President Uhuru Kenyatta today affirmed the Government’s commitment to mainstreaming the Kenyan diaspora in the country’s development agenda.
He said the Government is focused on creating an enabling environment that will integrate the Kenyan diaspora and able them to invest in the nation’s development.
“In this process of integration, the main thrust must be to unlock and maximize the hitherto untapped promise of the diaspora and use this energy to carry our country to greater heights, while at the same time meeting the needs and expectations of Kenyans abroad at every point in time,” the President said.
President Kenyatta made the remarks when he opened the Kenya Diaspora Easter Investment Conference 2015 – the first national investment conference of its kind – at the Windsor Golf Hotel in Kiambu County.
Noting that Kenyans living abroad remitted $ 1.5 billion last year, the President acknowledged the role of the diaspora in the development of their country and emphasized the need for the remittances to be structured.
He cited the launch of the African Institute for Remittances in Nairobi in November last year as one of the measures taken to encourage diaspora engagement in the country’s economic growth.
“The Institute will, among other things assist in capacity building of member states of the AU, remittance senders, recipients, and other stakeholders, to manage remittances as a strategic asset,” he said.
The President added that the Government has embarked on deepening its engagement with the diaspora beyond remittances.
He said: “Apart from the remittances, which contribute significantly to our economic development, we have enormous potential in our diaspora’s skills, knowledge and expertise that should be tapped to positively contribute to the growth of our economy.”
President Kenyatta assured that the Government has scaled up efforts to address challenges facing the Kenyan diaspora, saying diaspora diplomacy is now one of the pillars of Kenya’s Foreign Policy.
He said the Government is committed to the implementation of the National Diaspora Policy, which he launched early this year.
On diaspora participation in general elections, the President said the Government gazetted a taskforce on the full implementation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 to facilitate voting by the diaspora in the country’s general elections.
“The team has begun its work and will soon submit its report for implementation,” the President said.
Underscoring the importance of security in attracting investment from the diaspora and other international investors, the President affirmed that security has been beefed up.
“We are doing this partly by addressing the historical underfunding of our security agencies,” the President said.
Speaking during the occasion, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said her ministry is developing incentives and tailor made investment packages to encourage Kenyans abroad to direct their remittances towards productive ventures both at the National and County levels.
“These will include investment promotion and facilitation initiatives targeting Kenyans abroad; establishment of intermediary facilities to provide investment management services; and development of specific investment products and incentives that specifically target Kenyans abroad such as Government securities and Public Private Partnership engagements,” the CS said.
She disclosed that her ministry is also exploring other combinations of initiatives such as lowering the costs of diaspora transactions and aggregate Diaspora remittances and investments for optimal impact.
The Cabinet Secretary cited preferential duty waivers and other concessions for Diaspora businesses, extension of formal banking opportunities and cheaper costs for financial transfers, and the issuance of Diaspora bonds as other incentives on the offer.
Other speakers included Foreign Affairs PS Karanja Kibicho, Diaspora Representative Dr. Emmanuel Mutisya and Chief Executive Officers Joshua Oigara (Kenya Commercial Bank), Dr. Gideon Muriuki (Co-operative Bank) and Peter Munyiri (Family Bank).