KAMPALA — Senior Presidential Advisor on Diaspora Affairs Ambassador Abbey Walusimbi has met and held talks with a number of government ministries and departments charged with supervising labour externalization in Uganda.
The high-level meeting held on Tuesday, March 15 at Presidents Office in Kampala brought together officials from Office of the President, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bank of Uganda, private operators and was graced by Defence Minister Jacob Oboth Oboth.
President Museveni recently tasked Walusimbi to disperse mafias from the labour externalization — using his experience of over 30 years in diaspora affairs—including benchmarking from other countries who are doing well in the same.
Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of the engagement, Ambassador Walusimbi said the meeting, chaired by senior presidential advisor on youth, Ruth Nakiwala Kiyingi, sought to disperse brokers and non compliant actors from the industry.
“We must not allow corruption to encroach this sector but instead be Ugandans first before any personal gain. We must work together and lead by example by guiding the process of recruitment and training,” he said.
Walusimbi who reports to President Museveni directly on diaspora related matters said his office is taking lead in mitigating the issues arising from the Middle East in the process of externalisation of labour in a bid to prevent bad propaganda about these countries which are planning to also open up for Ugandans professional jobs as part of addressing the high levels of unemployment amongst youth.
This, he said, will spur remittances from the Diaspora to government hence lessening the Uganda’s dependence on foreign aid to sustain national budget.
“Let us all positively acknowledge that our children abroad are helping their parents build descent homes, they are buying their own land, building private schools, hospitals, and catering for our economy through trade by exporting products into Europe, USA, Canada, Middle East and Asia, but above all, their exposure to a different and fast paced economic environment has engrained in them a spirit of hard work and resilience which in turn has helped them become better people,” Ambassador Walusimbi said adding that:
“Countries like Ghana have ripped big through engaging their diaspora and creating favourable investment opportunities for them, why can’t mama Uganda do the same?”
“Government is not going to sit back and let its citizens be sacrificed during the course of fighting for achieving their dreams.”
He urged all responsible MDA’s charged with supervising the signing of MOU’s with foreign companies to ensure that the rights of Uganda migrant workers are protected and can be followed up.
“We all must work together to make sure our Diaspora are safe not just in the Gulf or Middle East but everywhere they are on planet earth”, he noted, adding all efforts are underway to ensure that all Ugandans living and working abroad are facilitated to invest back home”.
It was noted during the meeting that hundreds of Ugandans living and working from abroad struggle to access vital public services and entitlements as they lack digital identity cards, seven years after they were introduced.
Government data shows that upto over 50,000 Ugandans diaspora did not have a biometric identity card in 2020
Ms. Rosemary Kisembo the NIRA Executive Director confirmed that the authority has over the past three years faced financial constraints hence, failing to serve Ugandans abroad.
“Even for the next financial year, the budget for registration of Ugandans abroad was cut by 100%. As we plan to register and offer services to Ugandans in diaspora, in physical terms, for the 70,000 Ugandans in Dubai will not be registered for IDs and cannot open a bank account or own land. It is important these synergies are felt everywhere,”Kisembo said.
More than 20 million digital ID cards – which are needed to open a bank account, buy a mobile SIM card, start formal employment, get a passport or a student loan – have been issued since they were introduced in 2014, government data shows.
At the same meeting, Post Bank officials said they have challenges having Ugandans in diaspora open up bank accounts since it can only be done using national IDs, many of which don’t have them.
On his part Brig. Johnson Namanya, the Commissioner for Citizenship and Passport Control the Ministry of Internal Affairs said that the Ministry has opened up several passport centres to ensure the citizens apply and receive their documents without necessarily returning back home as it was before.
Namanya said that many passport centres will be opened in many foreign missions as a way of extending passport services to them.