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Archive for October 10th, 2011

Daily Nation got it all wrong on the Diaspora Conference

Posted by Administrator on October 10, 2011

By Wilson Wanguhu (Kenya Empowerment Newspaper)

The Kenya Diaspora Conference 2011 that just concluded was geared to identifying opportunities for the Diaspora under vision 2030. Kenyans came from all walks of life to participate, see and hear what role they could play in the ongoing developments in Kenya.

Daily Nation, like any other media was invited to cover the event and give its readership a general feeling about the conference. I was sitting next to the Daily Nation reporter Kevin Kelly during the press conference.  It shocked me that all he got from the 30 plus minutes interview and the two day conference that covered a wide range of issues was that ‘Obama had snubbed the Diaspora Conference’. http://www.nation.co.ke/News/President+Obama+snubs+Kenyas+diaspora+conference/-/1056/1252394/-/xver75/-/index.html

As the leading Kenyan newspaper that most people depend on for news, I believe Daily Nation should adhere to certain social responsibilities of reporting fair and balanced news. If they are to cover an event they should at the very least stay on the topic and avoid side shows like what I saw on their Sunday edition.

Kevin Kelly; The Daily Nation Reporter in the U.S. is a seasoned journalist and I was expecting more from him. If he will report about us Kenyans though he is not Kenyan, he should take time to understand us and respect our integrity. We are Kenyans in American having a conference about Kenya, why should our main focus be Obama?

What I did not see in Kelly’s article is the introduction of how Obama became the topic of the press conference we were sitting in with him. As a responsible journalist at the very least he should have let his readership know that he triggered the issue of why Obama was not at the conference and it’s during this response that he picked up these sound bites for his article.

The article was in poor taste and did not capture the essence of the conference hence short changing the Daily Nation readership as to what really happened in Washington DC.

Source- http://www.kimmediagroup.com/component/content/article/7-diaspora-news/301-ken.html

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Kenyans in the US Hold A Highly Successful Conference in Washington, DC

Posted by Administrator on October 10, 2011

About 550 Kenyans from all over the United States held a highly successful conference this weekend in Washington, DC. Organized by the Kenyan Embassy in Washington with help from the Kenyan Diaspora community, the theme of the conference was “Identifying Opportunities for Diaspora Under Vision 2030” and was also attended by a large delegation of senior government and corporate officials from Kenya.

The conference, held from Saturday October 8th and ending on Sunday, October 9th covered several topics of concern to the diaspora, including the new Constitution and Dual Citizenship, how Kenyans can participate in Vision 2030 projects, investing in real estate, employment opportunities in Kenya for the diaspora, among others.

The conference also offered a unique opportunity for Kenyans from all over the US to network and exchange ideas on their careers, businesses and other aspects of their lives.

New Constitution and Dual Citizenship

Hon. Richard Onyonka, an Assistant Minster in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered the keynote address and emphasized on the commendable role the that approximate 3 million Kenyans in the diaspora have played in their mother country. He reminded Kenyans that the new Constitution, which was promulgated last year, offers among other things dual citizenship, and also allows those who lost their Kenyan citizenship by becoming citizens of other countries under the old Constitution to regain their Kenyan citizenship.

Hon. Onyonka, himself a former Diasporan who attended University in the US, said the Foreign Affairs Ministry along with the Ministry of Labor will work on signing bilateral agreements with foreign countries to make sure Kenyans abroad are accorded fair working rights. This will be as a means of avoiding situations such as the recent ones of Kenyans being mistreated and denied their basic working rights by their employers in Middle East countries. He also reported that Kenyans in the diaspora have been requesting for Diaspora Advisory Council within the Foreign Affairs Ministry that will handle matters of the Diaspora and said the government will be looking into this.

Concluding his speech, Hon Onyonka stressed the need for Kenyans living abroad to speak as one voice and to make good use of the various services available at Kenyan missions abroad.

Charles Nyachae, the chairman on the Constitution Implementation Committee (CIC), called on the diaspora to use the power of the Diaspora to push for the full implementation of the Constitution, and to read and familiarize themselves with the whole Constitution.

