How to harness critical Kenyan talent in the Diaspora


Kenya: Kenyans in the Diaspora are often accused of unwillingness to make enough efforts to contribute their diverse professional skills to advance development of their nation.

Those criticising them fail to understand the underlying reasons for this lapse. In this article I would endeavour to point out the most common barriers and present a conceptual framework for cultivating and unleashing the expertise of these highly effective Diaspora professionals for the betterment of Kenya. In North America and Europe I’ve met many highly skilled and experienced Kenyan professionals who have dedicated their lives to the public service and industries of their host countries.

During their tenure they’ve honed their skills and perfected the art of working smart, getting more done in less time and working cost-effectively. In this new era of mean and lean work schematics, the Kenya Diaspora professionals have acquired cutting-edge work experiences and interacted with 21st century government and institutions. Their day-to-day occupations are in fast-paced environments awash with managerial strategies directed to efficiently accomplish goals and objectives.

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They’ve learnt the merits of working strategically and building partnerships and have experienced fruits of such initiatives. They’ve been exposed to higher work etiquettes and developed a deep understanding of working smart and for results. More importantly, many of them worked long enough to witness how concepts are converted to realities.

Then why are such individuals disengaged from contributing to the rebuilding of Kenya? A country that is in dire need of such talented individuals? I know with certainty it’s not due to lack of patriotism. In my opinion, this group of Kenyans cannot make meaningful contributions due to the lack of established mechanisms for engaging the Diaspora as well as harnessing their potential. In creating successful platforms aimed at attracting Diaspora talent, the Government must remember that the targets are established professionals already earning good incomes, who live modestly if not lavishly, and have heavily invested in their careers.

Needless to say, the Diaspora professionals have beaten the odds and each is a self-made success story. More significantly, the values of equal opportunities, inclusivity, and fairness have propelled them to professional positions some of which are of high profiles.  With the foregoing it may seem a tall order to convince majority of the Diaspora Kenyans to switch to work in Kenya.

However, in this new era of Internet and high-speed face-to-face communication, opportunities exist to plug into these proven experts in the development agenda of Kenya. To engage them, I propose the creation of distance work to attract interested Diaspora professionals in contributing their talent to the various government entities. This can be done by the creation of Senior Fellowship positions. I envision the creation of a unified process owned and created by one of the ministries designed to attract the most experienced competent individuals using a specified website designed for this purpose. Perhaps this website would be promoted to counties to post their area of need for expertise while interested Diaspora professionals compete for these opportunities.

Interested Diaspora professionals, and they are many, may be called upon to help create such a system. The fact that the Office of the President has established a section dealing with communication with the Diaspora convinces me the proposal to harness their skills would be given the attention it deserves. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto can use the Diaspora to improve the functioning of devolved government at minimal cost.

Those who would be engaged in such programmes would have opportunities to mentor young rising stars holding leadership positions in counties. These Senior Fellows could play a great role in training the next leadership generation helping them learn strategies that would increase their productivity; build their leadership competency skills; and help them learn how to work smart and for results. This would in turn help them accelerate the promise of a devolved government.

These Senior Fellows could be a sounding board to bounce off ideas and guide others in work plan execution. Considering the many obligations these professionals have, the success of such a project would be higher if those chosen as Senior Fellows are paid a stipend to motivate them to suspend some of their existing tasks, and commit 10 to 40 hours of mentorship a month. Diaspora professionals would welcome this plan and other ideas seeking professional engagement. The writer is Deputy Governor of Isiolo County and Vice-Chairman of the Deputy Governors’ Forum

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