The Kenyan government is about to finalise a diaspora policy as it seeks to safeguard billions in hard currency sent home by Kenyans living abroad.
The policy will pave way for the creation of key institutions for harnessing the resources of about three million citizens living abroad and addressing their concerns, President Kenyatta told Kenyans in Britain.
“My government will expedite the finalisation of this Policy and support its implementation with the necessary resources and legislation”, the President said.
The search for a policy guiding remittances of Kenyans living and working abroad has been on cards in the last five years since the National Economic and Social Council broached it sometime in 2008. These remittances are the largest single source of forex inflows into Kenya.
It is partly due to recognition of the diaspora importance that it won a constitutional right to vote in presidential election although the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission successfully contested its application in the March 4 elections.
The entrenchment of right to vote as well as dual citizenship in the constitution was mainly the result of strong lobbying by an association representing Kenyans abroad.
During his meeting with Kenyans in London, President Kenyatta said his government would create appropriate structures including an office in the President’s office to coordinate diaspora issues on a regular basis.
He directed a Cabinet Secretary in his office to organise a joint forum with Foreign Affairs ministry to capture issues of concern to Kenyans in the diaspora, explore ways of harnessing their potential and identify modalities of engaging them in the development process.
Egypt and Ethiopia already have formal engagements with their diaspora.
The Kenyans living and working outside the country have since morphed into a strong economic force, sending home a total of Sh100 billion in 2012. Latest data from the Central Bank of Kenya indicates that the group has already remitted Sh26 billion by end of the first quarter (March) of this year.
The increased inflow has mainly been attributed to falling cost of sending money back home as a result of intense competition among players as well as mobile phone-enabled systems that charge lower fees.
The President also proposed joint forums between Kenyans living abroad and county governors to discuss opportunities available under the new devolved system of government.
The counties, which are currently mapping their resources, are expected to grow huge appetite for private sector financing especially after the recent of enactment of the Public Private Partnership Act late last year.
“As stated in my inauguration speech, devolution is not a choice but a duty, demanded by our constitution, and my Government is committed to fulfilling this duty”, the President noted.
Speaking on behalf of the Diaspora during the meeting, councillor Wanjiru Kang'ethe of the Parsoles ward in the Borough of Backing & Dagenham and Sam Ochieng, the former chair of the UK Kenyan Diaspora, urged the Government to step up the necessary measures that will enable the Kenyan diaspora to fully participate in the next General Election.