- As of 2020, there were more than 535,000 Kenyans living abroad, representing only 1.07 per cent of our population estimated at 50 million.
- These great Kenyans remit more than $4.02 billion, translating to more than Sh600 billion, as of September 2022.
This week, our fellow Kenyans in the diaspora have come home to a warm welcome at the KICC, for the inaugural Diaspora Investment Conference organised by the State Department for Diaspora Affairs.
Some came straight from the airport to hear President William Ruto in a panel discussion with key diaspora representatives. It’s important to understand there are so many Kenyans out there in many countries, trying to make a living and look for opportunities.
As of 2020, there were more than 535,000 Kenyans living abroad, representing only 1.07 per cent of our population estimated at 50 million. Total number of Kenyans abroad are currently at three million, which translates to six per cent.
These great Kenyans remit more than $4.02 billion, translating to more than Sh600 billion, as of September 2022. The remittances increased by 8.34 per cent in 2022, thus closing in on exports that generated $5.77 billion (Sh894.4 billion).
The US is the highest population-wise, with about 157,000 Kenyans, while the UK hosts about 139,400 Kenyans. Saudi Arabia alone has more than 100,000 Kenyans. These Kenyans’ contribution is more than coffee or tea in terms of foreign exchange.
The diaspora in any country is critical to its development in terms of financial contributions either through remittances or Foreign Direct Investment, and technology transfer. Two countries that have leveraged on this are China and India, with China sending its students to study abroad in the US, and the UK. This has led to a lot of technology transfer on their part.
China has more than 10.7 million Chinese overseas, translating to more than 60 million, if their descendants are also included in the tally, according to the International Organization of Migration. The United Nations estimates that more than 17.9 million Indians born in the country are recorded as living abroad.
These two countries are projected to be the first and second biggest economies by the year 2048, according to the World Bank’s Nominal GDP rankings.
It therefore follows the diaspora is a very critical component of any country that seeks to advance itself into prosperity. If only one percent of our population abroad can contribute to approximately 16.9 percent of our annual budget as of 2023-24, then there is need to refocus on how we can leverage this opportunity to spur our own development.
Kenya is endowed with among the world’s best human resources. I remember recently when I visited Namibia, I met Victoria Mwaniki who is a managing director of a chain of hotels in the country. It’s actually true the Kenyan diaspora has produced descendants who have gone ahead to lead countries such as the US and the UK. Barack Obama, the first black US president, and Rishi Sunak, the first British Prime Minister of Asian origin, can all trace their ancestry to Kenya.
President Ruto’s administration has recognised this, and he has since established the State Department for Diaspora Affairs, led by PS Roselyn Njogu, under the Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi.
This year’s Inaugural Diaspora Investment Conference is aimed at helping Kenyans living abroad to make sound investment decisions back in their motherland.
For example, the affordable and social housing programme provides them an opportunity to own a home for as little as little as Sh400,000 through a 3,000 tenant purchase, rent to own agreement with the government, under the State Department for Housing. This eliminates situations whereby relatives defraud their own when left to manage such projects for them.
In addition, more than 14,000 government services are now digitised on e-Citizen platform, including land searches. This means that from the comfort of their homes, Kenyans living abroad don’t have to incur huge expenses to travel back here to transact basic public services.
Moreover, while the older generation of diaspora members has been accused of making investment decisions based on emotions rather than facts, their descendants who have no social attachment with their parent’s motherland, earn up to 10 times more, and can therefore make more sound investment decisions.
The Diaspora Investment Fund can play a critical role in bankrolling huge infrastructure projects, rather than borrowing money from other people and countries. For example, the Saudi Investment Bank has just acquired a 12 per cent share of Heathrow Airport.
The Kenyan Diaspora can thus be part of the privatisation process in Kenya to leverage their advanced exposure to technology and other resources that would be beneficial to government-owned enterprises that are currently depending on the exchequer for their sustainability.
The diaspora needs services from their contribution and it’s commendable to note that for the last one year, the government has been able to rescue more than 1,350 Kenyans in situations of distress across the world. Soon, a new consulate is also going to be opened in Bogota, Colombia, attached to Brazil. Newly appointed ambassadors have been briefed to look for jobs for Kenyans in their host countries.
In the future, it will be important for the diaspora to be represented in Parliament through the 12 nomination slots, a practice already in use in countries such as France, which has diaspora MPs elected by the French, and segmented according to the zones overseas where they live. It’s also important for national legislation to be amended to include the diaspora in key bodies that superintend their affairs at both the national and international levels.
Kenya will prosper, Kenya shall rise again, Kenya will stand strong, in the spirit of patriotism, honesty, courage, fairness and Godliness.
The writer is the government spokesperson