Empowering the Kenyan Diaspora
The recent Kenya Diaspora Investment Conference held in Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2016, certainly showcased the profound value of the Kenyan diaspora in South Africa.
Ambassador Jean Njeri Kamau of Kenya to South Africa opened the conference which was attended by over 300 people from the diaspora, business and government. It has become an annual event, a clear indication of the Diaspora's contribution to their host country as well as their home country.
“Empowering the Kenyan Diaspora with Knowledge Skills and Networking Opportunities” was the theme this year. Ambassador Kamau thanked the participants and sponsors, saying that while remittance flows are highly appreciated, the Kenyan Government intends to deepen its engagement with the diaspora to make every Kenyan feel at home wherever they are – in Kenya or Abroad.
The two day conference entailed plenary and breakaway sessions as well as product exhibitions.
Benchmarking the policies on the diaspora, High Commissioner Cheryl Spencer of Jamaica to South Africa shared Jamaica’s experience with fellow panellist, Washington Oloo, Director-Diaspora and Consular Affairs Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Kenya. The emphasis has shifted from remittances and brain drain to brain gain, to tap the potential of the diaspora through knowledge and skills transfer and sharing information through networking and communication.
The attendance of many executives from the private sector to engage the diaspora to create awareness about the services and opportunities they offer was sign of Kenyan business growth and expansion internationally.
The views of Kenyans in South Africa convey accounts of difficult times of coming to South Africa, a country still in the throes of transformation. The changes taking place in South Africa presented their own challenges as well as many opportunities. Those with an entrepreneurial edge went on to create successful business enterprises.
Today there are three flights from South Africa to Kenya daily. Visa related issues are becoming a thing of the past as business, leisure and official travel continues to increase. The recent state visit of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa to Kenya will further enhance relations between the two Nations.
Winning the Minsters Award at the 2016 Diplomatic Fair was another significant victory for cultural diplomacy. The Kenyan stand showcased cuisine and tourism and attracted many visitors who wanted to learn more about this east African nation.