How to Begin Investing on the Nairobi Securities Exchange

A quick, easy guide to opening an account to invest in Kenyan stocks.

Kenya Shillings
Photo by KlnDonnelly

Kenya boasts a diverse economy, improving infrastructure, and a young, dynamic population.

But high interest rates and instability in the banking sector have left many Kenyan stocks trading at multi-year lows, offering investors a great entry point for exceptional long-term returns.

So, how do you get started investing on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE)? Here are a few tips.

Start By Bulletproofing Your Finances

While investing in stocks is one of the best ways to build wealth over time, a positive return is not guaranteed.

Volatility, however, is pretty much a sure thing.

So, to minimize risk, it’s crucial that your finances be ironclad.

If you’ve answered each one of these questions with a hearty “Yes!” you’re in a great place to begin thinking about investing on the NSE.

Find an Online Broker

Before you can start putting your money to work on the NSE, you must first open an account with a licensed stockbroker.

There are more than 20 brokers trading on the NSE, but I’m partial to those that offer an online trading platform. Online trading gives you the freedom to buy and sell shares whenever and wherever you want.

Here’s a list of Kenyan stockbrokers that presently offer online trading:

Mind the Fees

Almost all of the above brokers will charge an account opening fee, an account maintenance fee, or both.

The amount of these fees varies from broker but is typically about Ksh1,200.00 (roughly US$12.00) to open the account and Ksh100.00 (roughly US$1.00) per month to keep it active.

There is no minimum amount required to fund your account, but when you decide to purchase a stock, you must buy at least 100 shares.

At this moment, the least expensive share listed on the NSE was priced at KES 1.05. You could, therefore, buy 100 shares of this company (Mumias Sugar) for KES 105.00 plus the broker’s commission. But, if you’d like to purchase shares of Jubilee Holdings (currently priced at KES 470.00), you’ll need to invest a much larger sum (KES 47,000.00).

In addition to the account maintenance fee, your stockbroker will charge commission and fees on every trade you execute. The commission rate is the same across all stockbrokers and is equal to:

  • 1.78% of the total value of transactions less than KES 100,000, or
  • 1.50% of the total value of transactions more than KES 100,000.

The Documentation You’ll Need

In order to open an account you’ll need to provide your broker with the following:

  • Two color passport size photos
  • Your national ID document or passport (a notarized copy is acceptable for investors living outside Kenya)
  • A signed CDS-1 Form (click here for sample)

Most brokers will also ask for one or more of the following: a copy of a recent utility bill, the first page of your bank statement, or a copy of your PIN certificate.

When the process is complete you will be the proud owner of a Central Depository System (CDS) account.

A CDS account is an electronic account that stores all of the shares you own. Think of it as a satchel (or portfolio). You can move this satchel from stockbroker to stockbroker, and all of the shares that you have accumulated move along with it. So, if you find the level of service from your broker to be lower than you expected, rest assured that you can easily take your business elsewhere.

After the account is set up, your broker will instruct you how to fund it and how to place an order to buy shares.

Do You Live Outside Kenya?

If so, you may find it difficult to collect dividends. Typically, Kenyan companies deliver dividends via direct deposit into a specified bank account or by a cheque denominated in Kenya shillings, which can be next to impossible to cash in the US or UK. And Kenyan banks require you to appear in person in order to open a local bank account.

Therefore, unless you’ve got plans to visit Nairobi in the near future, make clear to your broker that you would like to open a nominee account. This allows the broker to collect dividends on your behalf and to deposit them directly in your trading account.

Mission Accomplished

So, there you have it. Follow these steps and you’ve got everything in place to start investing in Kenyan shares.

But how do you choose that first stock? We’ll cover that in the next post.

It’s Your Turn

What questions do you have about investing on the NSE? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll do my best to get answers for them.

113 thoughts on “How to Begin Investing on the Nairobi Securities Exchange”

  1. Finally something I’ve been looking for a very long time. I love this. And thank you very much Ryan. I’m not yet done reading your blog since I stumbled upon it back in January 2016. I am glad I subscribed to your updates. How amazing reading this post as the very first thing I’ve done today. Thanks again.

  2. I can assure you that the advise is correct. I have traded for a long time. It is much easier now with guidance and comments like in Ryan’s blog which are true and very useful.

