How We Must Unleash the Potential Hidden in Millions of Diaspora Job Opportunities to Boost Our Economic Growth

Who­ev­er has a spoon will not be burned. This Wolof proverb rings true for Kenya’s job­less­ness predica­ment. Wolof is Senegal’s nation­al language.

Unem­ploy­ment is burn­ing Kenya. Accord­ing to the Fed­er­a­tion of Kenya Employ­ers, Youth aged between 15 and 34 year old, have the high­est unem­ploy­ment rate of 67 per­cent. We must there­fore do every­thing pos­si­ble to put out this fire of chron­ic unem­ploy­ment amongst our young people.

The dias­po­ra spoon can great­ly help us to reduce unem­ploy­ment and pro­tect us from the third degree burns of chron­ic youth unemployment.

The min­istry of for­eign affairs esti­mates that approx­i­mate­ly 3 mil­lion Kenyans live and work abroad. Every month, they remit bil­lions back home.

Accord­ing to the Cen­tral Bank of Kenya, dias­po­ra remit­tances last month in July were Sh58.4 bil­lion. One month ear­li­er in June, they stood at Sh50.1 bil­lion. For com­par­isons sake, hor­ti­cul­tur­al export rev­enue for the entire year of 2022 was Sh159.5 bil­lion. Clear­ly, dias­po­ra remit­tances inject crit­i­cal bil­lions into our econ­o­my. These remit­tances boost employ­ment in job-inten­sive sec­tors like: Entre­pre­neur­ship; con­struc­tion and farming.

Evi­dent­ly, there is a clear link­age between labor export and local employ­ment. This is what drove Judy Jepchirchir, the embat­tled employ­ment agency boss, and a Ph.D. Stu­dent in strate­gic Man­age­ment, to suc­cess­ful­ly facil­i­tate the labor export of 7,000 Kenyans into Qatar, Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, Poland and Unit­ed King­dom. Some of these 7,000 Kenyans are from my Ukam­bani back­yard. They are already boost­ing the liveli­hoods of about 70,000 mem­bers of their fam­i­lies back home through remit­tances. Here­in lies the pow­er of labor export.

We there­fore need to dras­ti­cal­ly step up legal, finan­cial­ly reward­ing labor export. Why should sev­en out of ten youth in Kenya be mired in unem­ploy­ment yet jobs abound across the world? Labor export will grant them an oppor­tu­ni­ty to secure decent, well-pay­ing jobs that will cre­ate jobs back home through their remittances.

Back in May, Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Olaf Scholz vis­it­ed Kenya and signed an agree­ment with Pres­i­dent Ruto. That agree­ment opened the door for 250,000 pro­fes­sion­al, skilled and semi-skilled Kenyans to secure employ­ment in Ger­many. These Ger­man jobs will increase remit­tances sub­stan­tial­ly, fur­ther boost­ing job oppor­tu­ni­ties in Kenya.

Against this back­drop, I sug­gest that Gov­ern­ment agen­cies should delib­er­ate­ly seek to under­stand the chal­lenges faced by employ­ment agen­cies and sup­port them to secure mil­lions of jobs because evi­dent­ly such jobs exist out there. If such agen­cies are oper­at­ing with­in a legal frame­work they should be fet­ed, not fault­ed, or cheap­ly politi­cized for self­ish inter­ests. At the same time agen­cies or indi­vid­u­als mis­treat­ing Kenyans in this space must be thor­ough­ly pun­ished with­out fear or favor.

Inter­na­tion­al­ly, there are leg­isla­tive frame­works that reg­u­late and guide labor export and import. Amongst them are the bilat­er­al labour migra­tion agree­ments. They refer to coop­er­a­tion frame­works between coun­tries of ori­gin and des­ti­na­tion. The Min­istries of Labor and For­eign affairs should focus on sign­ing many bilat­er­al labor agree­ments to pave way for mil­lions of jobs.

Inci­den­tal­ly, lucra­tive employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties are open­ing right here in Africa. Dias­po­ra remit­tances from African coun­tries to Kenya grew by 42 per­cent in the sev­en months lead­ing to July. Dur­ing this peri­od, Kenyans in oth­er African coun­tries wired Sh22.2 bil­lion into the coun­try. Ugan­da and Zam­bia are amongst lush employ­ment pas­tures for Kenyans. Rel­e­vant agen­cies there­fore must also focus on jobs with­in our region.

Indeed, Kenya needs a pro­found Labor Export Accel­er­a­tion pro­gram as a vehi­cle of sta­bi­liz­ing our dwin­dling econ­o­my. If we do this, it will be pos­si­ble to increase dias­po­ra remit­tances by a Tril­lion Kshs. That would tru­ly gal­va­nize our econ­o­my and cre­ate thou­sands of decent jobs on a month­ly basis.

To ensure a self-replen­ish­ing labor pool, experts must devel­op a wit­ty inte­gra­tion sys­tem for those who have been out of the coun­try to trans­fer skills and exper­tise. That way, we will be able to sup­ply the for­eign and local labor mar­ket with a skilled work­force whose mul­ti­plied remit­tances will cre­ate even more jobs! Think green, act green.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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