Like many African governments, the government of Uganda has demonstrated that it recognises the enormous part that the Diaspora can and does play in Africa’s development.
A number of initiatives have been put into place for which the policy makers can be justly praised.
For all that however, much more remains to be done in policy terms to remove the many barriers that remain in the way of Ugandans in Diaspora playing a full role in the development of their motherland.
The Uganda Convention UK will convene this roundtable discussion, and is profoundly grateful to the policy makers who have agreed to give their time to exchange ideas with members of the Diaspora.
This roundtable discussion will be a rare opportunity to put some of the challenges that stand in the way of full Diaspora engagement to the policy makers, who it is hoped will take the views expressed back to government for discussion and where possible implementation.
This is also a great opportunity for members of the Diaspora to discuss with policy makers how a Diaspora advocacy channel can be established, through which communication between government and the Diaspora will continue to flow, long after the Convention has wound up for another year.
A channel of communication is essential, for while the roundtable discussion can be an important start to looking the many issues that call for policy makers’ attention, it can only be the beginning of the process. Among the issues to be discussed will be:
- The much delayed implementation of dual citizenship.
- Incentives for Ugandans who wish to invest in their homeland, but, are deterred by what for most of them are prohibitive financial hurdles.
- The bar against Ugandan holders of foreign passports fromowning mailo/freehold land in their homeland, and many others.
Ugandans are estimated to remit around $800million per annum to their country of origin. Money however is not the only asset that Diaspora Ugandans have to offer, if policy makers can remove the all too many barriers to full participation in Uganda’s development.
For instance the failure to implement dual citizenship is denying a wide array of skilled Ugandans, from doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, social workers, builders, the list is endless.
We know that small businesses are the engine of any economy.
The failure to implement preferential policies for Diaspora Ugandans wishing to invest in the country is denying Uganda of potentially hundreds, if not thousands of small business start ups every year.
At the moment, to gain any incentive, a Uganda is treated just like any other investor, and he or she has to show $100,000, before accessing incentives for investors.
This is an amount that is beyond most Diaspora Ugandans. Furthermore it is a policy that fails to take into account that small business can be and have been started for as little as a few thousands, even a few hundreds.
It should be possible for Ugandans to:
- Be encouraged with preferential incentives to invest in their country of origin, regardless of the amount of money in their account.
- Be able to buy land in their country of origin, regardless of the nationality of the passport they hold, if they can prove their Ugandan parentage. Or at the very least they should be able to count on a quick implantation of dual citizenship.
To quote William Mutenza the driving force behind the Uganda Convention, “Government has shown that it has the vision to see the potential for development in engaging the Diaspora, now that vision has to be turned into action, by addressing all the issues that continue to make it difficult for the Diaspora to play the part that they and the government would like to see them play”.
Among parliamentarians to participate in the discussion;
- Honourable A. Aporu Christine, Minister for Teso Affairs
- Honourable Ernest Kiiza, Minister of State for Bunyoro Affairs
- Hon Cecilia Ogwal, the Oppositional Chief Whip
- Wafula Oguttu, Leader of Opposition in Parliament
- Nekesa Barbara Oundo, Minister of state for Karamoja Affairs
- Kataike Sarah Ndoboli, Minister of State for Luwero Triangle
- Kasamba Mathias, Chairperson- Parliament Committee on Agriculture…
- Rebecca AmugeOtengo, Minister of State Northern Uganda Rehabilitation
Story by: Vincent Gasana
A journalist and programme maker