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HomenewsProcedure Of Importing Goods from Overseas to Kenya

Procedure Of Importing Goods from Overseas to Kenya

By Prudence Minayo

Kenya has a ready market for products coming from overseas. This is evident in supermarkets that stock furniture shipped from mostly China. Shops selling ex-United Kingdom and United States of America (USA) bicycles and furniture are common in estates. Mitumba-used clothes-are also very popular among Kenyans. So what is involved in importing goods from abroad? 

This article helps you understand more about importing from China.

Things to look at during the importation process:

Acquaint yourself with the rules of importation

Find out what rules the government has placed on importing goods from China. For example, there is a restriction on certain prohibited goods which include: animal husks, minerals and stones, adult material, illegal drugs, political literature and fake currency and security.

There are also other items that are restricted and require special authorization for them to be imported. These include: electronics, firearms, alcohol, tobacco, fabrics and computers.

Choose your preferred supplier

You need to work with a supplier who will help with the importation as you can’t do it all on your own. The market is flooded with so many suppliers and some are not reliable.

Therefore, it is important to conduct a thorough research and find out who is the best to work with. Some reputable suppliers/ shipping companies include;

  • Ali Express
  • China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO)
  • Alibaba
  • CMA
  • Analema

Find out about prices

The prices of importing goods vary depending on what you are importing. For example importing heavy machinery or bulky goods is more expensive than importing light materials. Heavy goods may also take a long time to be shipped as compared to light goods, although some shipping companies just tend to take a longer time compared to others no matter the size.

Get a clearing agent

A clearing agent is an essential part of the process. Find one which one is reputable and work with them. The customs office will require a number of relevant documents and a clearing agent will help you process these documents and clear the items on your behalf.

Ensure all the documents are in order

There are a number of documents that are needed for you to import goods. These documents will be required in various stages of the importation process and include:

  • Import Standard Mark (ISM)
  • Commercial invoice. It should match with the packing list, every detail.
  • Certificate of Origin. This shows that the country in which the goods were shipped from.
  • Packing list. This contains the description of goods, such as the number, weight in metric tons and length. This must be in line with the commercial invoice.
  • Inspection certificates
  • Bill of lading
  • Import license
  • Exempt letter. There are some goods that may be exempted from VAT or duties. For example, if the goods are for charities of donation, you may apply to be exempted and if your plea is accepted then you must produce the exemption letter during clearance.

Compute all the costs required

Before deciding that importation is the way to go, find out about all the costs. Depending on what you’re importing, the costs may be a bit high especially if you are a newbie and do not know the ropes. You will face shipping costs, export costs, importation costs which include: clearance fees, taxes, duties and Value Added Tax (VAT).


  • Find out all the details about the goods you want to import
  • Get all the documentation that is needed
  • Find out the full amount of cash you will be required to pay
  • Choose a reputable shipping company and clearing agent

The process may be lengthy, especially if it is the first time. However, as you continually import goods it gets easier every other time. If possible, find someone who has imported goods before and let them help you with the process if they can. It is also advisable not to order goods in bulk the first time. Order a few items or even one item and if it’s of good quality then you can order others.