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Investing As a Kenyan Living in the Diaspora

The population of Kenyans living in the diaspora is estimated to be at three million. This group is said to comprise of well-educated individuals, living mainly in the US, Canada, and Europe. However, Kenyans living abroad are wary when it comes to investing their hard earned money back home.

Kenyans in the diaspora planning to invest back home have heard horror stories and misgivings from other people who have been conned by agents or their own families. If you live abroad, you need to be very wary when it comes to investing your money.

One group that is set up to help investors in the diaspora is Manyatta Capital. Started by a Kenyan citizen who lived and worked in the US for more than 10 years, this firm helps Kenyans living in the diaspora buy land through syndication. The firm pools together a number of foreign investors who buy shares into one project. This project is then subdivided and buyers are issued with individual title deeds.

The investors can then opt to build apartments, build their homes, or lease out that land – the choice is up to them. It is advised to refrain from dealing with relatives as your money might go down the drain due to many factors. For example, sending money to a relative who knows nothing about investing is guaranteed to end badly. Whenever possible, hire a lawyer from a distinguished firm to handle your investment process for you. It’s best to spend more on a lawyer who will ensure your investment is legit, negotiate for you, and handle ownership process for you, rather than sending thousands of dollars to a relative who might end up getting conned themselves.

When looking for a real estate firm to work with, choose wisely. This is because some are phony, while others tend to inflate prices in order to make hefty profits. Look for a company that allows you to hold your money in escrow. This way, you eliminate the risk of fraud. Holding money in escrow means that a third party – mostly your lawyer – will hold on to your money and only release it to the real estate firm once they have personally surveyed that piece of land exists and the title deeds have been processed.

How do you determine if the prices given to you by a real estate are legit?

When it comes to determining costs, markets in Kenya and other foreign countries tend to differ greatly. In the US and other countries, it is quite easy to understand how the price of a property came to be because a commissioner of real estate keeps records of all sales. However, this is not the case in Kenya and as a result, most agents inflate prices. Many people living abroad have lost their savings from these types of schemes.

When investing in real estate, source for a firm that consults with property surveyors to identify properties that have great potential. Look for a company that will help you identify a property, validate ownership, and negotiate prices on your behalf, all the while allowing your lawyer to be part of the process.

How can our Kenyan government help?

“Many a times Kenyans living abroad have succumbed to fraud. Our government needs to offer a guarantee to Kenyans in the diaspora so that they know that if something goes wrong with their investments, they can be cushioned against staggering losses,” said Mr. Robinson Githae, Kenyan ambassador to Washington. “Our government should reimburse investors who have been conned after using a company that is registered to buy property,” he went on to say.

This model has worked greatly in other countries and when implemented, can help those fellow brothers and sisters who wish to invest their wealth back into their motherland.

The Kenyan government is working extremely hard to create awareness of investment opportunities amongst Kenyans abroad. Some Kenyans have been away from home for so many years that they do not know of the best way to go about investing there. They end up relying on international media, which unfortunately, does not paint Kenya in a positive image. Our government is working hard to educate Kenyans living abroad of investment opportunities through seminars and workshops organized by embassies in foreign countries. If you hear of one being held near you, make a point of attending.

Last year, Kenyans living in diaspora remitted approximately Ksh 89.1 Billion to finance investments back home. If provided with key information and protection, Kenyans living in diaspora can remit more money into our country, and in turn strengthen our economy.

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