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The Monitor Newspaper – Uganda needs strategic national Diaspora development policy

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Posted July 11, 2012 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Business ~ 3,387 views

     

At least 10 per cent of Uganda’s population of 30 million live and work abroad. This translates into a formidable engine of direct foreign exchange remittances to lubricate the country’s development machinery. According to the World Bank and Bank of Uganda data, remittances by Ugandans in the Diaspora in 2006 totalled $845 million, or 9.3 per cent of Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This amount rose by 17.7 per cent to 914 million in 2010 and jumped to nearly $2 billion in 2011 as reflected in the 2012/13 Budget.

These remittances have gone a long way to keep children in schools with the ever increasing cost of higher education, put food on table for many families when drought has diminished harvests, provided life-line healthcare to millions, and erected decent houses.

Whereas Uganda’s politicians and technocrats only tend to highlight importance of remittances by Diaspora citizens during run-up to elections when they need funds for their political campaigns and during reading of national budgets, the country lacks a strategic national Diaspora development policy.

Notwithstanding Ugandans’ derogatory label of her Diaspora folks as ‘nkuba kyeyos (street sweepers), Kenya values her Diaspora citizens’ contribution to her national development process so much that it has a comprehensive national Diaspora policy. Kenya’s Foreign Affairs ministry coordinates the National Diaspora Council of Kenya, which also includes Labour, Planning, Finance, Tourism, Trade and Education Ministries, besides Central Bank and representatives of Kenyan Diaspora Communities. According to the World Bank, Kenyans abroad remitted back home Kshs151.2 billion ($1.8 billion), or 5.4 per cent of its GDP in 2010.

Likewise, countries such as El Salvador, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Nepal, the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka embrace their Diaspora citizens enough for these countries to issue Diaspora bonds. Diaspora bonds are one of the ways for developing countries to borrow development funds from their expatriates living and working abroad. These bonds are a powerful tool to mitigate Balance of Payments (BOP) shortfalls. Uganda registered a negative BOP of $1.21 billion against $4.1 billion exports of goods and services and $5.31 billion imports in the last fiscal year.

Against this background, Uganda’s lukewarm attitude towards her Diaspora citizens is exacerbated by the entrenched ‘dog-eat-dog’ culture that pits brothers against sisters, sons-in-law against fathers-in-law, fathers against sons and friends against friends. I have lost count of acrimonious stories where Diaspora Ugandans who try to establish development projects back home have been ripped off by their own blood and kin.

Truth is some of these stoic and shrewd players actually cold-heartedly take photos of other peoples’ homes under construction and send them abroad to justify the tens of thousands dollars and pounds sent for these projects.

I have seen copies of fake land titles sent to several victims in the US. These rip-off cases are endless, but some of the victims have now resolved to fight their tormentors through legal means with help of police.

The audacity that morphs Ugandans into human leeches clearly manifests the rotten business and moral ethics so pervasive in the country’s social and moral fabric. The practice now discourages some potential Diaspora folks to invest back home. Ethical behaviour nurtures trust and confidence in any business transaction at all levels. This is where a strategic national Diaspora development policy/body comes in. Surely, we can emulate what Kenya is already doing with the line ministries to ameliorate these practices.

To bolster the strategic national Diaspora development stakeholders’ body, representatives from Kampala Capital City Authority, Uganda Investment Authority, National Housing Corporation and regional land boards should be presented. Diaspora citizens would then go through this organ to channel their development projects in the respective parts of the country. Transparency should be this organ’s beacon to demystify the systemic moral decay.
Additionally, if government can borrow from the National Social Security Fund, I see no reason why it cannot issue Diaspora Bonds to Ugandans abroad for foreign exchange inflows. It is a win-win strategy where the bond issuer, the government, closes BOP gap and bond buyers, the Diaspora expatriates, confidently and patriotically invest in their country’s development process.

Mr Asedri is a medical information technologist, San Diego, California, USA.
dikumvi@gmail.com


About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

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