Category Archives: guest post

Guide to Lome, Togo

A guest post about a visit to Lome, the capital of Togo in West Africa. 

Getting There: Took Virgin/Ethiopian, San Francisco to Newark, then a direct flight from Newark to Lome (it then goes on to Addis). The cost was between $950-$1,000.

On arrival: This was an easy experience, that took about 10-15 minutes. I paid for a 7-day Togo tourist visa on arrival. They take your passport and do the visas one by one – you can go collect your luggage then come back for your passport or just wait around if you carried on. It was about $8 to take one of the airport taxis to my destination, but I was staying very close to the airport, not in downtown.

Getting Around: I didn’t do much moving around town, but motorbikes are definitely the most popular form of transport. They were everywhere. Buses are not very plentiful, though they do have a fleet of donated buses that are used as city buses. No mini-buses that I saw. People also walk a lot and there are taxis around, but most people use motorbike taxis.

I didn’t walk around, but Lome is pretty safe. Not sure that it is recommended to walk around at night though. I wasn’t able to use a credit card anywhere I went, but I bet fancier hotels would accept them. Togo uses the CFA Franc, same as other French-speaking countries in West Africa.

Staying in Touch: Local phone calls were reasonably priced, though I only made a few. International calls are very expensive, though. Also, 3G data is available in Lome but quite slow at times because bandwidth is very limited. I bought a local SIM, some airtime and 1 GB of data for $9. Wi-Fi is not very prevalent, but it’s available in some places.

Where to Stay: I was hosted by the organization I was visiting in Togo, so I didn’t spend time in a hotel or b&b. Electricity was pretty reliable. We had a generator where I was saying and it definitely kicked in at least once in the few days I was there.

Eating Out: There is a variety of different foods. Starches like fufu, one made of very fine maize flour, and rice. Also peanut sauce, a cow cheese similar to paneer, lots of spicy/fishy flavors. Common proteins were fish, chicken and guinea hen. A beer was easy to get, but I didn’t go to any bars. French and local languages are spoken, though French is most commonly used and I don’t speak French so I missed a lot of what happened around us.

More business travel tales at  This is Africa.

Britain Exits the EU: What Does this mean for Kenya?

Britain’s decision to exit the European Union (EU), as announced from the results of Thursday’s landmark “Brexit” referendum has been a hot topic around the world. 33.6 Million Britons flocked to the polling booths on Thursday with the ‘leave’ campaign marginally taking the victory with a 52%-48% vote. There is however a general consensus of uncertainty with what the UK’s (United Kingdom) decision holds for the future, with particular relevance to what it means for Kenya. Britain bus

Britain is a key ally, as well as Kenya’s third largest export market with the value of exports at Sh40 Billion in 2015. The Central Bank of Kenya has already stated that it is ready to intervene and minimize disruption in money markets. Kunal Ajmera, COO of Grant Thornton Kenya provides an insight into how Britain’s decision to leave affects trade decisions and tourism in Kenya:

  1. Britain was not just any member of the EU but also one of the largest contributors and it’s most prosperous. Depending on how things unfold in the coming years other members may also demand for a referendum and this would ultimately weaken the EU substantially.
  2. The EU spends about 100 million euros per year on development co-operation in Kenya. With uncertainties over Europe due to Brexit we may see a reduced funding in coming years. We could see funding in key projects start to be cut.
  3. Investors anywhere in the world hate uncertainty and anxiety. Brexit leaves many questions unanswered and it will can take more than a year to get some clarity. Until that happens global economy, money markets and stock exchange may go through volatility and general negativity as we are currently seeing happen.Britain sign
  4. It is highly likely that US Dollar($) will gain strength against major currencies in the world and GBP(£) will lose its value, the initial figures show that on the day of the results alone, the GBP slumped to a thirty year low, falling as much as 11% in the hours after the result. This therefore means that the Kenyan Shilling will be under increased pressure. It would be wise for businesses in Kenya to hedge against a future raise in dollar value.
  5. The UK is Kenya’s largest tourist source market. At its peak Kenya received 198,000 tourists from UK in 2013. The tourist arrival numbers from the UK have only just started to increase in last few months after years of travel advisory and terror threats. However with GBP weakening due to Brexit, it will cost the British tourists more to travel to Kenya and we may see reduced number of arrivals from UK in near future.
  6. Kenya exports a substantial number of products to the UK every year. The UK is the second largest export market for Kenya after Uganda. So far these exports were governed by EU trade laws. With UK exiting the EU, Kenya may need to re-negotiate the terms for export and this may take even a year resulting in to disruption and uncertainty.
  7. In the immediate short term, the UK is bound to have slower economic growth or even recession due to the Brexit referendum. This will also affect how it trades with other countries in the world. Since the UK is one of Kenya’s biggest trading partner, businesses in Kenya that export to the UK are bound to be nervous and must prepare for slump in business.

