Kenyans abroad take side hustles to sustain remittances back home


Kenya Diaspora Alliance stakeholders following proceedings at a media conference. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

At least half of Kenyans living abroad have taken up a side job since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, to sustain remittances back home.

A survey conducted last October by global payments firm WorldRemit suggests that a sizeable proportion of Kenyans abroad have either stopped completely or slashed the amounts of money sent to distant relatives and friends back home.

This follows inflation in major global economies.

The Survey shows 19 percent admitted to taking side jobs to continue supporting their families back home.

The respondents who affirmed this position were mainly drawn from the US, Australia and the UK.

Of the respondents who confirmed having a side hustle, 89 percent reported that they would maintain the trend in the next 12 months.

The survey indicates that 45 percent of money senders stated they have shifted to sending cash exclusively to immediate family members as opposed to friends and distant relatives amid the revelation that one in every nine people worldwide relies on money sent from friends and relatives from abroad for survival.

“The inventive solutions, such as side hustles, point to the resilience of migrants and their commitment to financially supporting loved ones overseas,” said Ivan Kanyali, WorldRemit’s regional manager for East Africa.

“These findings demonstrate the grit of economic migrants in adapting to wider financial stresses and the rising cost of living while still meeting the needs of their families at home, and abroad.”

The report states that 82 percent of respondents acknowledged that the cost of living for the people to whom they send money had surged since the start of last year, with 26 percent saying that they are curtailing discretionary spending on entertainment in order to sustain the support.

In the nine months to September last year, Kenya’s diaspora remittances rose by 20 percent compared to a corresponding period in 2021, underlying the defiant resilience of the inflows at a time when the global economy was experiencing a massive meltdown.

The Central Bank of Kenya data indicated that the amounts for the period stood at Sh301 billion up from Sh252.5 billion in 2021.

Several surveys by WorldRemit have shown that education is one of the main uses of money sent back home by Kenyans living and working abroad.

Experts opine that with the cost of schooling having gone up in recent years, remittances were inevitably bound to soar.

The resilience of the remittances has also been attributed to the digitisation of the financial services sector which was accelerated during the pandemic period.

Diaspora remittances form the country’s largest source of foreign exchange ahead of horticulture, beverage and tourism earnings, providing crucial backing for the local currency in the forex market in addition to multiple social benefits for the recipients.

The US has over the years remained to be the largest source of remittances to Kenya, accounting for over 60 percent of the Sh42.4 billion sent home in November 2022.

Asian markets—especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar— are also gaining prominence due to the rising numbers of migrant workers from Kenya.

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