Kenyans in diaspora to meet Ruto, top govt officials in Nairobi
The country is gearing up for a major three-day diaspora conference in Naiorbi, coming against the backdrop of President William Ruto’s elevation of the diaspora as the 48th county.
During his inauguration on September 13, President Ruto announced that he had elevated the diaspora as the 48th county, noting that there had been complaints that diaspora had not the attention they deserve.
“The focus has been on remittances, while their fundamental rights as citizens have been neglected. To correct this oversight, I pledge to: elevate diaspora issues at a ministry level, strengthen diaspora services in all embassies, work with parliament to set up a committee that will exclusively deal with diaspora issues, set up a mechanism for public participation by the diaspora and work closely with the IEBC to expand and enhance diaspora participation in elections,” said Dr Ruto.
Already Kenyans in the diaspora, uniting under the umbrella of Kenya Diaspora Alliance (KDA) have organised a mega event between December 7 and 9 in Nairobi, that will host top government officials, local and international investors and county chiefs in a bid to deliberate on the best approach to boost diaspora remittances to spur the country’s economy.
KDA chairperson Shem Ochuodho disclosed that President Ruto among other government dignitaries including the Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and Cabinet Secretary for Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Dr Alfred Mutua are expected to grace the occasion themed; Inclusive Growth Leveraging Diaspora Resources.
“It’s a very key event. We first had this convention in and at that time diasporas were remitting Sh 1 billion dollars every year. We set a target to double it within five years to Sh 2 billion dollars but to our pleasant surprise, by 2019 diasporas had surpassed that doubling, it was actually about Sh 2.8 billion dollars,” Dr Ochuodho revealed.
We now have a new target that is to double it by the year 2030 to be between Sh 6 billion dollars to Sh 7 billion dollars per year, he said.
He explained that only 25 percent of what comes in goes into investments and hard savings, adding that a new target is to increase it from 25 to 30 percent so that more money goes into driving the economy.
Dr Ochuodho said Kenyans living in the diaspora are looking forward to engaging the government over its fresh commitment to bolster gains from remittances and investments.
He explained that the alliance was championing a mind shift, negative African narrative and advocating for respect, building business partnership on a win-win basis and bringing back Africa into their rightful place in geopolitics and international trade.
“We are focusing on a cordial working relationship between the new Government and Kenyans in diaspora because there are numerous investment opportunities that are yet to be tapped,” Dr Ochuodho added.
President Ruto has promised to strengthen diaspora services in all embassies and set up a mechanism for public participation by the Kenyans living abroad.
He also said the new government will work with Parliament to set up a committee that will exclusively deal with diaspora issues.
Already, Parliament has set up a standalone committee to address the plight of migrant workers, students and holders of dual citizenship living abroad following an outcry from domestic workers in the Middle east.
“It will also help create awareness of initiatives underway for investment in the continent as we seek to engage different economic experts and remittance experts as well as drivers and stakeholders in county, national, regional and continental development to speak about the opportunities available for diasporas to invest in back home,” said Dr Ochuodho.
The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) in June this year reported that diaspora remittance inflows to Kenya as at May 2022 stood at US$ 339.7 million compared to US$ 315.8 million in May 2021, a 7.6 percent increase.
According to the CBK report, the cumulative inflows for the 12 months to May 2022 totaled US$ 3,992 million compared to US$ 3,365 million in the same period in 2021, an increase of 18.6 per cent.
Dr Ochuodho argues that investment opportunities will now be vital as opposed to Kenyans living abroad just sending money for consumption and subsistence to their relatives.
He noted that many diasporas want to return home but without proper investments to sustain them in their sunset years, there is nothing to return to and so many of them remain stuck in their migrant nations until their demise.
“We believe that investing back home will not only elevate a sense of pride, but also significantly increase remittances for posterity,” he added.