Britain look rightHowever, Kunal offers consolation by highlighting the potential in this decision. He states, “It’s not all doom and gloom. Brexit also presents new set of opportunities. EU laws on import and export are some of the most stringent in the world especially with agriculture, dairy, and meat items. The UK can now decide its own rules for import and export, new products may become eligible. It is worth noting that Kenya’s largest export to UK is agriculture/horticulture products.”

For further insight into the Brexit developments and its implications keep following Grant Thornton Kenya on twitter and Facebook.

Guide to Brazzaville

A guest post

Getting There: Kenya Airways was my choice. I could have done Ethiopian or RwandAir, but there were no connections on KQ; it was the only direct flight. There was a stopover in Kinshasa on the way back. The flight cost is $ 2,099 in business class (and approx. $1,000 in economy).

Visa: I had obtained a business visa in Nairobi before I departed. A 3 month multi-entry visa costs Kshs 11,000 and that included an extra Kshs 1,000 for same day processing. The embassy is located in Gigiri on Whispers Avenue.

Great airport! (Built by the Chinese)

Great airport! (Built by the Chinese)

On arrival: They requested to see my letter of invitation, which I hadn’t printed but I now had to boot up my laptop to show them the letter. You would think this was unnecessary seeing as how I had the visa already. Also my bag was opened prior to my receiving it and they had taken some inconsequential stuff (even though I had a TSA lock on it.) I discovered this when I got to the hotel.

Getting Around: I didn’t get to move around much as this was for business. This was personal, and the people were great. They’re a millions of green taxis there. Locals and visitors alike use them. They must be cheap as they are used more than their “matatus.”

Brazzaville green taxisWhere to Stay: I stayed at the Pefaco. It cost $130, and is right next to the airport. There is also the Radisson Blu ($250 a night), which I had booked this prior to getting guidance to switch hotels…for convenience and proximity reasons. Electricity is not reliable at all, and there were multiple outtages (about 4 – 5 a day.)

Staying In Touch: I used VOIP to make my calls. They have Airtel there though, I didn’t use my cell while I was there. There’s no wi-fi hotspots, but the hotel (Pefaco) had good wireless internet. There’s poor internet infrastructure in general. (I was told the government shut down the Internet for a week during the elections earlier this year.)

Out & About: There are traditional african foods like “matoke,” cassava, etc.,. but there is also a French influence in terms of thing like bread and pastries. There are four 4 major beers – Primus, Star, Ngok (Crocodile) and Nzoko (elephant).

The people speak French and talk a lot about politics. It’s in season, whether it’s on Congo-Brazzaville, DRC, or US. I could not find a local English newspaper.

Shopping & Sight-Seeing: The main sightseeing is along the river. The Congo river separates Kinshasa from Brazzaville. There is a downtown shopping area called Poto Poto. It has African clothing, and everything else. It felt like there was a lot more Chinese construction there than there is in most other African cities.

Tallest building in Brazzaville with interesting history

Tallest building in Brazzaville with interesting history

Budget: The Congo Franc is the currency used there, and it costs (equivalent of about $100) per day to get around. You can use your visa card almost exclusively. There was a Russian mafia scheme a few years ago. Visa lost millions of dollars, and then replaced all the PDU machines. Mastercard use is extremely limited, but I was able to get cash from select ATMs.

Odd Points: The Lingala language and music. The music is played everywhere, and they love it even more than we do. I was also surprised at how strong the connections are to Europe.. France, Belgium, Switzerland.

Another was that they import a lot of their food…even meat and milk. Meat is imported from Chad, and onions from Cameroon, while milk is from different countries in Europe, with powdered milk from the Netherlands.

Of Games and Theories: Fuel Prices…

You have no idea how my pocket flinched at the news of increase in fuel prices. (see the notice by ERC here).  I literally frowned as I imagined queuing at the chaotic bus stands to avoid the rumbling belly of my petite car. Why do these fuel prices keep going up and in the same rhythm come tumbling down? Why is it that sometimes everyone seems to be hurriedly dashing to fuel stations and in other times station owners are desperately investing in ‘happy’ franchises to attract more customers? Even the non-car owner, the one using public transport is directly affected by the fluctuating fares that usually don’t come down after significant upsurges. What exactly is the game? Or is there a plausible theory?

