This resourcefulness that has been displayed by Diasporans necessitates the Government to design measures like extending them tax holidays or waivers for the different ventures they will invest in back home.
By Florence Kiremerwa
Asserting as a self-service delivery activist for the Diaspora and their advocate on matters regarding their plight requires highlighting the key concerns affecting them and requiring respective authorities to address them. The concerns of those in the Diaspora are enormous with the already established channels from the Government institutions and the private sector still need to intensify their efforts to solve these concerns.
I on behalf of the Diaspora, appreciate the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for working tirelessly in achieving some of its mandate, for example, driving the development, management and implementation of the National Diaspora Policy; the structuring of information and channels of communication with the Diaspora; providing assistance on overall integration of Diaspora in the development process of Uganda through structuring programmes to enable the Diaspora to invest in Uganda; the participation in national and international Diaspora initiatives and the co-ordination of Diaspora interests to ensure that they receive the desired attention, among others. However, I want to emphasise on the concern for co-ordination of Diaspora interests to ensure that they receive the desired attention.
To-date, the contribution of the Diaspora towards the socio-economic growth and development of Uganda is recognised, though a lot is still desired to reciprocate their input.
According to records, for instance, a good number of Ugandans live in cities such Boston in the US and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Whereas the ministry is incapacitated like any other government organ, one needs to examine further the requests by Ugandans living in these cities who have yearned for consular services for rather long a time.
For instance, in 2014, a Ugandan delegation met President Yoweri Museveni and in that particular meeting, he pledged for the consular office to be opened the subsequent 2015/16 financial year, unfortunately to-date, this has not been realised. Such services are a necessity for the Ugandans in the Diaspora such that their issues can be addressed as and when they arise. The community in Boston, Dubai and others, too, still await to have consular offices amidst them.
It should further be eminent that when the Government appoints such consular generals, engaging Ugandans who have lived in those cities would solve a lot of challenges the newcomers may face and fail to perform since the communities know them and this eases their responsibility for consultations. This will strengthen the relationship between the Ugandans in the Diaspora and the Government on as many issues as may be required of such officials.
The other mandate of the ministry is towards mobilisation of resources for Diaspora programmes. This has been achieved with the annual financial contribution to UNAA, which we appreciate regardless of the challenges with this input.
However, such initiatives need to be supplemented with other initiatives that may encourage those in the Diaspora to raise revenue and invest here, if not encourage their associates abroad to do so. This resourcefulness that has been displayed by Diasporans necessitates the Government to design measures like extending them tax holidays or waivers for the different ventures they will invest in back home.
The investment legal framework thus may need reviewing to accommodate Diasporians and motivate them. The Government gesture towards the Chinese being given tax holidays and free land to invest should also be stretched to these Diasporians.
Meanwhile, by way of motivating the Diaspora to invest home, the Government should strengthen its responsibility to ensure that the fraudsters (abafere) who fleece investors through the dubious ways be tamed. The law should take its course against such bafere and institute strict measures as a warning to those with similar sinister motives of fleecing investors willing to invest here and ultimately boost our economy.
In my mission to mobilise resources both financial and logistical just before the establishment of the Uganda Diaspora Awareness Centre (UDAC), the Government should be able to offer such land located in prime areas. For instance, plots in Kololo and Nakasero (eg, former Shimoni school premises) for the Diasporans (as has been done to Chinese), such that they donate towards the construction of the UDAC from their own contributions.
All such initiatives need a concerted effort from the Government and the private sector to have these issues addressed.
The writer is a special presidential assistant on Diaspora issues