Kenyans living abroad soars to 3 million

From a few thousands scattered across the globe but mainly in North America and the United Kingdom, the number of Kenyans in the diaspora has exponentially grown in the last two decades to today’s three million, about nine per cent of the country’s population.

But the importance of this community is not only in the numbers but they have come to wield so much economic power that their remittances have hit the Sh160 billion mark annually, according to a World Bank report: Future of Africa Remittances Program released in October last year, earning them the distinction of being ranked the country’s fourth highest foreign exchange earner after tea, horticulture and tourism.

Kenyans living abroad mainly send money home to help their families and for investment in various sectors, including real estate.

In July alone, remittances to Kenya jumped by 44 per cent from the same month a year ago to $72.8 million (about Sh6.9 billion).

Recognising this economic muscle, the government has set its eyes on the fast rising proceeds from the diaspora as it sought to maximise returns from its newly floated Sh20 billion infrastructure bond.

In the new global trend, bonds are said to tap into this new economic frontier beyond the usual handouts — sending money home to pay for school fees and taking care of medical expenses (remittances) — and playing an active part in investing in one’s homeland, funding development of bridges, schools and other enterprises.

Analysts believe that because people in the diaspora have more ties to the land and more access to information, they will be better able to invest in and contribute sustainably to development efforts.

Israel and India have been reported to have profited tremendously from such bond schemes.

The Central Bank said proceeds from the bond would go towards partial funding of specific infrastructure projects in a raft of sectors including roads (Sh7.36 billion), energy (Sh18.78 billion) and water (Sh9.71 billion).

It said Kenyans in the diaspora would be allowed to take part in tap sales of the bond after the auction date next month.

“The bond may be available for tap sales to retail local and Kenyan diaspora investors after the auction and offer amounts will be re-priced at the successful weighted average rate of the main auction adjusted for the remaining time to maturity.

The tap sale period will close on February 3, 2012,” the bank said in a statement.

On the political scene, Kenyans abroad pushed for the inclusion of dual citizenship in the new Constitution as well as being allowed to take part in elections, a move which will transform the political environment of the country.

Now for the first time in Kenya’s history, citizens living abroad are set to vote in the elections next year, a move that has been made possible by a transformational constitution endorsed by Kenyans in August last year.

The new law will also allow Kenyans, including those holding dual citizenship, to seek elective positions.



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