So I brushed through a couple of articles on the volatility of oil prices and whoa! it took me back to the fourth of nine rows of our 20xx macroeconomics class. The demand, supply, and price elasticity curves, that gave me a really hard time in year One of campus, suddenly begun to make sense. (looking forward to the day I will say the same for parallelograms!)

The theory. Positive shocks would be as a result of increased production from OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) as well as non-export oil-producing countries. The increased supply in oil would automatically lower its prices. However, if any of the quotas of these 13 countries (Nigeria, Algeria, Libya, Angola – just to proudly mention the current African member states) are curtailed in the sense of production or political issues, then prices automatically go up due to increased demand for oil. Negative shocks would result from significant decline in demand. Case in point – China. When such a large economy experiences severe downturn, the whole world cries because this very large customer is unable to buy in its unusually large quantities.

The games. In a monopoly (one seller/producer for a product), no competition exists and so the company can demand any price it from its customers for this precious commodity. For duopolies, the two companies have to work in a way that they balance their margins and market share else they can easily find themselves at the mercy of the consumer. The real games lie with oligopolies such as the OPEC cartel because the real power (pun intended) lies at their feet. And the more power an OPEC member state wields, the greater its political influence. Some theorists argue, though, that cartels help regulate the volatility present in every commodity market. Well I don’t know about that, all I remember is that some of us really suffered from the cartels that happened at the University library.

PS: Did you know that chewing gum, crayons, lipstick, sports equipment, and wrinkle-resistant clothes are made from petroleum (by) products?

Guest post by Tesha Mongi (visit her blog

An Idiot’s Guide to Getting a Tax Compliance Certificate (TCC)

A guest post by Muendo 

Taxes, are the dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society – Franklin D. Roosevelt

One thing, as sure as death is, you will pay taxes. As to how it is used, it is the prerogative of the government of the day as well as the citizens to keep the government in check to see how the paid taxes are being used to better the welfare of the citizens. I posted a Tweet, after getting my Tax Compliance Certificate and I got a few people including Mr. Banks, asking how I went round the process. So here is my story. I hope it will educate some of y’all on this long process.

On company registration, after you have received that blue/white document from the State Law Office saying that you are a legal entity recognized by the Government of Kenya, you have to go to the next step, which is getting a Personal Identification Number (PIN) for the company. In this new regime, unlike others, you can’t do any business with the biggest spender of our taxes, the government and its agencies, without a PIN. In fact for you to open and a bank account, for you to buy assets in your company’s name, for you to transact with any organization in .KE, you will be required to produce a PIN Number. It is a mandatory requirement. (I suspect soon the government will abolish ID numbers and use your PIN to locate every single thing about an individual. Instead of ID numbers, your PIN will serve as the ID number), (those are just my thoughts). How do you get your PIN in our modern society? KRA went the tech way to get you plugged in to the system. They have a robust system called iTax. Any new employee above the age of 18, and any registered organization, has to register with iTax to get their PIN.

Take that a notch higher, for you to increase the chances of you getting awarded a Tender, as everything in this country is tendered, you need another document called a Tax Compliance Certificate (TCC). The Tax man aka Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), certifies that you have submitted your returns and paid all your liabilities before it issues you with that piece of paper stipulating that you are cleared to conduct business for the next 6 – 12 months.

Normally, for start-ups, the first years certificate is quick to get as your business is new and there is nothing much for them to look in to. (Though, rumour has that they (KRA) are also slowly going to the route of issuing TCC to directors of the companies and will slowly keep an eye on them as well. How true that is I am yet to find out) Now since KRA introduced iTax to the Kenyan system, it killed a few birds with one stone.

Previously, people never cared much about paying taxes. Now, if you are doing business you have to have an Electronic Tax Register (ETR) machine that captures the Value Added Tax (VAT) that you charge to your customers. Unless, you are selling zero rated commodities, it is assumed that every enterprise (Start-up, SMEs, Blue Chip, Multinationals etc.) has a PIN number and an ETR machine. Every transaction is/will be captured there and therefore a customer is issued with an ETR receipt. A normal ETR receipt has your PIN number and the amount you are charging the customer plus VAT and a breakdown of what the VAT is.

