If given a chance, more than a third of Kenyan youth would leave the country to find a better job abroad, escape poverty or pursue an education. This is according to a groundbreaking 2019 survey by Afrobarometer that explores attitudes towards relocating abroad in 33 African countries.
Despite the openness to relocating abroad among a significant number of young Kenyans, the choice to relocate to a foreign country is not an easy one. Immersing yourself in a new culture, potentially learning a new language, and physical separation from friends and loved ones back home can be challenging. You will also need to settle into your studies, job, or business, plan your finances, and rebuild social connections.
Many Kenyans in the diaspora admit there are things they wish they knew earlier before taking the leap of faith to relocate to a new country. Below are some of the things you need to know before relocating abroad.
- Understand the cost of living
Visit cost of living comparison websites to understand what the cost of basic commodities, housing and transportation are in the new city or town you’re relocating to.
You can also consult with friends and family who may be living in the city you’re planning to relocate to. Understanding the cost of living will save you from making the costly mistake of relocating because of a higher paying job only to end up paying double or triple the bills you paid back home.
2. Do your research on healthcare and education
Medical bills can erase many years of hard work if you do not have affordable and reliable insurance. Before relocating abroad, know what your healthcare options are and how your residence or citizenship status affects your options. Also, do your research on the education system and the cost of tuition in case you stay abroad longer and want to pursue further studies or start a family. It’s important to have information on healthcare and education beforehand so that you make informed decisions on these critical choices.
3. Sending money back home
The connection to home is never lost when you relocate abroad, and at some point, you will likely send money back home to friends and loved ones for different reasons. It can be as a gift, for school fees, medical bills and even investments.
When choosing how to send money home, be sure to pick a remittance service you can trust and that is open and transparent about the countries they support. Check their ratings on neutral customer review sites like trustpilot.com. A four-star and above is usually a good sign. Also, consider the person receiving money. You want to choose a service that gives them various options with regards to how they receive the money.
Money transfer services like WorldRemit for example lists the countries you can send money from and to on their website. It supports sending money to over 130 countries, including Kenya. It also has close to 60,000 reviews on Trustpilot and a 4-star rating. Those receiving money can receive the funds in their bank account, mobile money wallet, as cash pick up at a partner financial institution, and even as airtime top-up, allowing for micro-transfers below Ksh1000.
4. Be open minded about job and business opportunities
Your initial plans when you relocate abroad may change for one reason or the other. Therefore, it’s prudent to be prepared for possible scenarios and maintain an open mind about job and business opportunities. The best approach is to regularly update your resume, invest in your knowledge and skills and build good credit, which will enable you to raise capital if necessary. In the long-term, remember your habits and attitude will play a greater role in shaping your success than your income and status.
5. Plan your homecoming
Although you may choose to relocate permanently, it’s also wise to remain open to the possibility of coming back home. Just as you need to think about your retirement before retiring, you also need to think about your homecoming when you are still abroad.
If you will be coming back to engage in economic activities, you need to do your research on the local job market and the local business environment to understand how you will fit in. If you will be coming back to retire, you need to plan well in advance, including where you will stay, your healthcare options and the activities you will undertake in your golden years. The last thing you want is to arrive at the airport in Nairobi and feel like you need to start life all over again.
These five tips can help you make an informed decision if you are thinking of migrating to a foreign country. It’s important to remember that despite the challenges, the benefits of moving abroad can be immense. Kenya also has a vibrant diaspora community and don’t be surprised if you get to reconnect with your fellow countrymen and women thousands of miles away.