OPINION: Foreigners increasingly impressed with Kenya’s progress

By MICHAEL CHERAMBOS A well-known idiom has it that sometimes we can’t see the woods for the trees. Meaning that by focusing on the details, we frequently fail to see the bigger picture. In such cases, it is informative to check what outsiders perceive in a situation where we might be too involved and stuck inside a self-perpetuating paradigm of short-sightedness. To receive a truly broad overview of any particular condition it is sometimes good and appropriate to gaze from afar. Perhaps, such a case is the state of Kenya today. Many of us who were born and bred in Kenya are unable to think outside of our paradigmatic approach to politics and public affairs. We always see our situation as perpetually dire and our leaders are a bunch of self-interested and corrupt parasites. Those on the outside looking in, however, are impressed by what they currently witness in Kenya. According to a survey titled Expat Insider, compiled by the InterNations Business Solutions Group which grades nations according to the indices of quality of life, ease of settling in, working abroad, family life, personal finance, and the cost of living, Kenya rose by 15 places in the global rankings from its position last year. Kenya also ranked 18th on the happiness index. This ranking places it above the United Kingdom, Italy and South Korea, amongst others. Much of this is explained by the political stability made possible by the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga. It is also enhanced by the war on corruption, improving ease of doing business, the infrastructure revolution and Kenya enhancing its reputation as a place of invention and innovation. This is how foreigners see Kenya and it is no wonder that many are rushing to our country for opportunities, which can only benefit our nation. With its myriad of ethnicities, religions and tribes, Kenya has always been an important melting pot of difference and variety that, when showing its best face, can be an extremely welcoming one. Obviously, we are all aware of darker times when these same characteristics can be our undoing, frequently violently. However, it is clear that today’s Kenya is shedding its more sinister past and its people are facing the future with greater hope and bigger smiles. This is being noticed by those who see us as potential neighbours and friends. This is a refreshing perspective that we as Kenyans should understand more, because these foreigners take into account the bigger picture when deciding to relocate for family or business reasons. These people have many options and are often international travelers who frequent many nations, but they obviously like what they see in the Kenya of 2019. No other nation made such a jump as Kenya in the last year, and this attests to the monumental changes that have taken place over the last twelve months. While the handshake is still seen by some as a mere ceasefire between formerly warring political opponents, from the outside it is seen as groundbreaking, especially after the grueling double election period and accusations that preceded it. Uhuru is seen as someone who is regularly breaking down barriers and the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) is understandably seen from afar as enhancing the democratic and freedom space in Kenya. While some of our neighbours, both near and far, are decreasing this space, sometimes radically so, Kenya is becoming a more open place by the day. Our voices are seen to matter and our vocal and combative press, run without restriction or influence, is becoming the envy of our continent and beyond. Kenya is not just becoming a place that is open for business and attracting financial investment, it is also seemingly attracting human investment. Each new foreigner that comes to Kenya invests in our economy and contributes to our national life economically, socially and culturally. For Kenya to continue succeeding and improving, it is important that others see the positive developments. Their views of our nation are rarely impacted by history or the past and can afford a more neutral take on where Kenya is presently. It is clear that the Kenya of today is a place that is welcoming to outsiders and foreigners, a space that is free and unfettered for their aspirations, and a nation which is quickly traveling in the right direction.

Michael Cherambos comments on topical issues.

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