They say that east or west, home is best. This old adage is best exemplified in Kisii County, at least when it comes to people working in foreign countries pushing up development in their native communities.
When President Uhuru Kenyatta toured Kisii in October, he observed that members of the Abagusii community are industrious and innovative.
The Head of State said that the enterprising skills exhibited by Abagusii had seen them spread all over Kenya and globally.
Further, the President said that the Abagusii never forget about their cultural heritage.
“I know how hardworking you are as a community. That is why many of your sons and daughters are spread out all over the country, and indeed, in the whole world. Kisii people who live in the diaspora always send something back home, and that is why we have a lot of money circulating here,” President Kenyatta said.
The President was right. Many sons and daughters of the Gusii community who live overseas have pumped millions of money into their homeland, making Kisii town one of the fastest growing commercial centres in Nyanza.
Kisii town has continued to grow economically despite scarcity of land. The fast economic growth has made Kisii to stand out as one of the few centres in the western region with a huge commercial potential after Kisumu and Eldoret.
To underscore Kisii’s status as a fast-growing hub, the Central Bank of Kenya recently opened a cash reserve centre in the area to tap into the huge sums of money circulating in the region. Part of the cashflow includes remittances streaming in from the diaspora.
Ms Jessica Akeya hails from Nyacheki in Bobasi constituency of Kisii county but lives in the United States of America where she works in the healthcare sector.
Many Kisiis who work in the diaspora prefer healthcare services because of the huge compensation it offers in countries like America.
Ms Akeya has invested heavily in real estate. She also sends money to her mother and other relatives for upkeep.
Evans Onkwani, who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, hails from Nyaribari Chache. Mr Onkwani has constructed a magnificent residential home on the outskirts of Kisii town.
Until her death months ago, Mr Onkwani’s mother, who had been ailing for a long time, benefited heavily from the support he extended to her, paying off her medication, upkeep and other needs. He has also invested a considerable amount of money in putting up nice residential homes for his parents.
There are many success stories of Abagusii who live in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the USA who have invested heavily in their community.
Conquered academic records
Besides their economic power, Abagusii are among the most ambitious groups in America who have conquered academic records in various States.
The Kisii have taken advantage of the liberal academic policies in the US and pursued higher education.
In many American states, academic achievers from Kisii present impressive credentials, with many of them having a minimum of Masters degrees. Many of them end up obtaining PhDs.
Dr Bernard Marasa, the Interim President of Kenya Diaspora Alliance-USA, told nation.africa that with proper policy guidelines, the government can attract massive deployment of financial investment in Kenya by Kenyans in the diaspora.
Speaking during the launch of Kenya Diaspora Alliance North America, Dr Marasa said that with proper policy guidelines, middlemen can be kept away from hijacking key investment sectors, such as the capital markets, where a number of Kenyans living overseas have shown interest in.
The Kisii CBK branch will not only help minimise theft of cash in transit, but also reduce transport costs for banks in the region. The project signals growth in Kisii county.
There are indications that Kisii is a cash rich area and the CBK centre will mean bringing services closer home.
“It is all about devolving services to reach the targeted groups,” said President Kenyatta.
“Through this CBK centre, banks will transport money at the close of business every day within minimum distance,” said CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge, who added that the office will serve Homa Bay, Nyamira, Bomet, Narok and Migori counties.
Kisii Governor James Ongwae welcomed the move, saying it reaffirms the strategic place of Kisii in Nyanza region.
“Kisii controls 60 per cent of the money market in Nyanza region,” said Mr Ongwae.
It is hoped many sons and daughters from Gusii who live overseas will be attracted by the CBK centre in Kisii to intensify their investment interests.