President Ruto to sign new labour pacts to send more Kenyans abroad

President William Ruto on Monday announced that the Kenyan government is pursuing new bilateral agreements, which aim to send more Kenyans abroad.

Speaking at the Labour Day celebrations in Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi, the president revealed that Germany has shown interest in hiring Kenyan workers and will be the primary destination for most of them. To facilitate this, he will meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz later in the week and sign bilateral labour agreements with Germany.

“We have very many countries asking for Kenyan workers. The German Chancellor will be here on Thursday and we will sign bilateral labour agreements that will see Kenyans get opportunities in the 250 million jobs Germany has on offer every year,” President Ruto said.

Canada and Saudi Arabia are among the other countries with which the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection plans to sign agreements.

These bilateral deals aim to increase the number of Kenyan workers employed in these countries, in addition to the ten agreements that President William Ruto announced on Labour Day.

“We have opportunities in Canada, the USA, UAE, Saudi Arabia… we will sign ten agreements in the next couple of months so that our youth get these opportunites,” the president added.

The President also highlighted the record-breaking diaspora remittances from Kenyans living abroad. He stated $4.027 billion in 2022, which is close to the amount earned from exports, which brought in $5.77 billion worth of foreign currency.

“The money we get every year form Kenyans in the diaspora is Ksh 400 billion. Thats is even more than what we get from out tea, coffee or horticulture exports,” he said.

Data from the Central Bank of Kenya reveals that in the previous year, Kenya received more foreign exchange from diaspora remittances than from any of its major exports, which include coffee, tea, and horticulture.

Tea, the country’s primary export, brought in $1.2 billion, while horticulture generated $901 million, followed by chemicals ($521 million), coffee ($301 million), and petroleum products ($77 million).

In comparison, the total amount of diaspora remittances was higher, indicating the significant contribution made by Kenyans living abroad to the country’s economy.

“Many nations have built their economies by organising job opportunites for their citizens in other countries, so as we plan on creating jobs locally, we are also doing the same abroad,” the President said.

Although diaspora remittances have contributed significantly to Kenya’s foreing exchange earnings, the welfare of Kenyans living abroad has been a major concern.

Reports of mistreatment of Kenyan workers by employers, particularly in the Middle East, have continued to emerge each year.

To address this issue, Foreign and Diaspora Affairs CS, Dr. Alfred Mutua, visited Saudi Arabia in October of last year, shortly after taking office, to address the plight of mistreated Kenyan migrant workers.

The Foreign Ministry reported that he held talks with the Saudi Ambassador, Khalid Abdullah Alsalman, and representatives of employment agencies that recruit Kenyans for jobs in the Middle East.

According to the Labour Ministry, more than 4 million Kenyans live and work abroad, with the majority residing in the Middle East and Europe. However, the ministry indicates that only 800,000 jobs are available in the formal and informal sectors combined annually, while approximately 1.2 million Kenyans join the labor market each year.

The situation creates a significant gap, leading to a high number of Kenyans seeking employment opportunities abroad, which makes their welfare and protection critical issues.