In most of the cases when people talk of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), they look at taxation regimes, the ease of registering companies, the legal regimes in terms of the courts systems, security and many other parameters, Immigration is rarely mentioned. However, as they settle in, the reality of the relevance of immigration processes sink in.
I have been privileged to attend two meetings of the German Business Association (GBA) in Kenya to welcome the incoming Ambassadors. First in 2013 and another one yesterday. In the first meeting I was still working with Kenya Immigration…my boss and I were given a lot of recognition and even sat on the same table with the ambassador. Little did I know it was because of the concerns that German businesses in Kenya had on the Kenya immigration processes and the hope that we could provide instant coffee kind of solutions.
In yesterday’s meeting, I attended as a GBA member courtesy of my employer, Fragomen Kenya Ltd and not a lot of excitement as we were eager to listen to the new ambassador. In the meeting the challenges of getting work permits and delays experienced were again raised and the Ambassador addressed her self to it too…not surprisingly, GBA had a complain about how its employees in Kenya applying for German Visas were also facing challenges! It then dawned on me that this issue of Immigration is both ways…the developed countries feeling that the processes in our country are a bit slow and not very transparent…and we from the developing countries feeling that the developed countries make us go through hell to get their visas….
As I sat there listening, it dawned on me that indeed immigration is critical in the world today as people tot the globe trying to make ends meet and therefore can not be ignored when looking at the ease of doing business or investing in a country that is not your own…. That is why I was not shocked when some Kenyans were deported for being in Somalia illegally! I know you may want to say who in their right senses would even want to be in Somalia any way…but the truth is that there are so many Kenyans in Somalia doing business and creating wealth….and many others may be not as investors but doing whatever they are doing there.
Immigration is one of the number one concern for any one crossing the boundaries of their country towards another….in fact the ability to control who enters and resides in a country is one sign of territorial integrity/sovereignty… and any country, however chaotic or funny it might seem….should be respected and their immigration controls respected…. I remember my years as a border control officer and I can tell you it feels good when it is only through your authority that non Kenyans can enter Kenya! It is that powerful…but we must also balance between regulation and facilitation…. So that we do not hurt ourselves.