Will Kenya’s lucrative citizenship deal for wealthy foreigners work?


The global economy is struggling and in East Africa’s economic hub, Kenya, things are no different as the slowdown effects sink in.

East Africa’s biggest economy has suffered from a myriad of challenges in addition to what is happening globally but things are made worse by what is happening in the country as theft by government officials thrash the economy out of shape.

As the country’s fiscal policies by the government misalign with the reality, Kenyans are bracing themselves for tough times ahead as the country teeters on the brink of uncertainty.

Unfettered theft and job creation scams

Kenya is in a stupor occasioned by the recurring multi-billion scandals that seem to go unpunished every day.

The country’s leadership seems to have deserted the citizens to their own means of eking out a living while those caught with their hands in the cookie jar are paraded in front of cameras and that becomes the end of successful convictions.

With these scandals being debated on different platforms, the courts, on the other hand, are dragging their feet lengthening the cases times by issuing endless adjournments.

New cases are being allowed bails which are inconsistent with the enormity of the economic crimes committed.

While the trillions stolen from Kenyan coffers are enough to support the country for years, the unwillingness to make justice work has led the country to seek ways that will ostensibly create jobs in the same corrupted environment.

Last week, the country saw the launch of a policy which spells out the way for creating more jobs and supporting those who are running or are interested in running businesses.

In a country where taxation is getting out of hand and there is no level playing ground for especially local investors, the plans to create jobs while not addressing the underlying problems are just cosmetic.

One thing that may have passed without being noticed by many was a proposal by the Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest) to have wealthy foreigners granted free citizenship to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Yet, currently, FDI contributes to only 1 per cent of the GDP.

With the plans to open the borders so that the country can create employment, it shows that the policymakers have run out of ideas while Kenyans who just need a little boost could do wonders for the economy.

To put this in perspective, KenInvest notes that the FDI in 2015/2016 accounted for only 1 per cent of the GDP at US$620 million out of the total US$15.66 billion in investments that financial year.

On the flip side, the SME sector contributed to more than 80 per cent of all the jobs created by the private sector in 2015. According to the policy, the share of SME investment contribution in Domestic Direct Investment (DDI) cannot be ascertained.

Importing foreign billionaires

By importing foreigners and granting them citizenship rights just because they have the money means that Kenya’s leadership has run out of feasible ideas.

KenInvest Managing Director, Moses Ikiara, said on Wednesday last week that in this plan, the foreigners will be given a permanent residence status if they pass the vetting.

Countries like Cyprus and Liechtenstein, Europe’s richest country which has no airport or trains, have been harbouring wealthy foreigners as they seek to boost their economic profiles.

However, Cyprus’s Golden Visa programme under which wealthy foreigners gain citizenship in the country has suffered after recent reports that there could have been criminals who passed the vetting process.

Cyprus has nearly 4,000 extremely wealthy foreign investors whose dual citizenship was achieved through the Golden Visa programme which has existed since 2013.

The programme is now being investigated for the breaches where more than 20 people are said to have been involved in money laundering scams and other vices.

For Kenya, Ikiara says that they have held “positive discussions” with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i on creating a foolproof system.

The immigration department which issues registration documents in Kenya including passports is known for its corruption.

Assurances that the foreigner importation process would be beyond abuse is a fallacy since even the supreme law-the constitution-does not have any allowance for such a method on granting citizenship.

Why would such a programme be on the table while local investors have the capability to create the jobs Kenyans need?

While it is still a plan, the proposal reeks of all the maladroitness of the system that has seen those in power abuse it for their personal gain.

Read: World Bank says Kenya’s ambitious 3T budget ‘unrealistic’

I have 10 years of experience in multimedia journalism and I use the skills I have gained over this time to meet and ensure goal-surpassing editorial performance. Africa is my business and development on the continent is my heartbeat. Do you have a development story that has to be told? Reach me at njenga.h@theexchange.africa and we can showcase Africa together.

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