The Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest), the country’s investment promotion agency, announced that the government is considering offering citizenship to wealthy investors in a new push to enhance direct foreign investment (FDI) flows.
Under the new proposals, high net worth investors whose enterprises are appraised to have high impact on new jobs and exports earnings will be allowed to automatically apply for citizenship. KenInvest said qualifying investors would be granted permanent residence status after vetting, an equivalent of the Green Card in the US.
Kenya’s immigration laws presently require foreigners to live continuously in the country for at least seven years in order to qualify for citizenship by registration.
KenInvest managing director Moses Ikiara said the agency had held “positive discussions” with Interior Secretary Fred Matiang’i with a view to developing a framework to ensure the vetting is watertight and free from abuse.
“If somebody has created impact and you can see the jobs created why don’t we extend an incentive to them and say we invite to be our citizen in three, two years,” Dr Ikiara said. “Giving incentives to those people with a lot of money could be among the non-monetary incentives.”
The proposal is part of a new Kenyan Investment Policy, which was launched in November to boost foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country and anchor the role of the private sector investment in economic development.
Peter Munya, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Co-operatives, said: “The ultimate objective is to position Kenya as a premier investment destination as well as a global leader in investment attraction and retention.”
The policy is guided by seven core principles that emphasise the need for openness and transparency, inclusivity, sustainable development, economic diversification, domestic empowerment, global integration and investor centredness.
Munya said that Kenya has been lacking a well-articulated framework to grant and monitor existing incentives in line with the country’s development goals and desired culture. “It will be the first time that Kenya has developed a national investment policy to optimise investment promotion, facilitation and management,” he said.
Kenya has previously formulated various strategies and policies that focus on investment growth and support, stipulated in various policy documents like the national development blueprint Vision 2030, but these programmes and initiatives have had suboptimal impact. KenInvest said the new policy would provide a roadmap for the country to increase its level of public and private investment to at least 32% of GDP by the year 2030.