Community, Diaspora and Immigration
10 Tips for Ugandan Diaspora Moving Back Home to Rebuild the Pearl of Africa
There are over a million Ugandans estimated to be living in the Diaspora. They are dispersed across Europe, United States, Dubai, South Africa, Asia, and Scandinavia to name a few. Many of them left due to personal or political reasons but the determining factor was living for a good life.
It is very important for us to evaluate our being here and reflect on what our expectations were when we landed on this promising land. Have we achieved all our goals? Regardless of our answers, there are even more opportunities and dividends to achieve by looking now at Uganda as another promising land.
1. Take a trip
Don’t just pack up and decide to move back with your family tomorrow. It is a big decision that involves many repercussions, both good and bad. Especially for those of you who haven’t been back home in many years, it’s imperative to go on an exploration trip. Exploration involves two aspects: vacationing and business oriented. So make sure you know the purpose of the trip before you go so you’re prepared. On that trip, travel, explore and ask questions. You’ll be surprised to hear what people are saying.
2. Leverage experience
The major advantage you will have over those who never left Uganda and what makes you competitive is your ‘first world’ experience. We live in a globalized economy and Uganda is not secluded from it, even though we try so hard at times to do so. So, once you move back, utilize positive business and professional practices from IT, Health-care, Engineering etc to help your peers be a step ahead. Uganda needs and will be part of the global economy and that involves intellectual and visionary leaders.
3. Do your homework
So everyone is into real estate. It’s easy to be convinced but Kampala is full of trickster waiting for novices in the business. Do your homework in this respect and ensure you partner with someone who has experience in the business. Make sure you undertake a serious opportunity analysis to decide which profession or business you want to start up. If not, you might find yourself very quickly wasting time, resources and capital.
4. Get a job or shadow someone
Not everyone is skilled to simply jumping right into the economy and make money immediately, especially after a long absence. I advise to get a job for at least 1-2 years. It will help you get acclimatized to the environment, meet new people and discover loopholes in the system. Or if you really hate working for someone, shadow one of your successful uncles or aunts. You know the ones I’m talking about!
5. Network, Network, Network
We do it a lot here in the West. Why? Simply because it brings business, customers, extends your contact list and you also might learn a thing or two. Once you move back, try and start a small monthly club for doctors or whatever profession you’re in. The group may consist of those who came from the Diaspora or those who have been in the trenches for a while.
6. Be Innovative
We are so tired of ‘mini – me’ or ‘get rich quick’ schemes in Uganda. If the economies of the USA, Switzerland and Canada were built on a herd mentality, I don’t think they would have been sustainable in the long term. This mentality is short-term and short-sighted. We need visionaries who are creative and build transformative products and services that positively influence Ugandans and put us on the map. Don’t look too far for these successes, look at Simba Telecom of Bitature and M-PESA in Kenya.
7. Keep up to date
Make sure you remain relevant. Uganda can be a cocoon at times, but that doesn’t mean you need to be sheltered. Do your best to frequently read, travel and attend conferences/trade shows in Uganda and around the world. The vast experience and knowledge you bring shouldn’t go to waste. By doing so, you keep ahead of the competition and industry peers.
8. When in Rome, do as the Romans do (somewhat…..)
Those of us who come from the Diaspora tend to believe we’re more knowledgeable and “cooler” than everyone who stayed in Uganda. The answer is NO. In fact, those who stayed are more likely to be a success in Uganda after enduring so much struggle and strife. I believe taking advice continuously from those who are more aware of existing practices is crucial to begin with. (I’m not advising you to take or give out bribes, but you get the general picture!) However, coupled with this, working to introduce some new skills and procedures that you learnt overseas will be key to the continuous improvement for your organisation – sharing and collaboration is always necessary for long term success.
9. Focus on Business
If you’re interested in starting a real estate business or building the next eBay for Uganda, staying close to the needs of the customer is crucial. In Africa, we tend to ignore our customers, and focus on cutting down costs. Firstly, I believe the next generation of successful African entrepreneurs will be those who pay close attention to the changing needs of our people. This is a population who is increasingly becoming educated and more affluent. Secondly, we tend to fanaticize about politics, when we all know very well that none of us will become a politician. So unless you want to be one, my advice is to stay out of politics. Work to add value, be efficient and create innovative and scalable businesses, and leave politics for politicians!
10. Give back
Once you have moved back and with time, things will starting looking up, it will alos be time to think of giving back. For example, your business starts to rake in millions a year or you’re promoted to be the MD of a new Equity fund company. I say to you congratulations!
You’ve now succeeded at what you came back home for. However, did you bother to take a look around you? Take a look and what do you see? Street kids, beggars, orphans, dilapidated roads, broken street lights, schools without books, the list goes on…. I think you got my point.
Do your best to give back to society because they need it more than you do. Let’s not sit in our multimillion dollar homes when across the town there are people in shacks starving. Let’s not be foolish and zig-zag our Mercedes around “dam sized” potholes that only need some sand or cement to fix. Be a positive influence and active community leader. If we all do this, we will collectively build a better nation for generations to come.