The Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah has proposed action that deliberately aims to ensure government meaningfully supports the Ugandan diaspora.
There ought to be a mechanism through which the diaspora is incorporated in the government structure, for streamlined financial support, he said.
Oulanyah made the remarks Friday as chief guest at the opening of the Uganda UAE Expo Convention 2021 at Arjaan Rotana Hotel in Dubai Media City.
Themed ‘Connecting minds and seizing opportunities to create the future’, the expo is part of the ongoing Dubai expo and brought together Ugandans living in Dubai, government representatives and other players.
Alluding to the theme, the Speaker borrowed a quote from Leonard Ravenhill, saying “The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized within the lifetime of the opportunity”.
He said opportunities keep shifting thus every individual must exploit the networks, people and discussions such as annual conventions, for their benefit and that of Uganda as a country.
Oulanyah highlighted the need for a support system – in terms of policy, funding, laws and institutions – back home that can facilitate the individual aspirations of the Ugandan diaspora.
“Is there a system in Uganda that can hold your hand as you walk out of Uganda in search of opportunities. To support you, look after you and guide you. Is it there?” Oulanyah wondered, during his speech.
He underscored the impact of the diaspora on the Ugandan economy, citing the remittances sent back home annually, saying it is important to create a synergy through which government supports the diaspora activities.
“The structures within the central government and local government are clear. In the case of the diaspora, you have conventions on trade, investment, business and culture. How does the government structure finance these kinds of activities?”
Adding; “We have Ugandan North American Association (UNAA) and each year Uganda gives what? $50,000? That’s it. I don’t know how much is given for the Dubai convention. Maybe $20,000? But this comes through some informal arrangement. Can we formalize this? Can we deliberate in how we deal with our people in the diaspora?”
Speaking at the same event, Uganda’s Ambassador to the UAE, Zaake Wanume Kibedi, too noted that the Ugandan mission in UAE has been mobilizing Ugandans there to get involved in the development back home. Annual Uganda-UAE conventions are part of this mobilization.
Beyond investments from Ugandans there, UAE has been a key trade partner with Uganda over the years with this trade valued at $1.85bn per annum. UAE is Uganda’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and Gulf region.
In his presentation on the Role of Parliament in Facilitating Diaspora participation in National Development, the Speaker explained how the three pillars of the State – Parliament, Executive and Judiciary – serve Ugandans including those living outside Uganda.
“Parliament and the Executive deal with laws, policies and budgets. The laws that they deal with are supposed to manage all citizens of Uganda whether in Uganda or outside Uganda. You (the diaspora) are supposed to know these laws and policies. How they affect you, how they facilitate you,” he told attendees at the Expo.
To the business community, Oulanyah appealed to them to utilize the alternative processes of dispute resolution such as litigation, arbitration, conciliation and settlement, in order to avoid lengthy court procedures that often affect business.
He challenged the Ugandan diaspora in Dubai to reflect on why they left Uganda, the opportunities that lie back home and the networks they have individually created in Dubai and whether they are better off in Dubai than home and what they have done for Uganda.