Diaspora Stories | Speech By Mr. James Aguma – Chief Financial Officer, South Africa Broadcasting Corporation – SABC As Presented At The Diaspora Gala 2015 Edition

Posted January 11, 2016 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Inspiration ~ 5,196 views



On Wednesday December 30th – The Ugandan Diaspora Network held its 5th annual Ugandan Diaspora Social Networking gala. The keynote speech was delivered by Mr. James R. Aguma – Chief Financial Officer of Africa’s Largest Public Broadcast Network – SABC Television. Below is the full speech of his remarks as delivered at Kampala Serena Hotel at the end of last year!

The Vice President of Uganda; The Hon. Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi,

Ms Victoria Sekitoleo; Former Director and Representative UN- FAO.
The Patron of this Forum; Dr Maggie Kigozi,
The Event Planner; Mr Ronnie Mayanja;
The leadership of the sponsoring companies & organisations
Distinguished guests ; citizens & friends of Uganda.

I am sincerely honored to be here and feel specially blessed to be given an opportunity to give the key note address.

These opportunities don’t come easy & for a simple person to get chosen out of the blue is refreshing.

For those who doubt the value of this opportunity need only to ask any politician who is vying for an elective post next year who in addition to his/ her arm would offer for this platform!

Ugandans are renown for their competence to sustain long speeches and this very venue has produced pictorial evidence of audiences that had succumbed to the power of sleep due to these speeches.

I am mindful that we are in the festive season and the appetite for speeches is low. i promise to keep mine short.

It’s not by accident that this country that we cherish, is the only one in the world named after a precious piece of jewellery – a pearl.

Natural pearls by their nature are created by oysters and have to be extracted from rough seas which explains why they are rare & valuable gems.

Uganda has had its fair share of tough & may i add ,rough political & social economic seas.

The oyster in which this pearl, that Uganda is, is in seas that are calming down & the oyster holding this gem  is in our sights.

I imagine that this forum is a powerful and focused one amongst others that is endeavoring to extract this valuable gem.

It’s not a secret that this country in slowly progressing. there is evidence of development of infrastructure  essential to support the journey from poverty to prosperity.

What probably needs to be agreed upon is the nature, pace format, distribution,  necessity & financing of these infrastructure  developments.

I have not been resident in Uganda for 23 years save for the occasional visit once a year. the Uganda i left is different from the one we find ourselves in today.

One is struck by developments in all facets of society. as mentioned the physical infrastructure ; societal makeup; culture; media diversity  & the nature of  politics have changed.

To the residents of the country these developments may not be apparent as they are to Ugandans who live abroad.

These developments beg a number of questions to some of us who live elsewhere;

  1. What do these changes mean and what opportunities & risks do they represent?
  2. What are the characteristics, systems,  attributes and success factors that make our chosen countries of aboard work & appear successful.
  3. Are these characteristics, systems and success  factors teachable and are they transferable ?
  4. Why are Ugandans and friends of Ugandans who have lived and studied in these countries , some even earning advanced degrees, unable to transfer their learnings in a coherent manner to effect meaningful change on the ground?
  5. Are they local factors, social, cultural, economic & political; that prohibit this transfer? if yes what are they & are they insurmountable?
  6. What is governments resolve in trying to tap on this wealth of knowledge and how honest is government in trying to utilize these learnings?
  7. Is governments resolve reflected in policies that manifest attributes of coherence ?
  8. Why are Ugandans here & abroad more prominent in the formal job market but less apparent in business?


These questions have bugged me and continue to do so.

I have answers to some but i will leave you to ponder, deliberate and develop answers to the rest.

  1. The Ugandan population is youthful. 78%, i’m informed are below the age of 35 years. they are i.c.t. savvy & cosmopolitan in outlook.

They are basically restless. left to their own devices they are  or should be any governments planners nightmare. the future of the country should be planned around the aspirations of this group. their views must be incorporated in the planning regime of government.

Some in this room can relate to this situation. many  left Uganda as a result of itchy feet & hopelessness then that lined the horizon.

Uganda must exploit the strengths of this group & people in the diaspora  of citizens & friends.

Service based sectors such as tourism; the arts; software development & call centres are not capital intensive but can create opportunities for entrepreneurship & job creation.

We have one Kidepo; one Bwindi; one source of the Nile etc. they just must be exploited creatively SABCs reach on the continent can assist in this endeavor.

Government must endure the pain of testing existing policies for coherence. are policies consistent with economic objectives along the spectrum of  whole value chains e.g. tourism.

Do tourism policies correlate or align  with others to allow okello of gulu; mukwaya of entebbe, & mugisha of kabale  earn a slice of Mr. Trumps dollars when he visits Uganda?

Are air transport; visa office; road sector; health systems; security formations; media & marketing; education sector; banking; hospitality etc singing from the same hymn book?

It’s interesting to note that i’m a Ugandan but my kids strangely enough will remain South African until they reach 18 years.this is a strange arrangement that may alienate our kids from identifying with Uganda from an early age.

South Africa where i’m based is an expert in this kind of policy coordination. dual citizenship doesn’t come with counterproductive qualifications.

Economic & political objectives are clarified & distilled to transparent and understandable action plans devoid of ambiguity which promotes accountability in the long run.

  1. I don’t have answers to why Ugandans who are highly educated locally and internationally are unable or even unwilling to transfer those attributes that drive their host countries. without sounding like a genuine Sangoma, not the red pepper kind,  i suspect it might lie in leaderships tone from the top.

If the tone from the top doesn’t relay a message of strict accountability, meritocracy and a deliver or disappear philosophy; then these educated Ugandans may wither in frustration , or worse still join the legion of ” wise guys” who reap where didn’t sow.

Rwanda next door and Botswana & South Africa are cases in point.

South Africa you may not know is rated top in accounting & auditing practices. it’s banking sector is one of the most advanced in the world.  South Africa was untouched by the global  banking meltdown of 2008 for this reason. i know about 10 chartered accountants from Uganda practicing their trade there.  many more must be scattered all over the world.


Ugandans should praise themselves frequently. Chinua Achebe in things fall apart described the lizard that decided to jump from from a tall iroko tree because it wanted reasons to praise itself. i will borrow from the lizard. i left 3 Ugandans in managerial positions at the Attorney General’s Office in South Africa. By the way we excelled in procurement audits because of Ugandans creativeness in this area. we must also celebrate achievements for example the Vice President is from St Mary’s College & so is Keith Kalyegira who is CEO of the Capital Markets Authority. i will also praise my self as an ex student of St. Mary’s College if no body else will !

  1. At the end of the day people want answers to what they claim is my success.  it’s basically determination; extreme  focus; education; going the extra mile at times; overdose of luck & mark this one – ensuring that you prepare your peers to take your job. the last one is the most important. it directly put me where i am. the kind selflessness of Mr. Mandela takes one a long way.
  2. South Africa is open for investors. mining & property assets are cheap. private equity funds can be created to acquire assets to diversify investments and also acquire companies to assist the local economy.

SABC is also waiting for you to advertise on its channels. SA has the largest number of USD millionaires on the continent and targeted advertising can endear this group to Uganda.

  1. To conclude, successful entities be it  companies or governments will survive or perish if visionary leadership is lacking. if policy clarity and coherence is absent. if naturing of talent is more of an accident than an outcome of deliberate action & if those most affected by policy decisions are left out of its development.
  2. The people of Uganda – that is you and your parents & those of Lesotho & South Africa should be the ones honored for the person that i am. the education, abode, opportunities and all else that they gave is what made me who i am.

To them i’m. eternally grateful. thanks


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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