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Study: Most Kenyans would emigrate if they could

Wednesday March 21 2018

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President Uhuru and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta acknowledge greetings from Kenyans during an event at Lowell Memorial Auditorium, Massachusetts, US, on September 27, 2014. PHOTO | PSCU 

KEVIN J. KELLEY
By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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More than half of Kenyans would immediately move to another country if they could, a survey by an international polling agency has found.

The proportion of Kenyans saying they would like to emigrate — 54 per cent — was the third highest among six sub-Saharan countries included in the survey results released today by the US-based Pew Research Centre.

But only 19 per cent of Kenyans interviewed a year ago by Pew researchers said they are actually planning to move to another country in the next five years.

Of those Kenyans saying they wish to leave the country, 55 per cent listed US as their preferred destination.

That was the highest stated preference for US among respondents in the six countries polled.

DIASPORA
Kenyans reaching the US would join an estimated 120,000 of their compatriots already there.

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Another 180,000 Kenyans are living in Europe, according to United Nations data cited in the Pew survey.

Kenya is said to be the fourth-largest source of African immigrants to the US, following Nigeria (280,000), Ethiopia (220,000) and Ghana (160,000).

For the EU countries, along with Norway and Switzerland, Kenya ranks seventh among African states’ emigrants.

Nigeria is first with 390,000 expatriates in Europe, and Somalia ranks third with 300,000.

JOBS
The Pew survey did not ask why Kenyans and other Africans want to leave their homelands.

Researchers note, however, that many African countries “continue to have high unemployment rates and relatively low wage rates”.

The job market appears unlikely to improve any time soon, researchers add, due to “high fertility levels that will mean even more people competing for jobs”.

“Political instability and conflict are other factors pushing sub-Saharan Africans to move,” the report states.

The Pew poll was conducted in Kenya on March 2017 as campaigning was beginning for the August presidential election.

Nigerians and Ghanaians are most eager to leave their homelands, the survey found, with about three-quarters of respondents in both those countries responding affirmatively to the question, “If at this moment, you had the means and opportunity to go to live in another country, would you go?”