When Getrude Katende secured a visa to the USA, she was overjoyed as though she had hit the jackpot. She was convinced her dream of living a happy life would now come true. Top on her bucket list was to buy land and build a decent house.
She was lucky to settle in New Jersey so fast that she also secured a job in the nursing industry. Katende would occasionally send money to her husband in Uganda, a primary school teacher with whom she had two infant children.
A year later, the 31-year-old mother embarked on saving for their dream home. Fast forward, she sent sh15m to her husband to buy land. He assured her that he had bought 50X50 plot of land in Namere off Gayaza Road. He even sent her a copy of the agreement.
In the next 10 months, Katende would send money for construction. To cut a long story short, she returned four years later to witness nothing on ground. The land, house and other assets she had invested in were just ‘air’. Her husband had used the money to marry another woman and build a house for her instead.
Katende almost jumped out of her skin but composed herself, picked up her belongings and flew back to USA to start afresh.
This is the case for many Ugandans in the diaspora (diasporans) who can testify that buying property back home can be very stressful and challenging. Thousands have been fleeced, while others have lost hope or have had their projects remain incomplete due to financial challenges.
According to Willy Mutenza, Chairman of Uganda Convention-UK, the process of acquiring property does not only require financial capacity but is also fraught with risks.
Many Ugandans have lost their hard-earned money to unscrupulous friends, relatives, developers, and agents while others have lost the dream of home ownership or investment in property due to lack of financial capacity.
“We have also seen those who have succeeded despite the above challenges, but end up with uncompetitive or poor quality properties due to shoddy work,” he shares.
Fortunately, all hope is not lost. There are now trusted and easily accessible realty service providers who work with the buyers, investors, and developers as they identify, evaluate, and invest in real estate opportunities that respond to their investment needs.
Among them is the Promotar, an online property platform that makes it safer and easier for Ugandans worldwide to buy and invest in property with a special focus on the Ugandan market.
“This is a Uganda-focused diaspora initiative supported by the London Chambers of Commerce, UK-Uganda Convention, YuFundMe, MM2Capital, and Indian Diaspora Network,” Mutenza reveals.
The platform connects approved and certified developers, sellers, service providers, agents, real estate consultants and financial providers to clients and investors in Uganda and the diaspora.
In other words, it provides all potential buyers, sellers, landlords, and tenants with an exceptional property search while linking them to a variety of experienced service providers in the property value chain.
Owning property made easy
Bernard Robinson Magulu, the vice-chairman Uganda UK Convention explains that on this digital platform, people have access to all the information they need on any listed property and service providers. It also provides digital consultation to diasporans on finance and real estate. With just a click, people can choose the property or service they want, and the appointed legal partners will be availed to handle the process of ownership.
Therefore, by carefully vetting all properties, service providers, and consulting partners before listing, we believe that Ugandans in the diaspora and within Uganda will be confident and secure in their transactions.
“Our team and partners are professionals with cognate experience in banking, property development, construction, and property management,” Magulu explains.
They also have experts in real estate law customer services, land acquisition, architecture, landscaping, and interior design among others.
“We have hundreds of thousands of beautifully presented services, land, homes for sale or rent at all price range across Uganda,” he said.
How diasporans impact Uganda’s economy
Ugandans in the diaspora are estimated to be 1.5 million according to the UN Human Development Report 2009.
World Bank and Bank of Uganda 2019 reports indicate that these Ugandans have been sending home billions of dollars in the last three years.
In 2017 alone, they sent home $1.4 billion though that figure has recently slightly fallen due to COVID-19 global economic down-turn.
Nevertheless, diaspora remittance remained the country’s largest source of foreign exchange earnings contributing 5% of Uganda’s GDP.
This in essence means that many will need to invest this money and real estate offers a wonderful vehicle for them.
“Diasporans need to think about their future proactively where their investments will be able to create a stream of cash flows to enable them to finance their daily needs while providing bankable assets to access financing for other multiple investments,” Mutenza opines.
With a massive gap in housing demand versus supply, economic growth, rapid urbanization, and an expanding middle class, the real estate sector offers an almost guaranteed return on Investment.