KAMPALA – Government has lauded the contribution of Ugandan Community in United Arab Emirates for their continued contributions to nation al development.
Data sourced from Bank of Uganda indicates that in 2019, remittances earned Uganda $1.21b, boosted by receipts from labour exports to Middle East alone – becoming one of the biggest stock of labour opportunities and source of remittance.
Speaking during a follow up meeting with the executive leaders of Ugandans living and working in the United Arab Emirates, under their umbrella body, The Association of Ugandans living in United Arab Emirates (AUU), 3rd deputy Premier Hon. Rukia Nakadama said that the diaspora contributes to Uganda’s direct foreign investment and from Dubai, over $900m is received in remittances.
She noted that such a community needs government and reechoed President’s promise to support them with funds worth $100,000 in the community SACCO to be borrowed and used to set up small businesses in Dubai and a sum of $50,000 to support the association.
The meeting that was attended by the senior presidential advisor on diaspora affairs Amb. Abbey Walusimbi, Amb. Kibedi Zaake the Uganda Ambassador to UAE and other Ministers as well as Permanent Secretaries while the community leaders were led by their President, Ismail Ssebugwaawo.
On his part, Walusimbi said that the contribution of Ugandans living and working in UAE speaks for itself.
“In past few years your financial contributions back home have been estimated to close to 1billion dollars something that has greatly supported our economy. I trust that if we don’t let divisive politics eat our core, you can do more than this and we have faith in your hardwork and generous spirit to see Uganda at the top,” Walusimbi said, noting that the Dubai Expo is an opportunity for all Ugandans to showcase the uniqueness of the country’s natural resources, culture and good nature.
“All of you here are the first ambassadors of Uganda in this place. This is a chance for you to showcase what positively makes us inherent of the Pearl of Africa, your skills are unmatched and people here should know that having a Ugandan on their team is blessing,” Walusimbi said.
At the meeting, the Community President, Ismail Ssebugwaawo highlighted a number of challenges faced by the community members in Dubai which included; difficulty in renewing travel documents, mistreatment of laborers especially domestic workers, lack of a minimum wage among others.
“We are still requesting that government finalizes arrangement and negotiations with its counterparts in regard to the minimum wage. We also request that government sets up a shelter to house Ugandans in distress as well as setting aside a few tickets every months which can be used to repatriate Ugandans stranded in the foreign country,” Ssebugwaawo said.
In response, Nakadama noted that government is waiting form their counterparts to assign a focal person on the implementation of the minimum wage following an MOU that was signed in 2019 which had put the minimum wage at $1000 per month.
Amb. Walusimbi added that his office is working hand in hand with the different Government Agencies, Ministries and Department to come up with a Diaspora policy that will be instrumental in improving the plight of all Ugandans living and working abroad and this will entail easing access and renewal of travel documents.
At least an average of 12,000 Ugandans leave for the Middle East annually in search of employment, according to government data.
Data sourced from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, under which labour externalisation is supervised, indicates that the number of Ugandans seeking employment in the Middle East has been growing since 2010, becoming one of the biggest stock of labour opportunities and source of remittance.
For instance, according to a Ministry of Gender report, which highlights externalisation of labour between 2010 and April 2021, migrant workers, whose number stood at 9,967 in 2010 with majority of them going to Iraq, Afghanistan and United Arab Emirates, have grown three-fold, increasing to 28,233 by the end of April 2021.
The huge growth in 2021, which was captured just four months within the year, according to official data, was due to returnee migrant workers, who had sought to return to either complete their contracts that had been disrupted by the outbreak of Covid-19, or seek new employment opportunities.
However, there has since been a shift in the destination with majority now going to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Somalia also takes a substantial number, which in the last 12 years has grossed 3,445 migrant workers.