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Was leaving the best option?

13 Aug

Questions abound as to whether or not Kenyans in the Diaspora are contributing to the country’s economic, social and political development.

According to a World Bank study done in 2010, remittances sent to Kenya reached a total   of $1.9 billion. This is equivalent to 20 per cent of Kenya’s annual budget, making it a big contributor to development.

Among African countries, Kenya has the third highest level of remittances after Nigeria and Sudan.

At independence, there were only a few hundred Kenyans living abroad, mainly as students. However, the number has grown tremendously over the decades to more than 2.5 million.

They live mainly in North America, Europe, Asia, southern Africa and the neighbouring EAC states.

The largest Kenyan community abroad is found in the USA and Canada, occupying almost every profession and jobs as engineers, businesspeople, professors, doctors, nurses, technicians, factory workers, baby-sitters, and watchmen.

It is estimated that about one million Kenyans live in North America alone.

Kenyan students and professionals have also increasingly sought greener pastures in Australia due to its liberalised immigration policy, and diminishing opportunities at home.

About 50 per cent of those emigrants possess at least undergraduate degrees, making their career placement promising. The earnings of Kenyans abroad go chiefly to supporting family members to meet their basic needs.

On a different level, Kenyans abroad have been readily involved in the socio-political and economic discourse at home.

For instance, during the 2007 general elections, Kenyans raised funds and sent money to Kenya to support presidential and parliamentary candidates they presumed were predisposed to creating an enabling political culture that would guarantee good governance and economic advancement.

With the development in information and communication technology, some Kenyans have followed keenly what is going on at home, and contributed substantively to discourse via blogs and in newspapers.

The Diaspora also successfully fought for dual-citizenship to be included in the new Constitution.

The point I am really trying to make in a roundabout way is that Kenya’s community abroad is an important constituency which cannot, and should not, be ignored by anyone.


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