Arthur M. Katabalwa | Diaspora Emigrants Should Not Be Afraid Returning To Uganda.

Posted September 25, 2015 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Diaspora Homecoming ~ 7,048 views


Mwenky UK

A few days ago I met up with a British man at one of the exclusive shopping malls in Uganda. He had contacted me through certain social media sites. We met up for a drink and he started telling me about what he was doing in the country. This man from Cornwall decided to move to Uganda six months ago to try out his luck in financial services management. I found it rather curious that here was a 25 year old Cornish man in Uganda, still dressed very much like one would expect a blue eyed business executive to be dressed on The Stand in London. Sharp suit and very clued on.

We had a chat and then to lighten up the mood, I shared my experiences with him about my travels in Cornwall, England. And we discovered that we both knew the same villages and towns. Even the rivers and the coves. I have stayed at a farm in Trelights and this man has spent a weekend at a hotel near this farm.

I asked him why he chose Uganda of all countries. And he told me it was due to the business opportunities here. Granted his expertise is looking after the finances of foreign residents in Uganda but he told me that Ugandans are also quickly having loads of investments outside and that was his main thrust in business. He also highlighted another major event; that at the moment, the number of Ugandans choosing to travel abroad compared to those returning will soon be less. And I agree with him.

When I returned to Uganda over a year ago, I found a country that has moved on way beyond what I had left nearly two decades ago. Thankfully I had been returning periodically but it is different to when you actually live here. Over the months I have been asked by many of my colleagues who still live abroad how I have managed to settle back so quickly. Even my friends in Uganda still ask if I am here to stay. A huge number of Ugandans abroad want to come back to Uganda but for so many reasons find that they are stuck in whichever country they are in. Well, here is my advice;

If one wants to come back to Uganda, put a date on your return which you cannot put off. Many people that I have spoken to when I have traveled back to the UK have no concrete dates. The excuse is that “We are still planning, saving enough money….” or something along those lines. If one is following that, more often than not that date will never arrive.

I once called a number of friends in Uganda while I was in the UK looking for some form of work. Peter Kasedde a businessman  and a very close friend of mine said that he would only look at offering me a job if I was in the country. I was mistakenly thinking that if I rang a few numbers and said that I had this particular kind of experience and I was calling from the UK they would jump at the chance. I am Managing a Media company in Uganda now and if I got such a call I would think one is being rather pretentious.

I have had another friend of mine berating me to get him a job before he moved to Uganda I said that the best bet is when one is on terra firma. He could not understand why I, a Ugandan, was not offering him a job on the plate after all he was calling from New York City with impeccable qualifications. I was frank with him. I said things didn’t work like that. You have to be in Uganda.

Some returnees make a mistake of thinking that they will come and recreate the conditions that they have left in whichever countries they live in here. I was again having a conversation with a man who wanted to relocate from London back to Kampala and he was complaining that the city had no pavements and no National Health Service (NHS). I nearly slapped him. When one is returning to Uganda, leave the UK at Heathrow. Leave the US at JFK. Leave Japan at Sapporo airport. Come back to Uganda and know that this is another country.

I have also been the victim of translating my expenditure in British Pounds to my financial detriment. Once I went out for a drink and I calculated that a pint of beer in Uganda cost 75 pence compared to the GBP2.30 that I was used to. So I indulged myself forgetting that my earning power is not the same in comparative terms. And that is at times translated into the long term where people start spending in Uganda like they would abroad. If my food bill was about GBP70 a week in the UK as a single man I would not be spending nearly UGX400000 at current rates. The problem is then thinking that your food bill is cheap because one has spent UGX150000 in Uganda which is equivalent to GBP27. If in the UK one is earning about GBP2000 gross on average per calendar month, the same job in Uganda will not pay nearly 12 million shillings a month gross. It will pay much less but then the cost of life is much lower. People who will do the same job will earn maybe even 30% less and then have a very comfortable life which would equate to one earning about GBP3000 gross in real terms. That is the cost of life. In investment terms figures I have from The Uganda Revenue Authority show that one will get a much higher return on their investment per dollar in Uganda.

Twenty years ago when I boarded that GulfAir flight on my initial adventure to the UK, my friends in Uganda were also preparing to go to University. On my return last year, they are Managing Directors of companies, Consultant Anesthetists, one is a Ministerial Permanent Secretary, members of the Judiciary, lectures and University Professors. That, if one is not of solid personal confidence, can be very intimidating. Yes, my friends that I was with all those years ago are in similar positions in the UK but when one returns to Uganda the sheer numbers can be frightening. I was sharing my thoughts with Simon Kaheru one of the leading media personalities in Kampala and he corrected me by saying that whereas I was also developed in my own way, it was in another country. No one is aware of it.

For the ladies returning can even be more daunting. Again depending on one’s age, if one left in the 1990s’ you will find that your associates and friends have moved on. Men in general can be more flexible with their time. I have found however that ladies will naturally head back home as soon as they are done with work. Ladies will not easily come out for a drink even if it is in a group. And then even after the tendency is to gravitate towards their husbands family. Now if you are a lady returning and you are beyond 40, your friends whom you left when they were in their 20s will not have any time for you. They will be looking and running round after a family that you don’t know about. She will have a husband you don’t know at all and will be engaging in activities now which when you left then, you considered archaic, like attending Mothers Union meetings.

We all had our reasons to emigrate to far off lands. But there is proof that even if it is a trickle at the moment of Ugandans coming back, this is a trend that is only increasing. There are many difficulties one will find when they return. Certainly the first few months will be horrendous but you will be home. My friend Paul Bagyenda lifted my spirits once when I was in a depressive mood. He said to me: “Arthur, this is home. This is Uganda. Remember here you are part of the establishment.” I have never looked back since. Let me hope that indigenous Ugandans also join in the search for other business opportunities here in Uganda just as that lad I spoke to from Cornwall.

Arthur M. Katabalwa is a Special Ugandan Diaspora News Correspondent based in Uganda (

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.


    Mike Joshua Wasike

    Thanxs alot for.sharing with the world some of your experiences. A word to.a wise man. …….. Webale nyo sebo

You must be logged in to post a comment.