“So what keeps you here?” I once asked a Kenyan I met working at a Dubai restaurant.
“So many things,” he said. Amid contagious nostalgia, he couldn’t hide what he considered barriers against his return to his country of birth. “I don’t feel appreciated, welcomed, liked… simply put it this way, there is no space for me at home.” This man in his late 20s or early 30s is among the many Kenyans whose combined remittance to the country stood at Sh130 billion in 2014 making them a key Forex earner for the country. But even then, Kenyans excoriate diaspora professionals for what they see as their unwillingness to make the sacrifice to foster and advance development causes at home. In fact, most feel lampooned, ridiculed because of the jobs they engage in; from working in nursing homes, to restaurants to cleaning toilets. There are also Kenyans doing very well in career jobs abroad. They have made it into the big leagues. See also: Government to offer support for Kenyans in Middle East But then those criticising them fail to understand the underlying reasons fueling their reluctance to contribute meaningfully. This article points out the most common barriers and presents a conceptual framework for cultivating and unleashing the expertise of these highly effective Kenyan professionals for the betterment of Kenya. In North America and Europe, I’ve met many highly skilled and experienced Kenyan professionals that have dedicated their lives to the public service and industries of their host countries. They’ve honed their skills and have 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 Kenyan diaspora professionals are on the cutting edge. Their day-to-day work is in fast-paced environments awash with managerial strategies directed at accomplishing goals and objectives. They’ve learnt the merits of working strategically and building partnership and have experienced fruits of such initiatives. They’ve learned work etiquette and have developed a deep understanding of working smart and for results. Most importantly, they’ve worked long enough to witness how concepts are converted to realities. Then why are such individuals dis-engaged from contributing to the re-building of Kenya? A country that is in dire need of such talented individuals?
I know with certainty it is not due to lack of patriotism. In my opinion, meaningful contributions are short-lived because we haven’t engaged the diaspora well.
in creating successful platforms aimed at attracting diaspora talent, we must remember that these established professionals already earn good incomes, live modestly if not lavishly, and have invested in their careers. Needless to say, these professionals have beaten the odds, as they are self-made success stories and have overcome many challenges. More significantly, the values of equal opportunities, inclusivity and fairness have propelled them to very high professional positions. However, in this new era of the Internet and high-speed face-to-face technology, opportunities exist to plug these proven experts into the development agenda of our country. To engage these diaspora professionals in a meaningful win-win format, I propose the creation of ‘distance working’ to attract interested diaspora professionals in contributing their talent to various government entities. This can be done through 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 diaspora professionals using a specified website designed for this purpose. See also: Government to offer support for Kenyans in Middle East Perhaps this will expand to counties from where interested diaspora professionals would compete for these opportunities. Interested diaspora professionals may be called upon to help create such a system. In my opinion, the biggest gain from these workers is not necessarily their monetary remittances and technical skills, but 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. These would in turn help them accelerate the promise of a devolved government. These senior fellows could be a sounding board for their mentees to bounce off ideas and plan their implementation. Considering the many obligations these professionals have, this effort would be worthwhile senior fellows were paid a stipend to allow them to suspend some of their existing responsibilities, allowing them to commit 10-40 hours of mentorship per month. The Kenyan diaspora professionals from all over the world would certainly welcome this or other ideas.