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The Companies Act

The Companies Act, 2015 (The Act) Was Enacted To Consolidate And Reform The Law Relating To The Incorporation, Registration, Operation, Management And Regulation Of Companies; To Provide For The Appointment And Functions Of Auditors And To Make Other Provision Relating To Companies And Related Matters (Preamble To The Act). This Makes It One Of The Most Comprehensive Pieces Of Legislation In Kenya.

The Objects Of The Act (Sec 2) Are To:

  • facilitate Commerce, Industry And Other Socio-economic Activities By Enabling One Or More Natural Persons To Incorporate As Entities With Perpetual Succession, With Or Without Limited Liability, And
  • to Provide For The Regulation Of Those Entities In The Public Interest, And In Particular In The Interests Of Their Members And Creditors.

The Scope Of The Act Is Rather Wide As The Act Makes Provision For The Various Types Of Companies And Their Formation, The Constitution Of Companies And Their Capacity. The Act Makes Provision For Directors (their Powers, Liabilities And Disqualification), Company Secretaries, Resolutions And Meetings Of A Company, Share Capital And Company Debentures. Takeovers, Compromises, Arrangements, Reconstructions And Amalgamations Are Also Provided For In The Act. There Is Also Provision Made For Statutory Auditors, Auditing Of Financial Statements And Annual Returns And Company Investigations. Foreign Companies Are Also Comprehensively Discussed In The Act.


There are several types of companies listed in The Act. The companies and their characteristics are as listed below:

  • Company Limited by Shares (Section 6)
  • Company Limited by Guarantee (Section 7)
  • Unlimited Company (Section 8)
  • Private Company (Section 9)
  • Public Company (Section 10)
  • Foreign Company (Section 11)
  • This is a company in which the liability of its members is limited to the extent that they have not fully paid up for their shares. Liability is therefore limited to any amount that is unpaid on the shares held by the members.
  • Members of these companies raise their own capital through the issue of shares and share profits in proportion to their shares.
  • This is a company that does not have a share capital.
  • The liability of members of such a company is limited to the amount that a member has undertaken to contribute to the assets of the company in the event of its liquidation.
  • The Certificate of Incorporation for such a company states that it is a company limited by guarantee.

Take note that a company limited by guarantee that was formed and registered before commencement of The Act is not prohibited from having a share capital.

  • There is no limit on the liability of members of this type of company.
  • The Certificate of Incorporation for such a company states that the liability of its members is unlimited.
  • This is a company whose articles:
    • Restrict the right of members to transfer shares.
    • Limit the number of members to fifty excluding members who are present and past employees who acquired shares while they were employees and still retain them. Take note that persons who hold shares in a company jointly are considered to be a single member.
    • Prohibit invitation to the public to subscribe for shares or debentures.
  • It is not a company limited by guarantee.
  • The company’s Certificate of Incorporation states that it is a private company.

Take note that a private company can be founded by a single person.

  • This is a company whose articles:
    • Allow members the right to transfer their shares.
    • Do not prohibit invitation to the public to subscribe for shares or debentures.
  • The company’s Certificate of Incorporation states that it is a public company.

Take note that a public company must be founded by a minimum of two people.

  • This is any company incorporated outside Kenya.


A company is formed when persons wishing to form a company subscribe their names to a Memorandum of Association and comply with the requirements for registration set out in The Act. Section 12 defines a Memorandum of Association as a memorandum stating that subscribers wish to form a company and agree to become members take at least one share each, in a company that has a share capital. Such memorandum must be in the form prescribed by the regulations and must be authenticated by each subscriber.

The requirements for registration are that an application for registration must be lodged with the registrar accompanied by a Memorandum of Association as well as a copy of the Articles of Association, where the model articles are not adopted or where they are modified (Sec 13).