    Keep it up Ryan! You are truly assisting us fight poverty.

  3. Hi Ryan .I always read your blog on investing ,it`s always so good ,My only problem is that i haven`t yet started to invest ,looking and studying how to begin ,

    thanks for the this blog of your ,keep on what you doing best …

      1. Hi James,

        You can open a trading account for free, but when you purchase shares, you must purchase at least 100 at a time. Thus, a company like Safaricom, which is currently priced around KSh29.00 per share will cost you about KSh2900.00 plus commission and fees.

          1. Hi Dominic,

            You can open a trading account by following the process outlined in the article. Trading account and brokerage account are synonymous.

            Due to the documentation required the initial account opening will need to take place via email, post, or in person.

        1. Hi Ryan…the infor is so insightful,, thax,,.. my CDS a/c with Equity has been dormant for like 7yrs and counting and I want to change to an online broker….is it still relevant or do I need to open a new one

          1. Hi Amani,

            Your CDS account should still be valid. There’s no need to open a new CDS when moving to a new broker. Happy investing!

    1. Hey Ryan which companies should I invest in .Am still at the university.and thought of buying some shares since am not sure of a very stable business to start.

  4. Thanks Ryan. I’m so grateful for this information. Really important. But can you please also educate us on investing in other African developing countries. Thanks so much.

  5. The challenge i have faced so far is how to have a balanced portforlio.Out of 64 companies,very few are making profitable busineses.

    1. Hi Dennis,

      The key is to consider the size of the dividend in relation to the share price. KES 1 or 1.50 can end up being quite a lot if you only pay KES 15.00 per share for the stock.

        1. Hi Alice,

          Dividends are a portion of a company’s annual profits which they give to shareholders in the form of a cash payment.

          For example, if you own 100 shares of Safaricom, and the company subsequently declares a dividend Ksh1.00 per share, you will receive a payment of Ksh100.00 (Ksh1.00 x 100 shares = Ksh100.00).

          Thus, one strategy to make money investing in shares is to buy companies that have consistently increased their dividend payment every year. Doing so, gives you an income while you own the shares. Plus, the price of such shares tends to rise over time, so there’s a good chance that five years from now, you will be able to sell the shares for a higher price than you paid for them.

          Does that help to clarify?

  6. Thank you so much Ryan. I’ve only just discovered your blog and I’m learning a lot from it…I’m still not brave enough to start..

    1. Hi Mary,

      You can click on the link next to any of the brokers listed above. They will have contact details on their respective pages. A phone call may get a quicker response than email for many of them.

      Hope this helps and happy investing!

      1. Hi Ryan am new here and as matter of fact I find this interesting.. I have never invested before and I still have a lot of fears to start.may you should offer more assurance that they will be nothing to regret after all

        1. Hi Hassan,

          I hear what you’re saying. And let me give this word of semi-assurance – it is unlikely that a share investor will lose all the money that they invest.

          Nevertheless, it is possible. And it’s quite possible to lose at least a portion of your money.

          The upside is that it’s also quite possible to make a significant amount of money investing in shares.

          To increase your odds of success, buy shares of quality companies and be prepared to hold the shares for a long time – five years or more.

    1. Hi Collin,

      I would suggest investing in a company that you know well, preferably one that provides a good or service that you are happy with and use regularly. Perhaps that is Safaricom or maybe it’s KenolKobil. Always remember that by buying shares, you are buying a small part of a business. So, buy a business that you believe in!
      You can see a list of all Kenyan stocks and their current prices here:

      https://www.nse.co.ke/market-statistics/equity-statistics.html

      As your knowledge of the stock market grows, you’ll begin to develop an understanding of what drives a stock’s performance. In the meantime, take care not to invest any money that you can’t afford to lose.

  7. Hello Ryan! I am a university student , would you advice on investing in stock? Or there are any limitations that can hinder me from doing such ?

    1. Hi Laurent!

      University students can certainly invest in stock, but I wouldn’t advise doing so unless you have saved up an emergency fund and paid off any high-interest debt. Paying off debt is a sure-fire way to increase your disposable income over the long-term. Stocks, on the other hand, don’t offer any guarantee of a positive return.

      But if you’ve got a few months worth of living expenses saved up in the bank and no real debt to speak of, then, by all means, consider investing in stock to build your wealth.

