The diaspora could vote in 2022 if the government wanted them to—Michael Joseph

Technology is available that could allow Kenyans in the diaspora to vote in the next General Elections through Safaricom, the telco’s Chairman Michael Joseph has said.

While speaking on The Echo Chamber Podcast, Mr. Joseph said that Safaricom has the capacity and systems to see diaspora voting come to be.

“Technically, of course we can do it. There is no problem; I think it could be done,” the Safaricom board chair stated.

However, he recalled an instance in the 2017 polls where the firm partnered with Kenya’s electoral agency, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and there were claims of vote rigging which damaged the reputation of the company.

Joseph opined that though Safaricom was not in any way culpable, some Kenyans boycotted its products on false accusations of interfering with the elections.

Nonetheless, he said mobile diaspora voting can be achieved by ensuring that the systems are well secured to avoid instances of double voting and maintaining the authenticity of a single voter.

Joseph disclosed that this is a conversation that is yet to start with the government, but expects it to come up before 2022 as Kenyans in the diaspora have shown interest in casting their vote.

Speaking of Safaricom’s partnership with Visa for the M-Visa, Joseph said that that it is yet to be launched.

“…basically, it hasn’t been launched yet, we’re waiting for permission to launch it but it is a deal where you get a visa card which is linked to M-Pesa,” he said.

With M-Visa, you can use the card to make international purchases and pay for goods abroad as long as your M-Pesa account is loaded. This would give Kenyans abroad the ability to spend their M-pesa balance on purchases anywhere in the world.

On Kenya Airways matter where he doubles up as the board chairman, Joseph remarked that Kenya’s national carrier is in a “very difficult financial situation”.

He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has left the airline in a bad state just like other national airlines in the world but for KQ, it was a bigger blow because it was still struggling financially pre-pandemic.

Not divulging much about an already drawn up recovery plan, he said that KQ will eventually get back on its feet without having to rely on Kenyan taxpayers for bailouts as has been the case in the recent past.

One of the strategies put in place involves increasing shareholding by the state and re-capitalization.

The second lockdown in some parts of Europe – London and France – have also hurt KQ’s operations as passenger capacity has gone down drastically. KQ had two weks ago said it is mulling suspending flights to London and France due to low passenger demand.

Addressing the question of the flopped direct flights to New York on October 30, Joseph said that there were massive cancellations from the US occasioned by America’s unfavourable “COVID-19 testing regime” which he described as very difficult.

One of the measures put by the Health Ministry in Kenya is that all passengers coming to Kenya must get a PCR-based COVID-19 test 72 hours before arrival which has proved to be a difficult requirement to meet for many travelers.