An application for registration must state the proposed name of the company, the proposed location of the registered office of the company, whether the company’s liability is limited and if so whether by shares or guarantee and whether the company is a private or public company. The application, where applicable, also consists of a statement of capital and initial shareholding, a statement of guarantee and a statement of the company’s proposed officers.

Companies that are formed for an unlawful purpose may not be registered.

This is a relatively simple process owing to the fact that the registration process is entirely done online through the E-Citizen portal here.


  1. When choosing the name of a company, the name so chosen should not be similar to one already in the index of company names (Sec 57). It should not constitute an offence and neither should it include abbreviations or initials not authorised under The Act (Sec 49). The abbreviations and initials that are authorised are listed in the Sixth Schedule of the Companies (General) Regulations, 2015 here.
  2. A name that suggests a connection with the State or a local or public authority requires the approval of the Registrar of Companies (Sec 50).
  3. The name of a limited private company must end with the word ‘limited’ or the abbreviation ‘LTD’ (Sec 54).
  4. Approval of a name can take 1-3 days and the fee payable is K.Shs. 150/= inclusive of a convenience fee of K.Shs 50/=
  5. Once a name has been approved, it is reserved for thirty (30) days. Such reservation can be extended for a further period of thirty (30) days only (Sec 48).
  6. A change of names can be required where a name is too similar to another (Sec 58). In this instance, the direction to change a name may be given only within 12 months after the date of registration.
  7. Where misleading information was given during registration and where a name gives misleading information about a company’s activities, a change of name may be required (Sec 60). Such direction may be given within 5 years of registration and must specify the period within which the company is required to change its name.
  8. A company that is dissatisfied with the direction to change its name may apply to a court to quash the direction (Sec 61).
  9. However, a company may change its name on its own motion through a special resolution (Sec 62). Such a resolution should be lodged with the registrar within 14 days for registration. Once registered, the Registrar issues a Certificate of Change of Name to the company (Sec 65(2)).
  10. It is necessary to note that a change of name does not affect any rights or obligations of the company (Sec 66).
  11. A company is required to display its name and other prescribed information in specified places such as the registered office and in all company communication (Sec 67).
  12. Once a name has been reserved, one can then embark on the company registration process. This process begins with filling in company data such as the physical, postal and e-mail address of the company, the start date of operations and the number of employees at the start date.
  13. One then fills in information regarding the share capital of the company, the issued shares and the breakdown of issued shares.
  14. The directors’ bio-data as well as their residential addresses, the shares taken, their coloured passport photographs and KRA PIN Certificates are also uploaded.
  15. Once you have reviewed the information, you can then submit your application and pay a fee of K.Shs. 10,050/= inclusive of a convenience fee of K.Shs 50/=.
  16. Once the application is paid for, one is able to download the company registration form (CR 1), memorandum of association (CR 2/4), notice of residential address of directors (CR 8) and the statement of nominal capital.
  17. These are then signed by the subscribers to the company and uploaded to the E-Citizen portal.
  18. Following approval of the forms, the company is registered and the Certificate of Incorporation is available for downloading from the E-Citizen Portal.
  19. A Certificate of Incorporation states the name of the company and its unique identifying number, the date of incorporation, the company’s liability and whether the company is a public or private company. This Certificate is conclusive evidence of registration (Sec 18).
  20. The entire registration process should take about 3-4 weeks.

Registration of a company has the following effect (Sec 19): the subscribers to the Memorandum of Association become a body corporate and the company is able to do all the things that a company can which include having perpetual succession, owning property and suing or being sued in its own name.

The registration process of a public company is similar to the one outlined above save for the requirement that a public limited company must have a name that ends with the words ‘public limited company’ or the abbreviation ’PLC’ (Sec 53).

Also, while it is not necessary for a private company to have a company secretary, it is mandatory for a public company to have a secretary.

The articles of association are a company’s constitution (Sec 20). They set out the objects and the mandate of a company, the powers of members, the powers, liabilities and disqualification of directors. Articles also outline the conduct of members of a company. They bind the company and its members as though they had agreed with each other to observe the constitution (Sec 30).

