Nairobi’s significance as a major Africa business centre is unquestionable. Business services, communications, the banking sector and conference facilities in this bustling cosmopolitan capital are as sophisticated as anywhere on the continent outside South Africa. Kenya is one of Africa’s most stable and investor-friendly nations, and its long-established infrastructure and well-developed tourism sector means the business traveller is well served by an array of world class hotels and extensive international air-links.
Kenya’s recent, albeit tentative, adoption of privatization programmes, trade liberalization policies, the easing of restrictive interventions in capital markets, and the rejuvenation of the East Africa Cooperation, have led to an increasingly positive business climate. The city’s strategic importance for a number of international bodies (its the UN’s fourth World Centre’), for aid and development agencies and the many multinationals with regional headquarter bases, all indicate a continuing confidence in the nation.
Business travellers rarely have difficulty finding a hotel room in the city, even for a last minute, unexpected stop-over. The city centre has half a dozen top-quality luxury hotels, including the International Hilton and Inter-continental chains, the historic Norfolk Hotel, the ultra modern Nairobi Safari Park and the sumptuous Serena Hotel.
All these luxury hotels have in-house business resource centres to assist the business traveller. Qualified and experienced professional staff, often invaluable sources of local advice, provide services such as word processing, duplication, fax and E-mail, and can arrange travel itineraries, meetings and conferences.
The rack rental’ room tariffs (from $150 night) charged by Nairobi’s top hotel seem hard to justify when compared to the choice of quality mid-range options, but then a surprisingly small percentage of their guests are actually paying the full price. Most luxury hotel rooms are booked for up-market tourist package groups and personnel from various companies that hold corporate contract discounts.
Mid-range hotels vary in price and quality but three-the New Stanley, Pacific and Ambassador-offer modern sensibly-priced convenience and (belonging to Sarova group) have a central reservations service. Fifteen minutes from the city centre, the Utalii Hotel is operated by Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism to provide practical experience for graduates of the Utalii College, and suceeds in providing real value with comfortable rooms and lavish cuisine.
One reason for a luxury hotel option may simply be the practicality of having a direct-dial telephone in your room (mid-range hotels usually have an operator switchboard service) although all hotels charge very high telephone rates. Public coin-operated phone boxes are frequently out of order but the newer cardphone boxes usually work and a number of phone bureaux have opened, offering a substantial saving on the fax and phone charges levied by hotels. Mobile cellphones are still a rarity but message pagers are easily available for short-term hire.
Travel to and from the airport, and within the city, is likely to be by taxi or hire car. Kenatco, the state-controlled taxi company, has pre-determined fixed fares (around $25 from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the city centre), a fleet of Mercedes saloons and reliable drivers. Other companies’ taxis, including London-style cabs, can be picked up easily outside hotels, the airport, the railway station and at ranks downtown. A friendly bit of negotiation knocks a little off the initial quote but fares are still high enough to make car hire look a reasonable option for the business traveller with a full day of appointments scattered around town. However, even experienced drivers will probably prefer to opt for a hire car with driver, rather than navigate Nairobi’s traffic or leave a parked car unaccompanied. Most car hire firms have offices at the airport and downtown, often within hotels.
If there is no compelling reason to stay in the city centre, business traveller’s have a choice of interesting hotels within greater Nairobi. Roughly 30 minutes drive north-east of the city-centre are two luxury options. The up-market Safari Park Hotel & Casino-with 204 rooms in 64 acres, no less than six restaurants, lavish facilities and lively nightly entertainment – also boasts one of the largest hotel conference centres in Nairobi. For golfers, the opulent Windsor Holf & Country Club (soon to change its name to simply Windsor Hotel) has the attraction of a fine championship golf course set I n rolling woodlands.
Nairobi has excellent international air-links via JKI, although no direct flights to the Americas, Australlia or the Far East. About dozen African airlines serve Nairobi, including the mighty SAA. All the major European carriers (Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, KIM, Lufthansa, Sabina and Swissair) ensure frequent services to European capitals. Kenya Airways the national carrier, part-owned by KIM, has been plagued by industrial unrest recently and has dropped both its Frankfurt and Zurich services. However, it still offers direct flights to six other European destinations, regional and domestic network.
A number of commercial aviation companies operate light aircraft services within Kenya and East Africa, from Nairobi’s second airport, Wilson Airport. These operate both on a regular-scheduled and personally-tailored charter basis and, although primarily tourist services, are useful for the business traveller.
Banks in Nairobi are usually open Monday to Friday from am to 3pm and on the first Saturday of the month between 9am to 12.30pm. Nationally, consumer banking is dominated by the big four-Barclays, Standard Chartered, The Commercial Bank of Africa and Kenya Commercial Bank. Barclays offers a useful US dollar cash-advance service against personal visa charge cards, and both Barclays and Standard Chartered have installed ATM machines in the city centre for Kenya shilling advances.
The Kenyan Goverment’s Investment Promotion Centre offers practical, impartial, one-stop advice for overseas investors, exporters and importers. Consultation before entering any contractual commitment will generally ensure an understanding of the maze of legislation that can affect a business enterprise and, to a certain extent, outline further assistance government can provide. Initial enquiries, in writing, should be addressed to the office of the Executive Chairman, IPC, 8th floor, National Bank Building, Harambee Avenue, Nairobi, (Tel: 00 254 2 221 401/4; Fax: 00 254 2 336 863).
Mama Ngina St.
Tel: 00 254 2 334000
Fax: 00 254 2 339462
Mayfair Court Hotel
Tel: 00 254 2 746708
Fax: 00 254 2 748823
Windsor Golf & Country Club
Tel: 00 254 2 862300
Fax: 00 254 2 802322
Hotel Inter Continetal
City Hall Way
Tel: 00 254 2 335550
Fax: 00 254 2 336742
Tel: 00 254 2 802540
Fax: 00 254 2 803094
Nairobi Safari Club
Tel: 00 254 2 330621
Fax: 00 254 2 331201
Tel: 00 254 2 711077
Fax: 00 254 2 718103
New Stanley/Ambassadeur/Panafric (Sarova Hotels)
Tel: 00 254 2 333248
Fax: 00 254 2 211472
Business Services: (prices supplied by Hilton Hotel)
Kenya – $5
East Africa – $10
European Union and US-$15
Rest of World – $20
E-mail – $8
Internet browsing – $10/half hour
Shorthand/dictation – $15/hour
Wordprocessing – $7/page
Message pager hire – $60/week
(prices supplied by Avis for a two-day hire, are approximate for unlimited mileage hire)
Nissan Sunny or similar – from $85/day +$25 insurance
Landrover Discovery or similar – from $210/day + $40 insurance
Driver (8am to 6pm) – $20/day + $5/hour overtime.
Suggested daily gratuity- $15 + fuel and tax @ 15% VAT