Kenyans in the diaspora have come out to express their displeasure over the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
The bill sponsored by Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata seeks to encourage Kenyans abroad to invest back home by offering them special incentives, including wealth protection.
It requires the Cabinet Secretary in charge of the Foreign Affairs Ministry to create a voluntary savings scheme for Kenyans in the diaspora.
“The Cabinet Secretary may liaise with financial institutions in Kenya to negotiate favorable terms on the investments of any contributions that may be made,” the bill states.
“The Cabinet Secretary, may in consultations with the Cabinet Secretary for Treasury and the governor of Central Bank, develop policies and programs offering incentives to Kenyans living abroad to invest in Kenya.”
The bill further requires Foreign Affairs CS, in collaboration with Treasury CS, and CBK governor to establish a database giving information on projects in Kenya that Kenyans in the diaspora can invest in.
The three are further required to institute measures for the prevention of fraudulent practices that discourage Kenyans abroad from investing back home.
But Kenyans in the US under the Diaspora Life Think-Tank faulted the bill, saying it does not reflect their priorities.
David Ochwangi, chairman of the Association of Kenyan Diaspora Organizations (Akdo), told Nation that the drafters of the bill did not consult the diaspora.
“We are not aware of any consultation conducted by the sponsor(s) of the proposed Bill with the diaspora to establish if it is needed in the first place,” said Ochwangi.
He added: “Kenyans in the diaspora are savers already by way of remittances, investments, and other savings that we make.”
He indicated that Kenyans abroad already send home over Sh300 billion annually, adding that a “savings” law is the least of their concerns.
“A ‘savings’ law is the least of our concerns; we have other pressing priorities that we have persistently petitioned the government to address,” he added.
In a statement, the diaspora lobby raised questions on the timing of the bill, saying it could be a plot to track diaspora savings for tax purposes.
“It sounds like the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse after luring the hens and trapping them inside the coop,” they said.
They listed a full restoration of birth-right citizenship, voting, and protection of diaspora interests both in Kenya and abroad as some of their priorities.
“Many in the diaspora are left to fend for themselves both in Kenya and abroad and suffer untold misery and losses because they have zero access to or protection by the Kenya government. Establishment of safe investments, capital flows, and repatriation frameworks, including timely issuance of titles to all investments and enhanced protection for the diaspora, are the issues we consider urgent,” they said.
“Everyone agrees that the diaspora community is a critical and essential part of the country’s social, political, and economic fabric. It is time the government moved beyond collecting tax on remittances and establishes a full-fledged Cabinet-level ministry and or department to liaise with the diaspora so that practical and useful solutions that will propel the country’s growth can be enacted and implemented in an orderly and organized manner for the benefit of all parties,” they added.