Wednesday, May 27, 2009



May 26 2009

Kenya is likely to lose billions of shillings as professionals return home from the diaspora due to the global economic crisis. Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka on Tuesday said the most affected were those in the United States and other Western countries.

“The government is very concerned about the situation because we have been getting a lot of money through remittances from Kenyans working abroad. We are closely and cautiously monitoring the situation to see what we can do for them while they are in the country as they wait for things to improve wherever they were,” Mr Onyonka told the Nation.

High cost of living

According to the latest Central Bank of Kenya statistics, Kenyans in the diaspora channelled back home close to Sh47 billion in remittances last year alone, while between January and March this year, they sent close to Sh12 billion. On Tuesday, TheWashington Post quoted recent studies which had documented the flight of immigrants, including Kenyans, from the US in recent months, as a result of the high cost of living abroad.

The report quoted several Kenyans expressing their reasons for quitting their well-paying jobs in the US to return home. Mr Onyonka disclosed that a special desk at the ministry dealing with international jobs was closely monitoring the situation with a view to helping arrest the situation.

“It is very serious, I know five of my own relatives who have come back home in recent weeks and many of them have left everything there. Luckily, many of those returning are getting a soft landing because they had invested back home,” said the assistant minister.

He feared that the recession would impact adversely on the remittances as more Kenyans living abroad return home. He called for the fast-tracking of the law to grant dual citizenship status to Kenyans abroad.

“This is the more reason why we need to pass the law on dual citizenship so that Kenyans returning home, and those who had taken up citizenship of other countries, enjoy opportunities entitled to Kenyans and are free to return abroad once things improve without having to re-apply for citizenship,” he added.

The Washington Post cited a former Texas truck driver, Mr James Odhiambo, who traded the comforts of his apartment in Dallas and all its trappings for the relatively simple, “stress-free” life at his mother-in-law’s house in Kisumu.