Saudi Arabia overtakes UK as Kenya’s second leading dollar source

Saudi Arabia, has seen remittances rise almost 40 percent on the year’s first two months of this year to $54.7 million from $39.1 million signaling the growing importance of the Kingdom to Kenya’s diaspora flows.

The oil rich Kingdom has overtaken the United Kingdom whose remittances fell from $51.2 million to $47.9 million in the first two months of the year.

Central Bank of Kenya diaspora remittance data shows that oil-rich Saudi Arabia is now the second largest source of money sent by Kenyans abroad behind the leader, the United States of America whose flows also dipped from $395.6 million to $386.6 million.

Dollars from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have underperformed last year’s remittances for the first two months of the year as the world cup boom wanes out.

Kenyans sent home $13 million from Qatar in the first two months of last year and the figure has dropped to $9.3 million a similar trend with UAE remittances to February fell to $9.3 million from $11 million.

Remittances from India also fell drastically from $8.6 million to $2.4 million a trend that would have dampened remittances from Asia were it not for the saving grace of Saudi Arabia.   

While Asian remittances have been growing, countries like Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations offer low-paying jobs such as housemaids, caregivers, drivers, and security guards who work in near-slavish conditions.

“The Diaspora Survey indicated that income levels are lowest in Asia and East Africa where the majority of respondents earn less than USD2000 per annum, which is a pointer to the type of jobs held by migrants, particularly in Asia where a high proportion of migrants take up low-skill jobs,” Central Bank said in the 2021 Diaspora survey.

Cases of abuse have dominated the news about employment in the Middle East blamed on agents, corruption in government and cultural differences.

The Foreign Affairs ministry is reportedly seeking a bilateral deal with Riyadh over a framework under which professionals will be recruited in the Middle East country to help stem the abuse that is the dark side of exported labour.

It is estimated that roughly 200,000 Kenyans have secured employment in Saudi, 60 percent of whom are professionals in sectors such as healthcare, ICT and construction.

The Central bank has issued remittance headline figures up to March without a break down on source country to aggregate latest data, but indications are cumulatively diaspora dollars have dipped marginally for the three months to $1.014 billion from $1.023 billion in the first quarter of last year.

A Central Bank survey shows that Kenyans living abroad struggle to send money home due to his cost of transfer, unfavorable exchange rates hence high conversion costs and limits on mobile transfers as well as lack of interoperability back home.

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