Kenya search for diaspora billions moves to US, Asia

Kenya is now turning to its citizens living abroad for funding with two diaspora investment conferences set to be held in Asia and North America in the next one month.

Tokyo is set to host the inaugural diaspora conference in the Asian continent later this month to rally around 300 Kenyans living in Japan to invest in development projects in Kenya.

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The diaspora charm offensive will then head to Washington, D.C in October in a bid to lure Kenyans in the US and Canada–who account for about 45 per cent of total annual remittances – to fund ventures in sectors such as real estate, manufacturing and information technology.

“The conference will explore the available diaspora resources including knowledge, skills, competencies and technology for national development and suggest strategies for engaging such resources towards Vision 2030,” said Ben Ogutu, Kenya’s ambassador to Japan.

The government plans to use the billions in remittances towards financing projects geared at making the country a middle-income nation by the year 2030.

Statistics from the Central Bank of Kenya show that Kenyans living, working and studying abroad repatriated a total of Sh72 billion ($891.1 million) in the year 2011, mostly channelled to meet household expenses. “The role of Kenyans in the diaspora in national development continues to be heralded, especially their monetary and technology remittances,” said the Kenyan Embassy in Washington D.C, which will host the second diaspora summit in the US.

It is estimated that about one million Kenyans live in North America and more than 600 attended the first investment conference held last year which the Washington D.C embassy says ‘revealed that time has come for Kenyans in the diaspora to play their pivotal role in the development of their country.’

“The embassy hopes that through its outreach and sensitisation programmes on available opportunities for investments, about Sh77.5 million can accrue annually from the diaspora in Japan,” said the Kenyan embassy in Tokyo in a statement to the Business Daily.

In the first six months of this year, Kenyans abroad sent a total of Sh50 billion ($596.2 million), representing a 47 per cent growth compared to the Sh34 billion ($406.6 million) remitted in the first half 2011.

John Maina, the diaspora affairs advisor at the Prime Minister’s office, says the government appreciates the potential of Kenyans overseas and has already prepared a draft policy on engaging the diaspora.

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