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Rise of Kenya’s sacco model in the diaspora

Kenyans living abroad have been investing heavily at home. file photo | nmg
Kenyans living abroad have been investing heavily at home. file photo | nmg 

Even though savings and credit societies have for long been among the leading sources of co-operative credit in Kenya, this movement was largely absent within the diaspora community until recently.

This was despite the fact that the diaspora community has notable disposable income to invest in Kenya. Indeed, in the past two decades, Kenyans living abroad have been investing heavily at home, especially in real estate.  

“One of the priorities for the majority of Kenyans living abroad is to invest back home. Even though most of us are successful here in diaspora, we harbour the dream of retiring back home,” says Maryanne Kamau-Goetz, the secretary general of Kenya North America Diaspora Sacco (K-NADS).

The sacco is strictly for women living in North America, and diaspora returnees. Ms Kamau-Goetz says that one of the best things that has happened recently is the registration of saccos targeting the diaspora. 

“K-NADS started registering members last year. By the time we were holding our first annual general meeting in Los Angeles in March, our membership stood at close to 800. Right now, we are close to 1,000 strong,” she said. The sacco has an office in Nairobi that support its membership in the diaspora.

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K-NADS is by no means the only sacco targeting Kenyans in the diaspora. There are close to 10 such saccos — three in the US, one in the Middle East and several in Europe.

In 2012, the first diaspora sacco, the Kenya USA Diaspora Sacco, was registered after long and protracted negotiations with the Kenya government, which for long was slow in understanding the needs of the diaspora.

“For long, Kenyans in USA encountered many problems, including, inability to borrow locally (in Kenya) due to stringent financial and cost prohibitive requirements by banks” says Mr David Wanjiru, treasurer of Kenya USA Diaspora Sacco. 

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