Over the last half a century, the number of persons living outside their country of birth has more than doubled from about 75 million in the 1960s to nearly 215 million in 2009. This population represents about 3.5 per cent of the World’s total population.
A quick review of the human history shows a significant part of it would be about migration. Human beings always look forward to moving from one area to another. However, each person has his/her own reasons for doing migrating, this is in spite of the fact that there is a great deal of uncertainty around migration.
Globally, the largest source countries of migrants are China, India and the Philippines. Most overseas migrants are categorized into three classes:
(1) Permanent migrants or those who sought permanent residency in the host country.
(2) Temporary migrants, that is, those who work in the host country on a definite period of time, guided by signed work-contracts.
(3) Migrants with irregular status or those who left the source country without passing through the proper process, without proper documents or who hold expired travel documents.
The vast majority of the world's migrant population remain connected in one way or another with their countries of origin. The major part of this connection is either economic, social or cultural.
Remittances by the overseas immigrant population to their respective countries of origin comprise a significant per centage of national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Today, the remittances from Diaspora sometimes outstrip foreign aid and foreign investments in some source countries including, China, India, the Philippines, Myanmar and (Burma).
Migrant connections also assume other forms as well including tourism, business ties and trade, professional ties, volunteerism and philanthropy. All these serve as the basis of an interesting relationship between Diaspora Communities and their countries of origin.
The concept of Diaspora is a relatively new phenomenon in Kenya. Therefore, in terms of numbers, Kenya has few of her citizens in foreign countries. Emigration of Kenyans in large numbers in the past can be attributed to deterioration in economic performance especially in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1990s, Kenya registered negative per capita income growth and this was followed by worsening income distribution and unemployment especially for Kenyan youthful population, incidentally, who had acquired higher education, amidst intensifying globalization.
The number of Kenyan Diaspora is currently estimated to be over three (3) million. The Diaspora possesses immense human, material and financial resources.
Indeed, the Kenyan Government’s policymakers and practitioners have realized that Kenyan Diaspora communities, and individual members, are profoundly interested in and able to influence socio-economic and political development in their “motherland.” Members of the Kenyan Diaspora have in many cases not only acquired immense financial capital, but also human capital including skills, networks and ideas that can be of use to the country.
In addition, the Kenyan Diaspora is renowned for its ability to capitalize on their “insider status” in two countries, which allow them to understand the particular issues facing Kenya, while leveraging their resources and influence in their countries of settlement.
The Kenyan Government has devised a number of institutional and programmatic tools to reach out to Kenyan Diaspora in-order to learn more about their capacities and potential contributions and provide channels for facilitating their engagement, for example through incentives for permanent or temporary returns, investments, knowledge transfers, tourism and philanthropy.
The enactment of the new Constitution in 2010 has several provisions that are of particular relevance to Kenyans in the Diaspora. For example, the Constitution guarantees dual citizenship and a progressive realization of voting rights for Kenyan Diaspora.
The Government has also already put in place mechanisms that will enable Kenyans who had previously lost their Kenyan citizenship by acquiring other citizenships to apply for and re-gain their Kenyan citizenship. With respect to voting rights, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will facilitate the right of Kenyans in the Diaspora to vote during the forthcoming General Election in March 2013.
The Embassy therefore wishes to urge all Kenyans in Israel to register as voters and participate in shaping the destiny of Kenya.
On the other hand, the African Union Commission (AUC) is seeking to establish an Institute which will serve as a tool to assist the African continent in building its capacity to improve the regulatory framework and address the high costs on remittances. Kenya, has offered to host the Institute, and it is hoped that that the country’s bid that will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will receive wide support.