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Diaspora Feedback | Open Letter To The Right Honourable Speaker Of Uganda’s Parliament – Professor Fred Walemba

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Posted September 27, 2012 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Featured ~ 3,805 views

     

Your Right Hounarable Rebecca Kadaga

It was a great pleasure meeting with you at the Ugandan convention in London a few weeks ago and for the brief discussion we had together to discuss how the Government of Uganda can help many ugandans in the Diaspora take great interest in the development of our Government of Uganda. I would like to thank you for having presented on the investment opportunities for Ugandans abroad. I am so glad to see what the Government is doing in attracting the ugandans abroad to invest in Uganda.

However, as you will have noticed during the convention, there are so many issues that the Government of Uganda needs to address if the government strategy to attract Ugandans in the diaspora to invest home.

1. Dual Nationality – I am not sure if the Government is aware that there is over 1.5 million Ugandans in the Diaspora. Many of these Ugandans possess impressive educational and professional qualifications and contribute significantly to the development of Uganda in diverse fields including medicine, business, science, technology, religion and education. During the many presentations that the government ministers and officials presented during the convention, it became very clear to many of us that the Government of Uganda urgently needs Ugandans in the Diaspora to return back home as the Government needs their transferable skills.

Over the years, Ugandans have left for green pastures to provide better lifestyles for their families causing brain drain issues as uganda has lost of expertise that is greatly needed. This trend might not change if the Government does not do something about it as medical doctors, teachers, nurses remain underpaid and yet the most needed resource for the development of Uganda.

The Diaspora Human Capital could creat huge value for the government if they are given incentives and the protection they need to return to Uganda. One of such incentive would be that as the government celebrates the 50 years of independence, I would like to propose through your office as Speaker of Parliament that the application fees for dual citizenship be waived for all Ugandans abroad who hold other foreign nationalities as a gift for their contributions to the economic development of Uganda.

Uganda needs the Ugandans abroad as it plans for its next 50 years. This will help many Ugandans abroad to consider returning back to Uganda to take part in the economic development of their country and it will facilitate the knowledge transfer that is greatly needed in Uganda and the wealth they have with them to creat employment for the youth currently unemployed but also act as role models for the young people to restore values amongst the youth in Uganda. The government cannot be asking the Ugandans in the Diaspora to return but then ask them to pay $400 per person returning back to Uganda as a welcome token. You cant have your cake and eat it.

2. Incentives to Investors – Ugandans feel that alot of emphasis in recent years by the government has been to attract more foreign investors which has its own implications. For example, some of the investors that have been allowed into the country from China, India, Nigerians and Europeans are seen in Uganda setting up shops to sell hosehold goods that any Ugandan with no formal qualification can do – all in the name of foreign investment.

There are so many bogus investors flocking into Uganda and taking advantage of poor ugandans with no much value added to the economy of Uganda. Whereas foreign investors are necessary for the economic development of a country in the short term, what the government of Uganda needs to realise is that Uganda will only be developed by Ugandans in the years to come.

The government needs to value also the Ugandan Diaspora as it is not wise for a developing country to heavilly depend on foreign investors. Currently, the government seems to be puting more value to foreign investors and giving them more incentives than the local Ugandan investors. This needs to be reviewed by the government and scrutinise the kinds of investors being allowed into the country.

3. Protection – For the Ugandans abroad to return back to Uganda and participate in the economic development of the country, they need to be protected together with their interests. Many Ugandans who return to Uganda end up returning back abroad as many of them end up with no help from the government to resettle when they return. Many Ugandans in the diaspora find the rule of law in Uganda lacking as the enforcement of the law is in question.

The practicing lawyers in Uganda seem to be more business men than doing what they are trained to do as they compromise with the law to rob many of the Ugandan returnees making many of us loosing all we have worked for in the years we have been abroad. The government of Uganda needs to do something urgently to restore the glory of the law profession and its enforcement. The government needs to ensure that they can protect those who return and their investments just as they protect the foreign investors.

4. Right to Vote – The Ugandans in the diaspora should be be allowed by Parliament to vote as this will offer diasporas access to their home country’s political decisions and to also have their specific interests represented. many countries have already approved this type of model of voting to take place. It is the government duty to try and get all Ugandans abroad known through their registeration with Ugandan Embassies abroad for this purpose.

5. Land and property rights – Diasporas who have lost their citizenship or their spouse who are not Ugandans should have the right to buy land and property under freehold. Currently in Uganda, only citizens have have land ownership rights. Ofcourse, if the issue of dual citizenship is now resolved as mentioned above and encourage many Ugandans abroad to apply for dual citizenship for free, more Ugandans will be protected to own valuable assets in Uganda that are key to economic development as they will increase foreign exchange inflows of capital.

6. Nominate a Diaspora representative at the Presidential Investors Round Table (PIRT) as more emphasis needs to be put on Diaspora investment and encouraging them in tapping into the available opportunities which will promote more FDI.

7. Diaspora MP – Diasporas should have a representative in the parliament, hence Diaspora MP for their voice to be heard and to envolve them in the decision making of the new laws of Uganda that affect them such as the Dual Citizenship Act which should have been good to involve all Ugandans in the Diaspora to safeguard their interests.

8. Create Opportunities – Ugandans living and working abroad have accumulated savings that could benefit the country economically in a significant way. Money invested back home by the Diaspora brings in much needed foreign exchange; it can substancially reduce Uganda’s dependence on aid and minimise the external debt burden. Therefore, Government needs to identify and promote investment opportunities that will attract the Diaspora to invest their savings in Uganda.

In addition, the government should creat job opportunities to attract the ugandans in the Diaspora as most of them are ready to return and work in the development of Uganda. When we hear praises for distinguished people in Uganda such as Mrs Jennipher Musisi, it leaves us thinking in our minds that there are hundreds of Ugandans in the Diaspora who can do as much for Uganda if only they are given opportunity to do so. Those who have stayed abroad are hardworking, resilient and possibly the best work force that Uganda can find.

Finally, Over the years, the money that Ugandans in the Diaspora send back home has grown dramatically. Last year, Ugandans got $694 millions in remittences from Ugandans abroad which was about 25% of Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product and the highest foreign exchanger earner for Uganda. By the end of 2012, this figure is will grow to $773 according to the world Bank reports. This means that Ugandans abroad are able to raise 25% of Uganda’s national budget and almost equal to the amount of money contributed by donors to Uganda’s budget, which is less than 30%.

It is against this background that the Government of Uganda should think seriously of creating a Ministry of Diaspora to represent and advocate for policies affecting the Diaspora as great contributors to the Ugandan economy. It is time for government of Uganda take lessons from other countries such as Ethiopia, India, Ghana and Nigeria and see how these governments are handlng the Diaspora issues to formulate the Diaspora policy that will aim at increasing Diaspora involvement in the economic development of Uganda for the next 50 years. Ghana has already set up the Diaspora Ministry which has already produced fruits for the governrmnt of Ghana in working with its Diaspora abroad.

Thank so much for taking time to read my reccomendations in this email that I hope you will be able to consider our pleas as Ugandans abroad as the country celebrate the 50 years of independence and make new strategies for the future of Uganda.

Kind regards

Professor Fred Walemba

fwalemba@hotmail.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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