Flashback2017: Dr. Maggie Kigozi: What We Know About Diasporas and Economic Development
Prof Dr Maggie Kigozi, Chairman of the Board Zuri Model Farm Ltd.
Dr. Maggie Kigozi was one of the pioneers of establishers of diaspora support systems in Uganda. She addressed the audience by taking them back in history about the start of the diaspora recognition in Uganda. She recalled that they were referred to as Nkuba Kyeyo “sweeping” a dispiriting kind of context!
In 2000 through the Uganda Investment Authority, Maggie and her team decided to go to Boston where they met with an audience of Uganda Diasporas on the assumption that they were going to meet the so called Nkuba Kyeyo in order to find out where the so called money was coming from. They were sending reasonable amount of money. They were pleasantly surprised to find a room of people including vice chancellors, doctors, lawyers, professors and serious business people.
After the visit, on their return to Uganda the Uganda Investment Authority realised that these people ought to be treated right in order to build up on the opportunities. Some had left for political differences they felt the embassy was not friendly. They were more patriotic about USA than Uganda.
The Uganda Investment Authority worked on strategy with the assistance of the UNDP and the World Bank to streamline remittance which was sent for food, building house, school fees for relatives as well as the imports particularly during the summer time for the visiting families. UIA therefore decided to promote the diaspora activities to support the Diaspora. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs established a desk, the Speaker of Parliament joined the cause, the embassies played a big role and were still critical in supporting by becoming friends of the diaspora.
Business ventures were reinvigorated; the speaker encouraged them because it took time to make an active investment and the time is now. A lot of projects had been actualised in Uganda. There was a lot of Uganda products in the UK like Matooke Tourism was booming because of the Diaspora. Dr. Maggie encouraged parents to educate children in ICT, oil and gas and geology.
The companies preferred recruiting from international students because of their professionalism and reputable work ethics.
Maggie highlighted the many challenges which had been addressed:
The creative industry had got such talents before they were not given much recognition.
The cost of money transfers was high and unconvincing but had moved to mobile money which as cheaper.
The housing industry was frustrating Diasporas where relatives were not building the houses that people wanted. However, Uganda had responded to of this diaspora issue through the National Housing as well as other companies.
Dual citizenship was established.
Air transport had improved immensely compared to the days when there was only Sabena.
Visa fees were modernised.
National IDs were available.
Maggie was happy to report that remittance and investment had grown. Projects like Nakasero hospital, Gulu hospitals, Paragon, education where lots of schools had been set-up by Diaspora, construction, hotels, manufacturing and agriculture.
She assured the Hon. Speaker that currently the Diaspora had contributed proportionately to the progress of Uganda.