  8. HI, Ryan

    am a student and i have save some cash and am trying to invest in stock exchange ,my question is does earn well or i should just keep my money at the bank .

  9. Is it true that some stockbrokers in Kenya require that you have a certain minimum amount in your bank account before you can trade with them?. For example I went to Kestrel Capital and they told me that i should be having a minimum of 5 million Kenyan Shillings before I can trade with them. Is that true?

    1. Hi Joseph,

      Yes, that is true. Some brokers give their clients access to extensive research and in, order to pay for it, they stipulate that their customers have a minimum amount deposited in their trading account. Larger accounts typically mean larger trading commissions for the brokers.

      The good news is that the brokers listed in the article above do not require an account minimum. They may not offer as much research as Kestrel does, but they can still execute trades for you.

  10. Hey Ryan
    I just completed high school and i have an urge to start investing
    I have read on how to get online stock brokers and how much they charge.
    can start buying stocks for as low as kes10000
    Please tell me at how much they retail at

    1. Hi Victor,

      Stock prices vary from company to company. A share of Safaricom stock, for example, presently costs about KES19.00. A share of KCB, meanwhile, costs KES32.00.

      The only minimum requirement when investing on the Nairobi Securities Exchange is that you must purchase at least 100 shares with each transaction. Thus, if you wanted to purchase Safaricom stock, the minimum amount required is presently KES1900.00 – KES19.00 X 100 shares.

      You can find the current price of all Kenyan stocks at this link:
      https://www.nse.co.ke/market-statistics/equity-statistics.html

      Happy investing!

    2. Hello Victor, I really hope you see my reply.

      I am always intrigued when I see young people, like yourself, interested in making investments. I started trading in the NSE when I was in my early years of college and I can tell you that it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
      On that note, I would like to see you participate in the NSE; and I am willing to share the insight I have with you. You can reach out through solomon.muthui@strathmore.edu

      Regards,
      Solomon

  11. I’m just wondering because there is such a large variety of share prices, are these prices in any way relevant when I’m making the decision of which shares to buy. Yes, the price will determine which shares I can buy because it will determine which shares I can afford but I was wondering if these prices are relevant in any other way. I checked the link for the prices and I see some shares cost as high as 1,500 and others less that a shilling.
    Also, in your opinion which stocks are the best to buy for short term investment and which is the best for long-term investment. Thanks

    1. Hey Angie,
      One of the most commonly adopted policy in this area is ‘buy low, sell high’. This means that you have to look at the share price range to determine if a stock is at its peak (or not). Generally, a stock which is at its peak is not attractive and the opposite is true.

      However, you cannot base your investment decision solely based on the lowness or highness of a share price. Sites such as live.mystocks.co.ke will give price ranges for the last 52 weeks and even graphs to show past performance. To access the graphs and other additional info, click on a particular stock.

      Regards.

  12. hi ryan thanks for the info am a beginner l would like more info on which companies are good to start with for good returns and is it possible for me to trade with different brokers at the same time.?

    1. Hi Kelvin,

      I would suggest starting with a company that you know well – one whose services you use regularly. Perhaps this is a company like Safaricom. You can see a complete list of available companies here – https://www.nse.co.ke/listed-companies/list.html. If you and many of your friends like this company and use its products, there’s a good chance that the business will perform well over time. And, if the business performs well over time, there’s a good chance that its shares will perform well, too.

      When opening an account with a broker for the first time, you will be asked to apply for a CDS account. This account is an electronic register of all the shares that you own. After opening it, you can move it from one broker to another. I’m not sure whether you can open and use multiple CDS accounts at the same time. I’ll check into it and let you know. In the meantime, does any other reader have an answer for Kelvin on this?

      1. Yes Kelvin, you can have multiple Brokers. Your CDSC profile will show the different brokers that transacted on your behalf.

          1. hi Ryan

            i have i bought shares in 3 companies my problem is i have never known the right time to sell them can you advise, the other question is are there stockbrooker companies in other towns apart from nairobi

  13. so, isn’t there a possibility of one not in all these capacities to buy shares? e.g, in case of a student or a non employed kenyan

    1. Hi Aguda

      Students and those who are currently unemployed are still permitted to purchase shares. But they should take care not to put more money at risk than they can afford to lose, because investing in shares does not guarantee a positive return.

