Hustling abroad: How best to make the move

Tales of premium tears abound so be careful not to be trafficked

In Summary

• It is a big decision regardless of age, level of education, profession and destination

A successful worker abroad
A successful worker abroad

Isaac Ikanga, a 40-year-old construction worker at the Coast, is giving serious thought to plying his craft in Somalia. "I have heard that wages there are double what I get here in Kenya," Ikanga says.

He is frustrated at sitting idle as construction activity slows down amidst the current economic turmoil. The prospects of better pay in Somalia look attractive, but there's a snag. He fears going to Somalia would get him into trouble with security agencies.

In Nairobi, 45-year-old Milkah Wangari is considering a mid-life transition to any country with better employment prospects than Kenya. "USA, Australia and South Africa are my favourite countries," Wangari says. She is currently in between jobs after closing down her business late last year.

With hundreds of thousands of new job seekers joining the large numbers of unemployed, the prospects of getting work are looking rather dim. That is why so many Kenyans are already working abroad; from domestic workers in the Middle East and health workers in the US to construction workers in Europe and aid workers in conflict zones. Kenyan emigrants can be found in almost every continent, with the possible exception of Antarctica.

Interestingly, a survey published in 2019 shows that 36 per cent of Africans prefer finding job opportunities within the continent, especially in neighbouring countries. 27 per cent indicated Europe as their preferred destination, while just 22 per cent said North America. The survey was carried out by Afrobarometer, a research institution.

Moving abroad is a big decision regardless of age, level of education, profession and destination. Perhaps you already have a job offer and are seriously thinking of taking it up. Here are some important tips:

1. Check if the job offer is genuine: Find out as much as possible about the employer. Ask others who have worked for the organisation or speak to a current employee. Be careful about taking up employment opportunities for "easy jobs", such as hostess, waiter, customer care or entertainer. Most such jobs are bait used by human traffickers, who then turn the victims into slaves upon arrival. In August 2022, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned Kenyans against taking such jobs in South East Asian countries.

2. Finances: Will you be paid in that country's currency or foreign currency, such as US dollars? How hard is it to move money out of that country? Will the pay be enough for you to survive in that land? Will the employer pay for accommodation, relocation, health insurance and air tickets?

3. Check local laws: Find out how labour laws in the destination country affect you. Scrutinise the terms of your contract and have it reviewed by a professional. In some countries, you must follow the local dress code. If you enjoy going to the bar, you will hate staying in a country that forbids alcohol. Several countries do not allow couples to live together without proof of marriage.

4. Get your affairs in order: You may die while working abroad. Moving a body across borders is very expensive without insurance. Make the necessary arrangements so that your family is not bankrupted by funeral expenses. Update your last will before your departure and leave a copy with your next of kin or lawyer.

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