A Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) is a private voluntary grouping of individuals, not operated for profit or for other commercial purposes, but which have organized themselves nationally or internationally for the benefit of the public at large and for the promotion of social welfare, development charity or research in the areas inclusive of, but not restricted to, health, relief, agriculture, education, industry and the supply of amenities and services.
It is an entity governed by the NGO Act and registered by the NGO Coordination Board. The Public Benefit Organisations Act 2013 repealed the NGO Act
Under the NGO Act, it is an offence for any person to operate an NGO in Kenya for welfare, research, health relief, agriculture, education, industry, the supply of amenities, or any other similar purposes without being duly registered as an NGO.
Once an NGO is registered, by virtue of such registration it will be a body corporate with perpetual succession capable in its own name of: suing and being sued; taking, purchasing, or otherwise acquiring, holding, charging, or disposing of moveable and immovable property; entering into contracts; and doing or performing all such other things or acts necessary for the proper performance of its functions under the NGO Act, which may lawfully be done or performed by a body corporate.
Designation as an NGO confers certain tax benefits and imposes a series of regulations that are relevant to an equivalency determination. An NGO’s constitution must prohibit the organization from distributing funds to members and officials other than for legitimate reimbursement of expenses incurred in carrying out the organization’s objectives (NGO Coordination Regulations Second Schedule, Section 4(a) and 4(b)). The documents must also stipulate rules for awarding contracts to members or officials (NGO Coordination Regulations Second Schedule Section 4(c)).
NB: Election of the interim officials MUST form part of the Agenda.
The next step is to present all these documents and information to the NGO Coordination Board and wait for its approval.
Additional requirements for foreign NGO registration:
In the event of dissolution, whether voluntary or involuntary, the NGO constitution must provide for the manner of dissolution of the NGO and disposal of its property upon dissolution (NGO Coordination Regulations 1992 Second Schedule paragraph 12).
An NGO cannot become a branch of, or be affiliated with, or be connected to any organization or group of a political nature established outside Kenya. It shall not dissolve itself except with the prior consent in writing of the board obtained upon written application addressed to the director and signed by three officers of the organization (NGO Coordination Regulations 1992 Paras. 21(1)(b)-(c)). An NGO can affiliate with a political organization inside Kenya, though the Government discourages this practice.
An international NGO can register as a PBO under the PBO Act by submitting an application form with proof that it is a legal entity in another country and by providing its address in Kenya and a written statement from a representative of its headquarters, stating the purposes of the NGO, a general description of the activities it is planning to carry out in Kenya and the name and contact details of its authorized agent in Kenya.
However, the international organization must have at least one third of its directors as Kenyan citizens resident in Kenya and having an office in Kenya.
The Authority may also exempt an organization registered outside the country from registration, particularly where the international organization does not intend to engage in direct implementation of any activity, program or fundraising activities in Kenya.