President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing Kenyans in the Diaspora; Lowell Auditorium,Lowell Massachusetts
Challenges Kenyans in Diaspora Face while Banking
Kenyans in the diaspora continue to grapple with challenges that have seen most members either defrauded or lose confidence that they can actually invest in Kenya and get good returns.
A section of Kenyans abroad who greatly desire to invest at home, opt to rely on family or longtime friends to make investments for them rather than seek services from financial institutions.
Ms Beldina Auma, Vice President of US-based film company Lakewood, has been banking from the diaspora for over 30 years. She points out that the ‘need to feel guided’ is a critical desire for almost every Kenyan seeking to invest back in their motherland.
“What the Diaspora is scared of is dealing with clients who are not responsive. You call a bank and you don’t get a call back for about 12 – 24 hours and when you eventually catch up with them, they don’t see anything wrong with them not being responsive.
“Time is money, and every time you don’t have an answer to your question you either worry or do the wrong thing,” Ms Auma, who is a wife to Kenyan Film Star Oliver Litondo, stated during an interview with Kenyans.co.ke.
She maintains that lack of information and the opportunity to engage in credible investments back home makes it difficult to execute and manage a project while abroad.
The Lakewood VP, who banks with the Co-operative Bank of Kenya, has made various investments locally and is currently working on a multi-billion real estate project set to be established in Kisumu.
She further notes that security of investments is a major concern for the Kenyan diaspora, admitting that most of them including herself have at some point lost property.
“If you sit with about 300 Kenyans in the diaspora in a room, at least half of them will have lost money trying to buy land. It’s bad. You can really lose a lot if you have no one closely following up on your projects. I urge our banks to market that component. Either keep a record of good property agents they can recommend to their clients,” Ms Auma stated.
Ms Auma, who also heads a company called Strategic Communications & Investments Promotions, recollects an incident in which she lost property including a parcel of land and a beach house sitting on about four acres of land to fraudulent dealers.
She, however, observes that her bank has been effectively responsive and helpful in her path towards investing locally.
Kenyans abroad are also troubled by the high cost of remittances imposed by financial institutions while making transactions to and from home.
In light of the above challenges, here are quick tips on how you can identify a reliable bank when seeking to invest back home.
1. Excellent one-on-one customer service – an interaction where the bank communicates directly with you.
2. A responsive institution – one that you can easily reach through phone or email and promptly get a response to your query.
3. A bank that allows you to transact through modern platforms such as internet and mobile banking.
4. An institution that offers you access to loan facilities such as mortgage and asset finance at competitive rates.
5. A bank that allows your investments to grow by offering favourable interest earnings.
6. An institution that provides information on matters such as finance and investments.
In April, Co-op Bank unveiled a new facility – the Diaspora Centre – that is dedicated to serving Diaspora clients in all their banking needs.
The centre located at Co-op Bank headquarters in Nairobi assists Kenyans living away from home do their banking in a comprehensive manner, including efficient handling of all queries, opening of accounts, advice on investment options such as real estate and wealth management among others.
Most of these services can be accessed on Co-op Bank’s diaspora website.