Azimio team is having a virtual discussion with Kenyans abroad to figure out what can be done to make things better for the country.
In 2021, despite the Covid 19 economic downturn, Diaspora Kenyans contributed Kshs 421.6 billion to their home economy by sending remittances to their motherland. That is a big deal. If our country was to borrow that kind of money they would be paying a fortune in interest for the next three decades. But this is money from Kenyans abroad sent out to their family members and businesses they run in Kenya.
That amount can go up three to four times per year if the Kenyan government put in place a system to facilitate investments by Kenyans who work and live abroad.
Remittances are just little changes you send to your family members to help them survive in the country. The real deal should be to provide opportunities for Kenyans abroad to invest in their country.
I will speak for myself first. My nephew is a very good pharmacist in Kenya. He works in one of the big hospitals. He is starting a pharmacy for himself. He got the building and he is paying for it.
I live in Toronto Canada and I am working with him to set up the pharmacy business in Nairobi. There are so many things I can buy here in Canada to help him set up his business. How about we put in place a system where I can invest in the business at home by buying capital equipment to invest in the pharmacy and have those delivered at home without duty fees and taxes?
People can do that in every other business they are running in Kenya as long as they prove their Kenyan citizenship and their legal residence out of Kenya. That way there are no people running out of the country buying stuff and bringing it back. It can be done working with our embassies and consulates out here.
Kenyans living out of the country and working have access to capital and financial resources. We can access loans and other resources. We are more likely to have a profitable investment back home than we can out here. Why not use that opportunity?
It is very possible that Kenyans abroad can invest trillions of cash in their country and it would be good for everybody and help us get out of this debt problem. Kenyans out here contribute a huge chunk of our foreign exchange money than those loans and we can make it better.
This can be done very smartly starting with our embassies setting up commercial investment for Kenyans where we all register with all the documentation needed. In Canada, we have our embassy in Ottawa but we also have consulates in other cities like Toronto. Let the embassy and the consulates set up the home investment plan for Kenyans. We provide proof of our status and our specific investments in the country. We purchase what is needed by our business and ship it home with no additional costs.
Shipping is a big cost for equipment from out here. It is possible working with the embassy and consulates to have joint shipping deals for Kenyans. From Toronto, it costs $ 5,000 per container to Kenya. It is huge and one may not have enough material for that. We could develop a system with the embassy and consulate where a bunch of people can use one container per time. So if we are ten people and we are using one container it is about $ 500 each. That is affordable and I may only want to send five fridges to my nephew for his pharmacy.
There was a time they said Diaspora Kenyans would vote. That is not going to happen any time soon. But we can invest in the country. If it is done properly it would change the way our embassies and consulates work. They would actually run businesses for Kenyans.
Every dollar we can get out of these countries and invest in Kenya is a big deal. We can even take advantage of the bad exchange rate. But we have to structure it and run it for the country. It is one of our biggest advantages and we have to use it.
Hong Kong has done wonders with that. They live everywhere in the world including here in Canada but they always invest in their country because they have the system to make it work. We can do the same after August 9, 2022.
Adongo Ogony is a Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada