How diaspora job opportunities can boost our economic growth

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua with PS Roselyn Njogu, Kenya High commission to Botswana Mohamed Shidiye interacts with Kenyans during a Diaspora meeting at Avani Resort, Gaborone, Botswana. [DPCS]

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, have the highest unemployment rate at 67 per cent. We must therefore do everything possible to put out this fire of chronic unemployment among our youth.

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

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates that approximately three million Kenyans live and work abroad. Every month, they remit billions of shillings 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 comparison, horticultural export revenue for the year 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. There is a clear linkage between labour export and local employment. This is what drove Judy Jepchirchir, the embattled recruitment agency boss, and a PhD student in strategic management, to successfully facilitate the labour 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 labour export.

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

Back in May, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Kenya and signed an agreement with President William Ruto. That agreement opened the door for 250,000 professional, skilled and semi-skilled Kenyans to secure jobs in Germany.

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 opportunities exist out there.

If such agencies are operating within a legal framework they should be feted, not faulted, or cheaply politicised for selfish interests. At the same time, agencies or individuals mistreating Kenyans must be punished without fear or favour.

Internationally, there are legislative frameworks that regulate and guide labour export and import. Among them are the bilateral labour migration agreements. They refer to cooperation frameworks between countries of origin and destination.

The ministries of Labour and Foreign affairs should focus on signing many bilateral labour 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 per cent 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 among lush employment pastures for Kenyans. Relevant agencies therefore must also focus on jobs within our region.

Indeed, Kenya needs a profound Labour Export Acceleration programme as a vehicle of stabilising our ailing economy. If we do this, it will be possible to increase diaspora remittances by a Sh1 trillion. To ensure a self-replenishing labour 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 supply the foreign and local labour market with a skilled workforce whose multiplied remittances will create even more jobs! Think green, act green!