When Kenyans in the Diaspora are not too sure about where ‘home’ is

Just before Kenya’s last General Election, there was  excitement and anticipation among Kenyans living abroad at the prospect of taking part in the historic elections under what was then termed as a ‘transformative’ brand new Constitution.

The new Constitution, it was touted, opened up many doors (and windows) for the Diaspora to play a meaningful role in the development of their country either as responsible citizens who would take part in electing good leaders using the vote they had acquired under the new constitution, or take up the many professional jobs created by a devolved system.

Under Vision 2030, many Kenyans in the Diaspora had heard that there would be plenty of jobs and business investment opportunities in Kenya either at Konza (Kenya’s version of America’s Silicon Valley) or the 47 Counties that had been created.

Many eyed political seats that promised the fastest and easiest way of joining Kenya’s elite group either at the national or county levels. At the national level, they were told; there were many openings for those aspiring to be parliamentarians, cabinet secretaries and permanent secretaries. The same applied when it came to the counties.  Those living in the US envisioned the devolved system operating more or less like the US devolved system they are used to.

Around this time last year, many Kenyans in the Diaspora made the decision to leave their jobs and start concentrating on campaigning. At that time, most of us were invited to fundraisings events to boost the pockets of those planning to go home to campaign. There are those who went to Kenya soon after to meet the deadline for contesting political office as was required under the new constitution.

The elections as they say, came and went and it is fair to say that majority of the people from the Diaspora did not fare too well. The anti-climax that was to become the whole elections not withstanding, the dream did not pan out for the Diaspora.

Majority, except a few in Uganda and Tanzania did not even vote, something that became not just a big let down but also a huge disappointment.

Except for one or two, majority of those who offered themselves for elective political positions lost badly. What is curious however is the fact that, most especially those living in the US who had gone home to be apart of the new Kenya have quietly found their way back ‘home’. This is what has kicked off a big debate among Kenyans in the US —vthe whole hullabaloo about relocating back home to discover new opportunities.

Even as the Government steps up efforts to woo the Diaspora to go back home and invest their resources in the country, how feasible is this given the fact that in Kenya and indeed Africa as a whole, the more things change, the more they remain the same?

How practical is it for one to relocate his/her family back home after living in say, North America or Europe for an extended period of time, places where systems function without silly excuses and where generally everything works like clockwork? In the early 1990’s, African countries, among them Kenya implemented a scheme that had incentives to attract back the professionals from Africa they had lost to the west.

Among the incentives were jobs at universities and importation of vehicles and other personal belongings duty free. Many took up the offer and relocated back home. It is believed that, after a few years, most of them found themselves back on the international trails again. Many complained of lack of resources to do research and low remunerations.

The question then is, can the mostly overrated Africa satisfy the inflated appetites of its Diaspora? Maybe it’s time for an honest debate.-The Standard

By Chris Wamalwa

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