Want to leave Kenya? The grass is not always greener on the other side

Faith Murunga, a petitioner who claimed she went to Saudi Arabia as a house help and was burnt with hot water by her employer. [Courtesy, Standard]

Some of the news that made headlines this year were the viral videos of Africans sleeping in the streets of Canada. As the authorities in Canada faced a backlash from some quarters for neglecting the foreigners, they came out to defend themselves, saying that they were overwhelmed and that millions of dollars were required to accommodate them in hotels before they were regularised. Of course, everything had to be done fast to get rid of the public shame.

Meanwhile, in Kenya opinion was divided with some people saying that the suffering out there was only for a short while, and that it was a matter of time before the foreigners were fully absorbed and given the requisite documents for them to start working. Some Kenyans actually envied them and observed that it was better to suffer in the streets of Canada than in Kenya with current skyrocketing cost of living.

Travel agents have also come to the spotlight for ripping off unsuspecting Kenyans and promising them a rosy life in foreign countries only to abandon them in their hour of need. But what really makes some Kenyans to sell their properties and spend their hard-earned savings to pay questionable travel agents sometimes even more than Sh500,000? 

Is it the fixed mindset that one can only make it and prosper in a foreign country as opposed to their own? And if that is the case, then why is it that many foreigners are flocking to African countries in search of opportunities? Cases abound of individuals who visited Africa as tourists but after they saw the many opportunities available and the lower cost of living compared to their own countries, they went back, sold everything under their names, and relocated to Africa to start a new life.

As Kenyans complain of high taxation here, the situation is not any different in some of the Western countries that we fancy. Granted, the standard of living may be better there, but it doesn't come cheap. The only difference may be due to the fact that in most of the developed countries, the leaders are held accountable for their actions and the level of corruption is relatively lower compared to our country. What stops Kenyans from holding their leaders accountable and demanding better services?

According to a recent report from the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, an immigration advocacy group, the rate of immigrants leaving Canada hit a two-decade high in 2019.

While the numbers went down during the pandemic lockdowns, Statistics Canada data shows it is once again rising. For instance, in the first six months of 2023, some 42,000 individuals departed Canada, adding to 93,818 people who left in 2022 and 85,927 exits in 2021. Immigrants blame the skyrocketing housing costs as the biggest reason for their decision to consider a new country.

It has been reported that some of the Africans who move to foreign countries are not well prepared for what awaits them on the other side. The culture shock, climate change, and high expectations from their relatives back home have caused some to develop mental health problems like depression. Some have even ended up taking their own lives.

Stories abound of how some relatives of hard-working Kenyans in the diaspora squandered finances remitted to them to help them buy or develop properties. When they finally come home, they are shocked to find that they have been duped and that there's nothing to their name. 

So, as we usher in 2024, those who plan to relocate need to first assess the situation and decide whether it is worth it. 

And for those who are already in foreign countries, is it time for them to bring back the expertise and experience they have gained over the years for the betterment of our country?

African problems can only be solved by Africans.