In order to be registered (Sec 13), the Articles of Association of a company must:

  • be printed;
  • divided into paragraphs numbered consecutively;
  • contained in a single document;
  • dated;
  • signed by each subscriber; and
  • the signatures attested by a witness.

The Companies (General) Regulations, 2015 found here do provide, in the third schedule, the model articles of association for a public company limited by shares. The fourth schedule provides for model articles of association for a private company limited by shares and the fifth schedule provides for model articles of association for companies limited by guarantee.

Where a company adopts part of the model articles and modifies the rest, it is required to forward to the registrar a copy of the modified articles during registration. Where a company does not adopt the model articles and instead prepares its own articles, it too is required to forward to the registrar a copy of its articles during registration.

A company’s articles can only be amended through a special resolution (Sec 32). The amended articles are to be lodged with the Registrar within 14 days of passing of the resolution (Sec 24). Failure to do so constitutes an offence.

 An amendment to the articles of a company are not binding on a member if they are passed after the date on which the person became a member and specifically if the amendment requires such a member to take up or subscribe for more shares or to increase the member’s liability. Such an amendment is however binding on a member who agrees in writing to be bound by the amendment (Sec 23).


Objects of a company are the reasons for which the company is formed. Alternatively, these are the activities that a company intends to carry out and that the company is permitted by its constitution to carry out.

The objects of a company are unrestricted unless they are restricted by the company’s articles of association (Sec 28). Any amendment to a company’s statement of objects must be lodged with the registrar for registration by a notice giving particulars of the amendment.

These are the decisions of a company made at either a general meeting or at a special meeting, with respect to matters affecting the company. Resolutions of a company may either be ordinary resolutions or special resolutions. Where a resolution is passed in connection to the company, it is binding on all members. However, if passed in relation to a class of shareholders, then the resolution is only binding on that class of shareholders.

Resolutions, including those affecting a company’s constitution (Sec 27), are to be lodged with the registrar for registration within 14 days of passing of the resolution or agreement. This is done by submitting a copy of the resolution or the agreement and in the absence of a written resolution; the company can submit a written memorandum setting out the terms of the resolution or agreement.

A company’s capacity cannot be called into question (Sec 33). They are deemed to have capacity for both their actions and omissions. For this reason, a company is considered to have the capacity to carry out their objects.

Directors have the power to bind a company in favour of a person dealing with the company in good faith. This power is free of any limitation contained in the company’s constitution (Sec 34). A company is also bound by its company seal as well as the signature of an authorised signatory to the company.

A company may have a company seal whose main purpose is the execution of documents. It is no longer mandatory for a company to have a common seal. A company seal must have the name of the company engraved on it in legible characters. A common seal has the power to bind the company.

A company that has a common seal may have an official seal for use outside Kenya (Sec 42). Such seal should be a facsimile of the common seal with the addition, on its face, of the place or places where it is to be used. A company may also have an official seal for sealing securities issued by the company or documents creating or evidencing securities (Sec 43). Such seal should be a facsimile of the common seal with the addition, on its face, of the word “Securities”.

This is the alteration of the status of a company. A company may convert itself:

  • from being a from being a private company into being a public company;
  • from being a public company into being a private company;
  • from being a private limited company into being an unlimited company;
  • from being an unlimited private company to a limited company or
  • from being a public company into being an unlimited private company (Sec 69).

The steps for conversion are as follows:

  • The company passes a special resolution to that effect or obtain the assent of members for conversion.
  • The company ensures compliance with the relevant section of The Act, depending on the type of conversion. The requirements for each type of conversion are set out in Part VI of The Act.
  • The company then lodges an application for registration of the conversion with the registrar.
  • The registrar issues a Certificate of Incorporation specifying that the certificate is issued on the registration of conversion.

