationality, date of birth, occupation, email and phone details during the incorporation.
Articles of Association
A company must have articles of association and you can either rely on the articles under the Companies Act or draft your own articles of association. If the company will rely on its drafted articles of association, these articles of association must be availed to the Companies Registry at the time of incorporation.
The Main Stages for Company Registration in Kenya
Once the statutory forms for registration of the company have been duly signed by shareholders, directors and filed by the lawyer alongside the requisite information e.g. passports of directors and their passport photos, the Companies Registry may revert as follows:
- If the application for registration of the company has no issues, the Companies’ Registry will issue the certificate of incorporation and the CR 12 document which is the written record summarising the shareholders and their holdings, the directors, the address of the company and the company name and company registration number.
- If the Companies Registry has further queries, it may request additional documents or seek clarification from the lawyer and once this is correctly availed, the application will be processed and subsequently the the registration documents duly availed by the Companies Registry. Alternatively, the Companies Registry may ask for corrections and once this is done by the lawyer, the registration certificate and CR 12 will be provided.
- On average the company registration process can be done within 2 weeks and can take longer if the registry has many queries on the application.
The provision of general information herein does not constitute an advocate-client relationship with any reader. All information, content, and material in this article are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this article should get in touch with us/a qualified advocate to obtain legal advice with respect to any particular legal matter.