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When Money Does Not Equal Political Power

A study co-authored by Dr. Dorina Bekoe found that despite its economic power the Kenyan diaspora did not politicize remittances in the 2013 election cycle.

A voting queue in Nairobi 2013

A voting queue in Nairobi, 2013.

The 2013 Kenyan elections could have proved a galvanizing event for the diaspora: The international community had identified Kenya at elevated risk for electoral violence, substantial changes to domestic institutions were undertaken following the high profile 2007–2008 post-election violence, and there had been considerable discussion of engaging the diaspora since the last election.

Despite the superior economic power of the Kenyan diaspora compared to other African diaspora communities, Africa Center Associate Professor Dorina Bekoe and co-author Stephanie Burchard find that the Kenyan diaspora did not play a significant role in the outcome of the 2013 elections. Rather, the Kenyan diaspora did not politicize its remittances and had greater influence in other sectors like economic development.

The case of the Kenyan diaspora shows that it is important to understand the source, limitations, and political dynamics impacting diaspora groups. The amount of money they send home or the attention these groups receive in domestic politics is not always a good indicator of their political strength.

Read the full paper here