A subsidiary is a company of which another company is its holding company. A holding company is a company that controls the composition of the other company’s Board of Directors, controls more than half of the voting rights  in the other company, holds more than half of the issued share capital of the other company or is a holding company of the other company’s holding company (Sec 3).

 A subsidiary company, while not independently owned often continues to operate as an individual entity though major corporate decisions are made by the holding company. It is therefore a separate legal entity and does not have any bearing on the debts or losses incurred by its holding company. The company can be similar or different from its holding company.

For the subsidiary to be registered, key documents are required, namely:

  1. Memorandum and Articles of Association for the Kenyan subsidiary company;
  2. Certificate of Incorporation of the holding company;
  3. A corporate undertaking declaring the appointment of an individual to sign necessary subsidiary documents at the instruction of the holding company;
  4. Registered address of the subsidiary company;
  5. Residential address and passport details of the local director.

The subsidiary company has the right:

  1. to sue and be sued;
  2. to operate as separate legal entity;
  3. to operate business that is similar or different from its parent company.

However, a subsidiary is prohibited from being a member of its holding company (Sec 108).


The subscribers to the Memorandum and Articles of associations become members of the company on the registration of the company (Sec 92). Any other person who agrees to become a member of a company becomes a member of the company when his or her name is entered in the register of members.

A company needs to keep a register of its members which contains their names, addresses, date which each member was registered and the date on which any person ceased to be a member (Sec 93). Such register is to be kept at the registered office of the company and a copy of the same lodged with the registrar (Sec 94). Companies with more than 50 members are required to keep an index of its members (Sec 95). For public companies, such register or index is to be kept open for inspection by any member of the company or any other person.

The Company may remove a member from the register upon the expiry of ten years after the date on which the person ceased to be a member (Sec 101). If a member is removed before the expiry of the ten years then the officer of the company who is in default commits a felony and on conviction is liable for a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand shillings. Single member companies will have the name and address of that member entered in the register of members accompanied by a statement that the company has only one member (Sec 102).

The members of a company have the following rights under Section 114 (3) of the Companies Act:

  1. The right to be sent a proposed written resolution;
  2. The right to require circulation of a written resolution;
  3. The right to require directors to call a general meeting;
  4. The right to receive notices of general meetings;
  5. The right to require circulation of a statement;
  6. The right to appoint a proxy to act at a meeting;
  7. The right to be sent a copy of the company’s annual financial and reports;
  8. The right to inspect books or documents of the company;
  9. The right to vote.

Members of traded companies may nominate a person to enjoy information rights which are (Sec 115):

  1. Right to receive a copy of all communication sent by the company to its members;
  2. Right to be sent copies of the company’s annual financial statements and reports;
  3. Right to receive a hard copy version of a document or information provided in another form.

Such nomination may be terminated or suspended at the request of the member of a company or the nominee (Sec 119). It is also terminated by death, bankruptcy or liquidation of the company.

Members of a company have the responsibility to ensure that:

  1. Only competent and reliable persons who can add value to the company are elected.
  2. They are well updated on the developments of the company
  3. That they are supplied with the company’s general or financial reports
  4. They attend the company’s general meetings.

These are the persons to whom the management of a company is entrusted. A private company must have at least one director while a public company must have at least two (Sec 128). At least one of the directors must be a natural person (Sec 129).

To be eligible for appointment as a director, one:

  • must be at least 18 years of age (Sec 131);
  • Must not be an undischarged bankrupt;
  • Must be of sound mind.

A person may be disqualified from holding the office of director for the following reasons:

  • Failing to take up qualification shares;
  • Being a minor (not having reached 18 years of age);
  • Becoming bankrupt;
  • Becoming of unsound mind;
  • Resigning from office by notice in writing;
  • Being absent, without permission, from meetings of directors for more than six months;
  • Commission of fraud or breach of duty (Sec 216);
  • Being convicted of an offence (Sec 215 & 217);
  • Being a person subject to foreign restrictions (Sec 234).

