Home OPINIONS Kenyans are seeking a second citizenship and passport by investment   

Kenyans are seeking a second citizenship and passport by investment   

Africa is witnessing a transformative era, and at the forefront of this continental renaissance is Kenya. From a thriving technology sector to a rapidly evolving renewable energy industry, the country is experiencing robust economic growth.

While the Kenyan economy is on the rise, there are notable challenges facing entrepreneurs and investors, pushing them to consider investing in second citizenship to unlock their full potential.

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Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programs

Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programs have gained traction over the years as an ultimate Plan B to those who have the means offering a quick pathway to a second citizenship and passport by investment.

A Kenyan national can obtain a second nationality and passport of a foreign country in a period of 6 months by investing in the country. Citizenship by Investment programs are legally mandated by their respective governments welcoming investors where foreign investments go to development of their countries.

The investment avenues for obtaining citizenship vary depending on the country and may include real estate, government bonds, or a financial contribution to a government fund.The minimum investment amount typically starts from USD 100,000 for a single applicant and USD 150,000 for a family of four.

Citizenship in these countries grants passport holders visa-free access to over 120 countries included Europe, so Kenyans holding a second nationality from any of these countries can travel without visa restrictions. Some of these countries include St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts & Nevis, Dominica, and Grenada.

Alternatively, there are pathways to obtain a European citizenship for example through Malta, which offers the fastest route to EU citizenship. Additionally, European residency programs, such as the Portuguese Golden Visa, can lead to EU citizenship and the path to citizenship has recently been fast-tracked.

The person interested in CBI programs must retain the services of a specialized citizenship   advisor that is officially authorized by these Governments to process their citizenship such as the advisory firm Citizenship Invest. Applicants are not allowed to submit their applications directly to these Government and is required to do it through a government authorized firm.

Why Kenyan HNWIs seek for a second nationality?

According to the World Bank, Kenya’s economic performance strengthened in 2023 despite continued challenges, with real GDP growth accelerating from 4.8% in 2022 to an estimated 5% in 2023. The positive trajectory is supported by The Kenya Economic Update (KEU), which projects that the real GDP will grow between 4.5–5.2% in 2024.

With the Kenyan economy considered the largest in East Africa, the country has progressed as a regional transportation and financial hub, becoming known as “Silicon Savannah”.

While Kenya enjoys a thriving economy, the vulnerability of its passport poses a persistent challenge. Kenya’s passport weakened, dropping from the 67th to 69th globally between July and September.  Given Kenya’s flexibility in allowing citizens to obtain a second nationality without severing ties at home, the growing number of High-Net-Worth Individuals from Kenya are increasingly attracted to appealing Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programs for a number of benefits.

Free mobility

In Kenya, the self-employed sector, known as the “Jua Kali” culture, is gaining prominence as entrepreneurship becomes more respected. With the strengthening entrepreneurial spirit comes the desire to explore and expand their ventures globally. A stronger passport would be critical as a second citizenship will grant easy, visa-free access to several countries, such as the UK, China, and Schengen member states, circumventing the otherwise costly and time-consuming visa application process. On the other hand, applying for visas with strict regimen such as the US can be made easier with a stronger second passport. Such seamless travel would open a world of new business prospects for Kenyan entrepreneurs.

Investing in a second passport is also helpful in ensuring economic diversification. Despite improvements in recent years, the Kenyan economy directs entrepreneurs to focus on international rather than domestic opportunities. With the Kenyan shilling losing around 25% of its value against the US dollar, the importance of a diversified portfolio is clear to investors, as it would be critical to offset Kenya’s current 8% inflation. Through Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programs, investors can get a competitive edge for international business expansion, investment diversification, and access to global financial services.

Furthermore, countries offering citizenship by investment are known for their political stability and robust security systems. A number of Kenyan investors see alternative citizenship as a way to secure a safe haven for themselves and their families.

Education and Healthcare for the Future

Kenya boasts a youthful population, with a median age below 20, characterized by their tech-savviness and adaptability. This demographic is a lucrative market and forms a talent pool for entrepreneurial endeavors. Their youthfulness implies significant potential for personal, professional, and familial advancement. Opting for alternative citizenship often opens doors to top-tier education and healthcare systems for the applicant and their family, which will amplify this.

For instance, countries like St Kitts, Nevis, and Grenada offer exceptional facilities and world-class institutions. Thus, Kenyan investors may view Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programs as providing their families with outstanding opportunities, thereby contributing to an overall improved quality of life.

Diaspora Engagement

Moreover, CBI programs unlock opportunities in the Kenyan diaspora engagement, which refers to the involvement and active participation of individuals or communities who have migrated from their home country to other parts of the world. By facilitating diaspora investments, CBI programs create a collaborative platform that fosters economic growth and development. The diaspora’s involvement in various sectors, such as real estate, healthcare, and education, can contribute to the nation’s overall prosperity.

According to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), USD 400 million is sent home annually, and the Kenyan diaspora is the biggest sender of digital remittances to mobile accounts, marking the extensive technological leap that has kept this sector.  Overall, Kenya is ranked fifth in Africa regarding the value of remittances sent home by fellow citizens living abroad.

Certain CBI jurisdictions provide favourable financial systems, allowing Kenyan investors to optimise tax liabilities and safeguard their financial assets, ensuring they continue to contribute more actively to their communities. For example, Antigua, Barbuda, and Saint Lucia offer tax advantages that can significantly impact wealth preservation and succession planning.

As Kenya takes its place as an economic powerhouse on the African continent, the CBI program’s appeal to Kenyan investors is timely. The opportunities presented in increased regional mobility, diverse business prospects, and diaspora engagement allow entrepreneurs to contribute to and benefit from the country’s economic growth. Kenya’s economic evolution is a testament to the potential for prosperity. With strategic investments, Kenyan entrepreneurs can play a pivotal role in shaping the future of their nation and the broader African continent.

Veronica Cotdemiey is the Chief Executive Officer at Citizenship Invest

Veronica Cotdemiey
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