The economic fortunes of Kenyans in the diaspora have significantly improved in recent years, with diaspora remittances or money sent back home by Kenyans living abroad steadily rising to become the country’s top forex exchange earner.
Figures from the Central Bank of Kenya show that the country’s diaspora remittances reached $4.027 billion in 2022, a 8.34% annual growth rate and the highest ever on record. Diaspora remittances have surpassed earnings from coffee, tea, horticulture, and tourism, which have historically been Kenya’s top forex exchange earners.
The prospect of greener pastures overseas has led many Kenyans to consider relocating abroad for work and studies. One of the most popular destinations is the US, which is the leading source of remittances to Kenya, according to CBK data. Europe and the Middle East are also popular.
Depending on the country one is going to and the reasons for traveling, visa requirements may vary and it’s best to get in touch with the relevant embassies for accurate information. The procedure for securing housing, accommodation and insurance may also differ.
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There are, however, some tips that could be helpful regardless of which country one wants to travel to. These can help set you in the right direction, especially if you are still evaluating options and haven’t yet made a final decision of where to relocate to.
Cost of living and important needs like healthcare
The cost of living is one of the most important factors to consider before relocating abroad. Having an idea of the cost of basic needs like food, transportation and housing will enable you to have a solid financial plan. It’s also important for one to know what their healthcare options are and what it will cost.
Medical bills can erase many years of hard work if you do not have affordable and reliable insurance. A good health plan will also ensure you get the right care in a timely way in case a medical need arises, minimizing delays that can lead to further health complications.
It’s critical to check local pages to determine what costs are expected in terms of local residency, wages, transport and healthcare. Comparison sites and educational pages dedicated to migration can ensure you get the best value for money.
Sending money back home
The connection to home is never lost when you relocate abroad, and at some point, you will likely send money back home to friends and loved ones for different reasons. It can be as a gift, for school fees, medical bills and even investments.
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When choosing how to send money home, be sure to pick a remittance service you can trust. Check their ratings on neutral customer review sites like Trustpilot. Make sure that the service you use supports sending money to Kenya. WorldRemit, for example, lists the countries you can send money from and to. Senders can transfer money online or via the app to receivers in over 130 countries, including Kenya, with fast and secure transactions.
It’s also important to consider the needs of the person receiving money. You want to choose a service that gives them various options with regards to how they receive the funds. Those receiving money via WorldRemit can receive the funds in their bank account, mobile money wallet such as MPESA, as a cash pick up at partner financial institutions, and even as airtime top up, allowing for micro-transfers below Sh1000.
Cultural and social differences
Relocating abroad is not just about finding a new job or taking a new educational program. You also need to familiarize yourself with a new culture and social system. This may mean learning to accommodate social values that are foreign to you.
You need to be aware of topics and mannerisms to avoid in public and where to draw personal boundaries in interpersonal relationships with locals. This will help you socialize with ease and help you acquire new friends and contacts, which can be useful when in a foreign country for the first time.
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A good place to find information on local culture, norms and customs is on the tourism promotion pages run by government agencies responsible for tourism in the country you are looking to move to. These will give you a good sense of what to expect, what is acceptable and what is not. Some social activities may be legal in your country but illegal or tightly controlled abroad. You need to be aware of these kinds of activities and how the rules apply. Reputable social media pages that help migrants settle into host country communities can be sources of useful information.
Going overseas for work or study is not always an easy decision. However, for many that take the courageous step, it represents a shot at a better life.
Ivan Kanyali is the Regional Manager, East Africa, at WorldRemit
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