Kenyan Envoy Launches Savings-and-Loan Tour in Atlanta

Kenyan officials kicked off a nationwide educational campaign in Atlanta June 8 for savings and credit cooperatives targeting the Kenyan diaspora living in the United States.

The Kenyan ambassador to the United States, Elkanah Odembo, emphasized the importance of giving back to Kenya through SACCOs to a crowd of around 100 people at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter Galleria in Sandy Springs with other Kenyan dignitaries.

The delegation recognized the Kenya USA Diaspora SACCO, an Atlanta-based SACCO that is the first diaspora-targeted cooperative to be registered with the Kenyan government. SACCOs in Kenya target the diaspora, but this is the first based in the U.S.

SACCOs are financial institutions that function similarly to credit unions in that they are primarily member-owned and provide competitive interest rates for savings accounts and loans to their members.

These institutions are particularly important for the approximately half million Kenyans living in the United States, who contribute about $1 billion in remittances to their homeland each year, according to Mr. Odembo.

Kenyan-Americans in cities like Atlanta can deposit money in various currencies into their SACCO accounts, which can be accessed by authorized users, often relatives, back home in Kenya.

Providing more ways to securely link the Kenyan diaspora financially to their homeland will pave the way for additional remittances, the ambassador said.

“When this SACCO is established and takes off, the remittances that have been coming from here before will be peanuts,” Mr. Odembo said. “This SACCO is probably going to be the most significant thing the Kenyan Diaspora does this year.”

The Kenyan minister of Cooperative Development and Marketing, Joseph Nyagah, unveiled the new logo for the newly registered SACCO, saying it was also an important step towards connecting the diaspora community with its homeland.

Atlanta marked the first stop on the delegation’s tour of the U.S., where it will be conducting compliance checks and gathering information on SACCOs nationwide.

The event at the Crowne Plaza was sponsored by the Association of Kenyan Professionals in Atlanta in conjunction with the Kenyan Diaspora Advisory Council.

Mr. Odembo has been a frequent visitor to Atlanta in recent months, bringing top officials from his country including Prime Minister Raila Odinga in April and Vice President Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka in May.

For more information on the AKPA, see http://www.akpa-atlanta.org.

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