This week I had the opportunity to have a chat with Dr. Richard Wamai for the latest installment in our Diaspora at Work (DAW) series. Dr. Wamai is a Kenyan Diaspora working in global health policy and health systems with a specific focus on HIV/AIDS and the poverty dimension. After getting his Ph.D. in Finland, Dr. Wamai did a post-doc at Harvard School of Public Health.
In my continuing conversations with members of the Diaspora, I am beginning to be astounded by the human and intellectual capacity the continent has access to within the Diaspora. I am constantly filled with a sense of pride by our contributions to business, academia and development sectors, to name a few. Our stories may not always make the evening news or even make a blip in the international wires, but behind the scenes we are doing great things. In order for us to make bigger strides in strengthening our bond with the continent, we must begin with these conversations. There’s so much to tell, so many stories, so many brilliant minds working inside and outside the continent.
Dr. Wamai, to me, is one such luminary that I’d like to highlight in this new episode of Diaspora at Work (DAW). Thoughts on the reaspora, global health, remittances, MDGs, Kenya’s Diaspora, the state of education in Kenya are among some of the topics we covered in this short episode. I’ll tell you though, it is quite intimidating talking to a highly qualified PhD., but Dr. Wamai weathered my curiosities very well with his cunning insight and vision.
One of the more interesting nuggets in our conversation dealt with Diaspora remittances. Dr. Wamai’s idea for greater Diaspora participation in Africa’s development was to incentivize remittances by providing tax write-offs. I think there’s a wider conversation that should be had on this topic. What would happen, for example, if the United States decided to cut bilateral funding to African states receiving more than $1 billion a year in remittances? Instead, provide tax deductions to members of the Diaspora to increase their participation in the development of their own country. Obviously there are consequences to such a drastic move, but coupled with other shifts in policy, this strategy could work (most importantly: the political will to do so). Are we ready for this level of self-reliance? What impact does this have to our development, governance, and sustainability?
What do you guys think? I am looking forward to your thoughts. Of course, comments on his other thoughts (which are also filled with nuggets of brilliance) are also welcome. Kenya should be proud of this son. Here’s to hoping his continued contributions in the global health arena, in particular HIV/AIDS will lead to major break-throughs.