A lot is talked about the Kenyan Diaspora and their contribution to the Kenyan economy through their ever increasing remittances, but the question is: Does the Government of Kenya really care about them?
This year, remittances will hit highest level ever mostly due to the financial assistance to relatives during this time of Covid 19 pandemic. The same may even go higher more than any other economic partner sector like tourism but the Kenyan Government , may not even take time to congratulate Kenyans for coming in handy to boost the domestic sector.
Many may wonder why the same Government is not concerned and even go further to encourage the Diaspora to be engaged in sectors that directly boost the economy.
You may not get the answer but remittances are necessities anyone cannot use to negotiate with the Government, to include Diaspora on the high political decision making table.
They will simply tell you who cares if you don’t send to your relative? If you think about it, will the Government be affected as this amount in the first place is not specifically even meant to entirely meet their balance of payments in import and exports neither the same is used to pay the teachers or the military.
WHO IS A DIASPORA
A Diaspora is defined as a scattered population whose origin lies in a separate geographic locality from its origin. Historically, the word Diaspora was used to refer to the involuntary mass dispersion of a population from its indigenous territories in particular the dispersion of the Jews. This has since changed and today. there is no set definition of the term because its modern meaning has evolved with time.
The most notable and who can claim to be the pioneers include the descendants of the Africans who were transported to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade movements.
Let us for now forget about the African American as part of the Diaspora and even forget about other countries and concentrate on our own Kenyan Diaspora scattered all over the world.
The migration is huge and still growing in numbers as many immigrated and continue to immigrate with families members that keep multiplying and with time, the same might yield a whole population same size as that in Kenya but scattered all over the globe.
This is the voluntary displaced population in a way whom the Government should take immediate actions as the majority still have interest in Kenya and continue investing while far and the great potential, must not be taken for granted.
In order to realize full potential of those Kenyan in the Diaspora, the Government should see them as important sources of information for foreign policy. It’s also time now to engage the Diaspora community and directly link them permanently with the development economic sector. The outreach should extended to new areas and not take the Diasporas as a contributors to only domestic subsidies to their relatives, but rather, to make them business partners and cultural ambassadors, while increasing soft power engagement and decision makers of their country of origin.
Kenya should now regard the Diaspora as a national resource, and to do so, they must mobilize and engage them in order to increase benefits to boost the economy.
The Government of Kenya may have seen all this we are trying to put here and it was the reason that made them to come up with a Diaspora policy 2030 that was released to the Kenyan Embassy at DC in 2014 awaiting implementation.
The same was just shelved and keep on accumulating dust proving that the same was dust itself.
Dust itself, as we may not praise the same policy since it had shortcomings and other personal vested interest by those that clandestinely teamed up with the Government to come up with a document that did not gather inputs from those living in the Diaspora.
A notable organization with vested hidden interest and mentioned in the policy is the organization calling itself Kenya Diaspora Alliance (KDA) whose headquarters are in Nairobi and headed by a Kenyan not living in the Diaspora.
The individuals have been recruiting many short sited individuals to join their organization by paying exorbitant non refundable deposit and if you consider the size of the Diaspora now going to over four million, it’s a direct rip off if each pays the minimum $100 registration fees.(400 Million dollars as expected if all join the fake organization)
If the Government is serious in implementing the Diaspora policy, it must completely forget the hurriedly copied meaningless policy with hidden agenda and engage the current Kenyan Diaspora leaders all over the world to formulate a new policy.
A new policy that will involve all in the Diaspora worldwide and the same, to come up with a register to identify them with a unique personal identification number.
Many have come up with all sorts of organizations trying to unite the defragmented Diaspora and have not succeeded as the exercise need to be more co-ordinated and the only way is for the Government to come up with a fully fledged Ministry of Diaspora Affairs to start the process.
An explicit Diaspora outreach policy is the way forward and the same, can be achieved if the Government can embark on it through their Embassies by funding cultural festivities and also by organizing state functions similar to those in Kenya where Diaspora can interact and exchange ideas.
At the moment, we feel that the Kenyan Government does not value the Kenyan Citizens living abroad and just take their remittances to the country just as only necessity to their relatives and not to the Government.
If the Government was really serious with its citizen abroad, it should show the same by not making the issue of documents like passports or ID so difficulty to obtain.
The same should be made easily available through a mobile service that can deliver them to where the Diaspora live all over the World. The amount such a service can take to establish, is less than keeping a whole Embassy that is not capable of serving its people efficiently.
This is only possible if the Government can start by trusting those they send to foreign mission by allowing them to be final decision makers in issuing documents rather than sending the same to Nairobi, for that is where the long delays occur.
We are hoping that the BBI if implemented, will consider all the similar issues presented to the task force by different Diaspora organizations. The most crucial of them all was having a Ministry of Diaspora affairs and defining properly dual citizenship so that the Diasporans are not proscribed and given conditions in order to take up official public appointments. In short no one can lose his or her citizenship and the application process to declare, or regain, is not necessary.
That is the way forward so that we can all feel as being part of the Government and more so, get more involved in building our economy effectively than it’s the case currently. We do not want to be seen as only concerned in feeding our brothers and sisters, but also as business partners with our Government, so that our remittances, can have real impact to the economy of our country Kenya.
That is only possible if all in Diaspora will be listened to in order to achieve meaningful political participation and we are ready if called upon any time to discuss the way forward.
In conclusion, proper Diaspora engagement and representation, is the great expectation many are waiting for as we move forward to the envisaged Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta magical phase of a united Kenya that is focusing on leaving a utopia legacy of peace and prosperity which goes beyond the year 2050.
Arch Dr. Isaac Kinungi
Diaspora National Assembly for 254