The first directors of a company are appointed by the subscribers to the company. Thereafter, directors are elected by members of the company. A proportion of the directors should retire every year but be eligible for re-election. In public companies, more than one director cannot be elected by a single vote unless a resolution has been passed to allow a single vote. Upon appointment, Form CR 6, found here is filled in and lodged with the Registrar for registration.

A director may, however, be removed from office by an ordinary resolution (Sec 139). However special notice must be given of any resolution to remove the director or to appoint another person to replace the director at the meeting at which the removal takes place. A notice of cessation of office, Form CR 9, found here is to be lodged at the registrar’s for registration.

Companies are required to keep a register of directors (Sec 134) which should be open for inspection. Such register is to contain particulars of the directors such as their names, service addresses and nationality among others (Sec 135 & 136). Companies are also expected to keep a register of directors’ addresses. The registrar must be notified of any change to either register within 14 days of the change.

Directors have several rights owing to their office. These include:

  • Right to compensation for loss of office (Sec 180);
  • Right to remuneration;
  • Right to protection of information relating to them (Sec 200);
  • Right to protest against removal (Sec 141).

They also have powers such as:

  • Managing the business of the company;
  • Binding the company;
  • The power to make provision for former employees;
  • The power to act as fiduciaries and agents;
  • Discretionary power.

Duties of the directors are owed to the company and not to individuals (Sec 140). These duties are based on common law rules and equitable principles. The duties of directors as set out in The Act are:

  • Duty to act within their powers, that is the constitution of the company and to exercise powers for the purpose for which they are conferred (Sec 142);
  • Duty to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole (Sec 143);
  • Duty to exercise independent judgment (Sec 144);
  • Duty to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence in their dealings with the company (Sec 145);
  • Duty to avoid conflict of interest  between their duty to the company and their personal interests (Sec 146);
  • Duty not to accept benefits from third parties if the benefit is attributable to either the fact that the person is a director of the company, or the act or omission of the person as a director (Sec 147);
  • Duty to declare any interest that they may have with reference to proposed or existing company transactions (Sec 151).

Directors are also not expected to compete with the company.

Directors of a company are liable for any negligence, default, breach of duty or breach of trust in relation to the company. Any provision that attempts to exempt a director from liability in relation to the aforesaid is void (Sec 194). Similarly, any provision of the company providing indemnity in connection with the above listed is void.

Directors found guilty of contravention of any part of The Act are liable to pay a fine or imprisonment.

Several transactions with directors of a company now require the approval of members of the company. These can be reduced to three categories as follows:


  1. Director’s long term service contracts (Sec 157);
  2. Substantial property transactions (Sec 160).

In this category, the following exceptions do not require approval of members:

  1. Transactions with members or other group companies (Sec 159);
  2. Company in liquidation or under administration (Sec 160);
  3. Transactions on recognized investment exchange (Sec 161).


  1. Loans to directors (Sec 164);
  2. Quasi-loans to directors (Sec 165);
  1. Loans or Quasi-loans to persons connected with directors (Sec 166);
  2. Credit transactions (Sec 167);
  3. Other related arrangements (Sec 168);

These transactions also have exceptions that do not require the approval of members as follows:

  1. Expenditure on company business (Sec 169);
  2. Expenditure on defending proceedings (Sec 170);
  3. Expenditure in connection with regulatory action or investigation (Sec 171);
  4. Minor and business transactions (Sec 172);
  5. Intra-group transactions (Sec 173);
  6. Money lending companies (Sec 174).


  1. Payment by company for loss of office (Sec 182);
  2. Payment in connection with transfer of undertaking (Sec 183);
  3. Payment in connection with share transfer (Sec 184);

This category too has exceptions that do not require member’s approval. They are:

  1. Payments in discharge of legal obligations (Sec 185);
  2. Small payments (Sec 186);

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