  14. Thanks Ryan and Solomon for the infor on share trading and how to begin. I look forward to joining the trade. My question is, does it mean its a non stop business or I can buy shares once and call it a deal and wait for a peak to sell?

    1. Hi Hanah,

      You can trade as often or as infrequently as you like. But I much prefer buying and then holding on to my shares over the long-term as it keeps trading costs low.

      Happy investing!

  15. Hi Ryan,
    i’m grateful for all the informations given here by you.My question is investing in NSE only reserved to Kenyans? I am a Cameroonian living in Cameroon, is there any possibility for me to invest? if yes under which conditions.
    Thank You!

    1. Hi Karis!

      The NSE is open to all nationalities. It is certainly possible for you to invest. Just follow the instructions above, and the broker will instruct you if there is anything additional required. Make clear to your broker that you would like your dividend cheques to be deposited directly into your trading account. This avoids the problem of receiving dividend cheques in Kenya shillings, which I imagine are difficult to cash in Cameroon.

  16. Good info. can I start investing in security market with ksh. 10000(ten thousand) and earn double profit within one month?

  17. Sir/Madam,

    Want to change my account from Equity Bank since they are yet o offer online platform.

    How do I go about it?

    BN

    1. Hi Bibianne,

      You can simply go to another broker and open an account. Just tell them your CDS number and all of the shares that you bought through Equity Bank will be available for trade with your new broker.

  18. The right kind of blog site I have been looking for. I have always wanted to invest on NSE but I had no idea where to start. Thanks Ryan for this precise and clear information.

  19. Hello Ryan, I’ve read your blog and found very interesting information and a better understanding of the stock market. I’m a university student and and I am a loanee of the Higher Education Loans Board(HELB). Can that be a constraint to me investing in the securities?

    1. Hi Solomon,

      Good question. As far as I am aware, HELB borrowers are not restricted from investing on the NSE, but I typically suggest that you pay off any outstanding debt before buying shares. Assuming your loan’s interest rate is higher than the rate of inflation, paying it down is a guaranteed way to build your wealth. Buying shares, on the other hand, offers no such guarantee. In fact, you may end up losing money.

      Focus on paying off your loans first, then begin to dabble in stocks later.

      1. Hi Ryan
        Am a first year student and i wanted to venture into the stock market.According to you is it a good idea given that am a HELB borrower.

        1. Hi Richie,

          Great question. I would not advise investing unspent HELB funds in the stock market. There is no way of predicting with absolute certainty if stocks will move higher or lower in any given year. And, if they move lower, you could be faced with the possibility of not having enough money to finance your studies. I’d advise investing the money in something low-risk, like a savings or money market account.

          HELB loans have a relatively low interest rate (4%) and they’re well worth taking in exchange for furthering your education, but, when you graduate, I’d still advise that you work to pay them off before investing in shares. Being debt-free is a great feeling and allows you to sleep soundly at night.

    1. Sure thing, Lewis. To buy shares on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, simply open a brokerage account following the process outlined in the article above.

    1. Hi Otonda,

      I’m not certain, but my understanding is that yes, it is possible for friends to open a joint CDS account. Just confirm with your broker when you fill out the application.

  20. Thanks for the analysis on the NSE investment..just finished high school and i and my friend are intrested and wanted invest as a duet.,my Quiz was whether the brokerage firm will settle the incomes propotionally or its us.

    1. Hi Michal,

      Great to hear that you and your friend would like to invest. If you set up a joint account, you and your friend will be responsible for calculating how much each of you is owed. Happy investing!

  21. Just finished high school and i and my friend wanted to invest as a duet…my quiz was whether the brokerage firm will settle the incomes proportionally or that’ll be our deal.Thanks for the site.

  22. Thank you for sharing this masterpiece. I’m now armed with the information I need to start trading in stocks. Just one question, Is the CDS account free?

  23. Hi, thank you for articles, fortunately, I can not trade in this platform because I live outside Kenya is there any different way I can open a bank account online?

  24. Thanks Ryan for the good guidance looking forward for more guidance as i move towards investing in the NSE. however apart from guideline here do you offer training on the same may be in the office or conferences where one can attend and have an one on one talk,.

  25. thanks
    i bought safaricom shares using discount securities limited which went under. i have been getting dividends but i want the dividends be used to buy more shares. i do not know how to get a broker that can do this on my behalf.

