Kenya has started drafting amendments to immigration laws in changes that will make it easier for wealthy foreign investors to acquire citizenship.
Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest) says it is writing draft legal changes that will see big-ticket investors eligible to get second citizenship in Kenya without meeting the current stringent requirements to qualify.
The agency sees giving second citizenship to deep-pocketed foreign investors — whose enterprises have a high impact on creating new jobs and exports earnings — as a magnet for growing lowly foreign direct investment (FDI) flows.
“Listening to key policymakers, there’s really no opposition to it. What is required now is that there has to be a proper paper that will go to the Ministry of Interior so that it can now sponsor it, together with the Treasury, to go to the Cabinet,” said KenInvest managing director Moses Ikiara.
Immigration laws presently require a foreigner to continuously live in the country for at least seven years to qualify for citizenship by registration.
The Constitution, however, allows Parliament to “enact legislation establishing conditions on which citizenship may be granted to individuals who are citizens of other countries”.
KenIvest says it was working with the Kenya Law Reform Commission in drafting the amendments, which will serve as non-monetary incentives to foreign investors.
Dr Ikiara named the Nairobi International Financial Centre Authority — an entity created under the Treasury to lead efforts to establish Nairobi as a regional financial hub — among agencies that support the plan.
“At our level, because we feel we can’t wait for other agencies to push, we are now pushing ahead (with draft legal changes) because we are agreeing with some of the key agencies,” the KenInvest chief said.
FDIs are seen as relatively stable foreign exchange source in the long-term than diaspora remittances, tourist receipts and portfolio investments (flows largely into equities and bonds).