Again, previously, the Tax man used to assume that all Kenyans are upright and outstanding citizens who will pay their VAT after balancing their accounts (There is a way that you need to do, briefly explained as, (1) there is what you are charged by your suppliers and then (2) there is what you charge your customers, (3) the difference is what you remit to the KRA, hence the term ‘doing your returns’). Anyways, not many Kenyans including the ones in authority, seemed to fit that tag. They would find tax loopholes, using their accountants and tax lawyers,  and exploit them. And the government would lose revenue. So, the Tax man,  aka Njiraini, decided to tighten the belt to curb that habit. So every time you supply the government with substandard goods with over inflated prices, because people have to eat, then the said agency snitches/alerts Njiraini and company, that company X has supplied us with goods/services/consultancy, and here is 6% of the tax they are going supposed to pay. Ask them where the other 10% is. And once the 6% is held, the agency, in return sends you an electronic withholding tax certificate.

As an upright citizen, who wants to be in the good books of the Tax man, you are given up to the 20th of every month to file returns of the previous month. Now, KRA will check up on its database and see how many organisations have submitted 6% with your company name in there and compare it with the returns you have submitted. Occasionally, you will find scenarios, where the Tax man needs to refund you some money. Problem with KRA is, once that is the case, it can take up to 2 years even more before they decide/remember they need to do tax refunds. 

That aside, once you have filled your returns, whether nil or you have a liability (This is where you owe KRA money) or a Tax refund is required, you comply with the law of the land. Failure to file returns attracts a hefty fine of Kshs. 10,000 (~$100) per month for the months you haven’t filed your returns plus a percentage interest determined by a tax officer that you need to pay per month till you finish you with your liability. This is not a joke, especially, now that the government is tightening its laws on taxes and widening its tax base.

Here is a weird thing that KRA does. It waits for say 3-4 years of a company existing. And then, it is expected you have to have audited accounts say for the past two years (That is assuming you are done with your tax amnesty of 18 months – not sure whether this exists anymore,) and you have gotten a few good tenders here and there, and then they knock on your door, to find out how you are carrying out your business and how you have been performing in doing tax returns.) Assuming you are an upright citizen means, you have 4 years of an annual Tax Compliance Certificate issued and you have about 3 years audited accounts. They will request for all, and I mean all, documents to support your claim of existence. And by all I mean, from receipts, to P&L Accounts, to Audited accounts, to bank statements. Who the heck remembers stuff that they did 4 years ago? The Tax man will flip through records and see whether you have dodged taxes or you have acquired your TCC in a fraudulent manner. If you are a citizen of no morals, they will subject you to a fine of a percentage of your gross turnover and give you a time period to pay, failure to which, all assets you own will be liquidated and the money is recovered. I know that a bit to well, as a relative was being auctioned for tax non-compliance.

Also, KRA is now working overtime to ensure that all companies are registered on iTax. There is a budgeted Kshs 8 billion to be spent in catching up with you if you are not iTax compliant.

So, finally;

Here’s an idiot’s guide to getting a TCC

1. Register at the iTax platform and get your PIN.

2. Submit your returns every 20th of the month. You had better submit a Nil return than be late to submit the returns. Be prompt in doing your accounts reconciliation every month. Now, there are times you can’t afford an in-house accountant do your books, There are some great fellas, who I have worked with that can help you with that. Talk to Plus People Ltd. They are the people behind this great platform called Uhasibu. They have really assisted me in getting my books in order and ensuring that I use the Uhasibu system to run my small company. Also get an Auditor or a certified tax accountant to help you decipher and navigate the Kenyan tax laws and the levies that you need to pay as well as how to bring down your tax liability.

  1.  Make sure you get the Withholding Tax certificate, each time, whatever agency you deal with submits that 6%. As much as the system is automated, follow through is important. I am talking from experience. I have a government agency I am chasing since February 2015, to give me my withholding tax certificate.

4. Use the iTax system to submit your returns before the 20th. This is now an easier way, than to go queue at times towers to make your returns.

5. It takes approximately, two (2) weeks between the expiry of your TCC and receiving a new TCC. Plan appropriately. During those 2 weeks, I do loads of client visits and queue up business for the next “financial” year. In those 2 weeks, Njiraini and Co, will be looking through your accounts and performance before giving you a clean bill of health. I know we people at .KE have this thing, I know a guy who can shorten that process, if you do well and good. But that’s the average time if you don’t know a guy.

6. Make sure you do annual audited accounts, just in case KRA guys show up and want to see what you have been up to. Also, a great rule of accounts, it moves, have evidence of what happened (Receipts, Invoices, Petty Cash vouchers etc).

7. In case things go wrong, occasionally they do, have your auditor in place, when this KRA officers check up on you. They kind of know how to navigate those murky waters while you sort things out with the Tax man.

13 November 2015