Regina Njogu, one of the panelists and an attorney in Washington, DC, cautioned Kenyans who were re-applying for their Kenyan citizenship and hence becoming dual citizens to tread carefully to make sure they do not break citizenship laws of either country. As an example, she provided an example of a clause in the US constitution that states that US citizens who hold senior policy positions in foreign governments may lose their US citizenship.

Vision 2030
Speaking on Vision 2030, its meaning, goals and progress was Mugo Kibati, Vision 2030 Director General. He described Vision 2030 as a multi-year development plan that was launched by the Kenyan government in 2008 that aims to make Kenya a middle-income country by the year 2030, where every Kenyan citizen will have a high quality of life. To achieve this goal, there will be need to have a well-developed nationwide infrastructure (such as roads, rail, ports, electricity, and airports), free primary and secondary education for all, and an accountable and transparent issue-based political system. Kibati said that to achieve the vision, the country would need to grow at a rate of 10% per year for most of the next 20 years. Kibati reported that some of the projects that are part of this plan that are already underway. An example is Thika Road, which is expected to be complete soon, and Konza City, whose development is currently underway.

Kibati proposed that the Diaspora could participate in this vision through direct investment of financing, as well as through their ideas and technical expertise.  Responding on why most of these projects were being contracted to foreign companies, Kibati said there was a fair and open tender system, and that the contracts awarded to foreign companies are the major multi-billion dollar projects that no local companies currently have the capability to undertake. He urged for a need for the country’s contractors to merge so as to have the capacity to work on such huge projects. He also said there are other smaller contracts that are parts of these projects that have been awarded to local companies.

Dr. Eng. Cyrus Njiru, PS in the Ministry of Transport, highlighted the various projects under his ministry that were both in the planning phase as well as already underway. These include the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Corridor Project, which will involve building of a port, an oil refinery and a pipeline in Lamu, as well as a road network from Lamu to South Sudan and Ethiopia. He said due to the massive size of the project, this would be a perfect opportunity for Kenyans living abroad to invest and bid on some of the contracts through Public Private Partnership.

Education and Research

Prof Ali Mazrui, a distinguished writer, Professor and Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at Binghamton University, said Kenyans abroad should have a huge impact on Kenya’s development through sharing their idea, work ethics and expertise learned abroad with the academic institutions back in Kenya.

Prof Mazrui urged the education ministry to offer programs that are modeled to the Kenyan culture and heritage, rather than focusing most of programs modeled to Western cultures. He caused huge applause when he said challenged Kenyan men to work harder, saying Kenyans women have been more hardworking than men. He caused another applause when he described Barack Obama, whose father was Kenyan, as the most powerful black man in the history of human civilization.

Prof Calestous Juma, a distinguished Professor at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, called on Kenyan Universities to focus not just on teaching but on research as well, saying they would become more competitive in the global stage and help in Vision 2030. He said most international NGOs such as USAID choose to work with research institutions in Kenya such as KARI since Kenyan universities do not have research programs.

He further proposed that the government in partnership with the different universities should look into opening campuses in various states/cities in the diaspora with huge populations of Kenyans. He said this would help in making Kenyan universities more visible on the global stage. He cited an example of University of Singapore, which has different campuses around the world in countries with high populations of Singapore immigrants.

This session was chaired by Prof Mwangi Kimenyi, Senior Fellow and Director of the Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

Investing in Real Estate in Kenya

Mr Tirop Kosgey, PS, Ministry of Housing along with other panelists presented a report on the state of the real estate market in Kenya, as well as how Kenyans in the Diaspora can invest in this booming and growing field. Mr Kosgey said that given the high rate at which the urban population is growing, the real estate market will only continue to grow, and there should be no fear of a crash in the market.

David Karangu, a businessman based in Atlanta, Georgia, described real estate as one of the best ways to build wealth. He urged Kenyans in the diaspora to take advantage of services such as those offered by the Housing Finance Corporation of Kenya to invest in real estate.

Employment Opportunities Available in Kenya for the Diaspora

Thomas Konditi, Chief Financial Officer, General Electric Africa (General Electric Africa is a division of America-based General Electric) described employment opportunities available in Kenya and the rest of Africa with General Electric Africa. He said General Electric Africa was expanding into Africa, and currently has 40 employees in its Kenya branch with the number expected to grow to about 100 within the next two years. He said this was a perfect opportunity especially for Kenyans abroad in the Informational Technology careers, as GE as committed to giving employment opportunities to native Kenyans living abroad with the right qualifications rather than hiring expatriates. Mr. Konditi urged Kenyans in the Diaspora to apply for these positions, available both in Kenya as well as in other African countries such as Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda where GE is also creating presence. According to Mr. Konditi, GE currently has projects in Africa in various fields: aviation, medicine (through manufacture of medical equipment), and energy, among others.

Diaspora Giving Back – Social Responsibility, Welfare and Philanthropy

Through a session moderated by Prof. Jerono Rotich of North Caolina A&T State University, Kenyans living in the diaspora were urged to give back to the less fortunate Kenyans back home through the various non-profit organizations and initiatives such as the recent Kenyans4Kenya initiative that raised funds needed to feed Kenyans in hunger in some parts of Kenya. Other speakers at this session were Prof Wanjiru Kamau (a professor at University of San Francisco), Ms. Grace Kuto (Harambee Centre), Ms. Liza Mucheru-Wisner (IT Consultant and former NBC’s Apprentice contestant), Dr. Joyce Malobe (Kenya Community Development Foundation), and Mr. Erastus Mongare (President, Startup Africa, Delaware).

Reception in Honor of the Late Prof Wangari Maathai

Ambassador Dr Josephine Ojiambo, Deputy Permanent Representative Kenya Mission to the United Nations, New York, led the conference attendees in observing a minute of silence in honor of the Late Prof Wangari Maathai, who passed away last weekend and was laid to rest this weekend. Dr Ojiambo described Prof Maathai said Kenya had a lost a true heroin and patriot. A slideshow highlighting Prof Maathai’s life was played for the attendees as well.

Kenyan Athletes Honored

H.E. Elkanah Odembo, Kenya’s Ambassador to the US, took time to honor Kenyan athletes, who he described as “real Kenyan ambassadors” abroad. He honored Kenyans who excelled in the Chicago marathon on Sunday, Oct 6 where Kenya’s Moses Mosop won in course record time. Second and third spots were also taken by Kenyans. Ambassador Odembo said Kenyan athletes have played a huge role over many years in marketing Kenya abroad.

The ambassador used this opportunity to appeal to Kenyan media to be objective and report accurately on the Diaspora and Kenya in general. He provided accounts of cases where Kenyan media has reported on matters that have been proven to be totally innaccurate or false.

Other Speakers

Among other speakers at the Conference included other Permanent Secretaries in the Kenyan government, senior officers of various Kenyan Missions in the US, senior officials of various corporations in Kenya (Equity Bank, Postbank, Cooperative Insurance Group), various high rankings professors and professionals who work in the US, as well as top businessmen/women and heads of various non-profit organizations.

Conference Closing Remarks

In the Conference’s closing remarks, Thuita Mwangi (PS, Foreign Affairs),
Dr. Edward Sambili (PS, Ministry of Planning, National Development and Vision 2030, as well as H.E. Macharia Kamau (Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations), highlighted the following as the key and actions points that came out the 2-day conference:

  • The Kenyan government will finalize draft diaspora policy.
  • Need to enhance communication between diaspora and the Kenyan government.
  • Establish a one-stop shop for diaspora matters in Kenya, so that when Kenyans living abroad visit Kenya, they have quick access to all the information they need at one place.
  • Need for full realization of Diaspora rights in the constitution. Kenyans in Diaspora need to read and understand full constitution, not just the parts specifically on the Diaspora and Dual Citizenship.
  • Need for Diaspora to fully participate in investment in Kenya.
  • Make the Diaspora Conference an annual event.
  • Structures to enhance to enhance diaspora participation in Kenya.
  • Recommendations of conference should form part of diaspora policy.

Source: http://mwakilishi.com/content/articles/2011/10/09/kenyans-in-the-us-hold-a-highly-successful-conference-in-washington.html

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