Proposal to offer citizenship to investors ill-advised

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019 16:00 |
Foreign investment. Photo/Courtesy


The proposal to have Kenya offer citizenship to wealthy investors ostensibly to enhance direct foreign investment is, to say the least, absurd and amounts to auctioning the country to foreigners.

While there is need to encourage foreign investment, I am baffled by the Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest) proposal that investors with capacity to create jobs and boost export earnings be allowed to acquire citizenship.

Even more baffling is the assertion by the agency that the idea is to gift such investors with permanent residence status, an equivalent to the Green Card in the United States.

What KenInvest is proposing is circumvention of immigration law that requires a foreigner to continuously live in the country for at least seven years to qualify for citizenship by registration.

Citizenship is a grave matter and should not just be offered to a foreigner because they have a lot of money to spend.

Immigrant Investor Programmes have existed in developed nations for decades. Over time, they have been amended to safeguard the economic security of these countries.

For example, the US recently amended its EB-5 immigrant visa programme that has been existence for three decades.

In exchange for a multi-year, risk-prone path to becoming permanent resident, foreign nationals invest at least $900,000 to capitalise US businesses located within targeted employment areas with high unemployment, otherwise known as “TEAs” or rural areas. Outside of the TEAs, the foreign national must invest at least $1.8 million.

As much the proposal is part of targeted incentives contained in the Kenya Investment Policy, this particular one portends danger, hence the need for thorough interrogation. 

Parliament should also intervene as the proposal touches on an Act of Parliament.

The proposal is an affront to the country’s entrepreneurship spirit and will disadvantage local investors, who will not be able to fairly compete if a potential floodgate is opened to foreign counterparts. 

It is, therefore,critical for the agency to consider the potential and capability of Domestic Direct Investments so that they are not in competition with foreign investors. 

The government should be wary of this proposal as the country cannot peddle its citizenship to foreigners at the alter of investment.

There are mechanisms in the Immigration Department that have been in operation for years. These should be uninterrupted. 

There abound dangerous characters the world over with a lot of dirty money who hide under the guise of investors, who will seek a safe haven here. 

It is true the country needs investors, and these are companies that have clean records and their expansion into Kenya is of major benefit to the country and job creation.

These companies and their investors are issued with relevant documents and the Ministry of Interior has laid down the procedure.

We must uphold our pride as Kenyans as much as we have limitations, lest we auction the country to foreigners, simply because they have more money than we do. 

We should continue to support the efforts by the banking sector and the government to increase the liquidity in the local marketplace in order to enable small businesses to access competitively priced capital that will be instrumental in taking up local investment opportunities.

Instead of opening doors for foreigners, KenInvest should, for example, be sensitising Kenyans on investment opportunities available in the infrastructure development.

Kenyans have learnt hard lessons from corruption, hence any claims that a framework would be developed to ensure the vetting of foreigners to be offered citizenship would be watertight and free from abuse, simply fly in the face of reality.

 Let us embrace all strategies aimed at inculcating in the mind of all Kenyans, patriotism and preference for Kenyan investments, goods, services FIRST as a means of supporting our domestic economy. — The writer comments on topical issues. —[email protected]

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