    1. Hi, Johnstone. You should be able to open an account at another broker, and when you do, inquire about the possibility of having your Safaricom dividends deposited directly into your new trading account. They should also be able to advise you on how to sell the shares if you should ever wish to do so.

    1. Great question, Theophilla. There are lots of good reasons to sell a share. Here are a few:

      1) If you will need the money in the next few years.
      2) If you don’t really understand how the company operates or how healthy it is.
      3) If you spot a better opportunity.

      But don’t sell a stock just because its price has dropped suddenly. The market often overreacts. Take some time to understand the business’ prospects (e.g. is it profitable? does it have sufficient cash? are debt levels manageable?) before pushing the panic button.

  26. thanks soo much ryan finally i understand something i have been soo much searching…..all i was finding are scams….and where can i find the offices to open my CDS account. i saw as if it was in the 10th floor nation centre just wanted to be sure

    1. Hi Mose,

      So glad to hear it was helpful. Your broker will assist you with opening a CDS account. For example, if you choose SBG Securities as your broker, they will open a CDS account for you as part of the trading account opening process. SBG Securities is headquartered on the 2nd floor of the CFC Stanbic Centre in Westlands.

      1. hey ryan am interested in engaging in investing of stocks in the nse but i dont have a clear information on how to do so…am 22 and still studying

    1. Hi, John. As far as I know, the only way to purchase shares at the NSE is through a registered broker. Note, some brokers offer online platforms which allow you to trade shares electronically, but you will still be required to pay a commission on each transaction that you make.

  27. Hi Ryan your blog is very informing. I have already invested with NSE through NIC. My question – is it possible to buy shares today and sell them the following day if price tends to the high and how can you do it on-line.

    1. Good question, Murage. I believe it is possible to buy a share and sell it the next day, but this may vary from broker to broker. I would check with NIC to confirm. SBG Securities (http://www.sbgsecurities.co.ke/) operates a popular online trading platform called iTrader which should allow you to execute trades this actively.

      Keep in mind that the stock price must climb 4.3% or more in order to profit from such a trade due to the cost of commissions and fees.

      https://investinginafrica.net/brokerage-commissions-kenya/

  28. Hi Ryan, thank you for this platform to share knowledge about the NSE. My question is, what is the difference between a money market account and the stock market? Kindly make me understand. Thank you

    1. Hi Arnold,

      Good question. When you invest in the stock market, you are buying shares of specific companies (e.g. Safaricom, Bamburi Cement, etc.). The value of your investment can rise and fall alongside the fortunes of the company that you have purchased.

      A money market account invests in a variety of government and commercial securities. It’s a much less risky investment than shares because you are guaranteed not to lose any of the money that you invest. But the trade-off is that the potential return is much lower than the potential return from an investment in shares. Money market accounts are a nice option for stashing your emergency fund, but, in my opinion, it’s too conservative for long-term savings (5-10 years or more).

      Hope this helps!

  29. Hi Ryan. Thank you for being an eye opener and giving us advice about investment. I have a little concern though, I invested in Safaricom shares but the value is decreasing at an alarming rate. It is currently trading at 22.25 and i purchased at 27. Should I worry? Please advice. Thank you

    1. Good question, Christine. It can be alarming to see the value of your shares drop, but I wouldn’t lose sleep over it (especially with a company like Safaricom). As you are seeing, share prices are very volatile in the short-term. It’s impossible to consistently predict whether a stock will rise or fall on any given day (or week… or month). But over the long-term (think 5-10 years), the shares of good, profitable companies tend to rise.

      Think of it like a drive from the coast to a mountaintop. The road doesn’t climb in a straight line. There are lots of peaks and valleys along the way.

      Hope this helps put your mind at ease and happy investing!

  30. Hi Ryan.Nice posts and advices.I am a young invester hoping to start by investing between kshs.10000-kshs.100000, I am hence looking at long-term benefits~good annual dividends in the long run and great appreciation of share value after a long period of time.Which stock broker would you recommend to me?

    OTHER READERS CAN ALSO KINDLY ADVICE

  31. Thank you so much Ryan got the good work..
    My question is can I trade different shares on a daily service and make profit
    Ie..buy and sell shares daily and make good profit
    Please also advise us on forex trading

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *