By Isaac Sebakijje –
Determining the definition or quantifying the number of African diaspora is complicated. What is certain is that the African diaspora is large, and playing an important role in the continent’s growth story. The African Union defines diaspora as “consisting of people of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and building of the African Union”.
According to the World Bank, diaspora remittances to Sub Sahara Africa rose to $31 billion and by 2015 the same report predicts the figure to reach $39 billion. It is not surprising that governments everywhere are beginning to channel these remittances to a formal financial system such as forming diaspora bonds. Some countries are also introducing supportive policies and regulations, such as allowing dual citizenship, in order to encourage greater diaspora participation.
Many Ugandans fled the country during the 70’s and 80’s seeking for safety around the globe. That’s when Uganda went through a deadly civil unrest caused by Idi Amin and the bush war. That period was followed by another flight caused by the prolonged rebel groups in Northern Uganda led by the notorious Alice Lakwema and Joseph Kony. After that, Uganda experienced an exodus where many of her nationals went overseas to earn an education or seek greener pastures. Today, all these Ugandan sons and daughters are mockingly referred to as “Nkuba Kyeeyo”or Kyeyoists” crudely translated as “menial workers cleaning foreign streets for a living after leaving Uganda.” Unfortunately, ordinary Ugandans continue to think of Ugandans living overseas in this narrow context not realizing that many of them are skilled workers and professionals some of whom own thriving businesses both home and abroad.
What’s more is that the diaspora have organized themselves in Ugandan economic, cultural, social, professional and political organizations in several countries around the world. These groups are very effective promoters for Uganda in places like Europe, USA, Asia, South Africa and many more. Some of these groups include Uganda Association in the Nordics Countries, The Promota Group in the UK, The Uganda North American Association – UNAA, Association of Ugandan Professionals in South Africa and several others.
Over the years, some of these groups have brought their events right here in Uganda utilizing conference facilities, hotels, transportation and visiting tourist attractions. For example, The Annual Ugandan Diaspora Networking Gala is being held at the Kampala Serena Hotel this year. This will be the third time for this event to be held in Uganda. It is an event that celebrates Uganda’s success stories abroad bringing the spotlight to the country as it celebrates Uganda’s success stories abroad. An event of this nature provides a unique opportunity for Uganda government to show support. The tourism ministry and corporate entities can showcase their products and services through participation and sponsorship.
See link to learn more about the Diaspora award gala. http://www.ugandandiaspora.com/
Furthermore, the diaspora contributes to the national development in a variety of other ways. They instigate foreign direct investment, promotion of trade, public diplomacy, culture, technology and skills transfer, philanthropic activities, peace building and national reconciliation. Also a number of global organizations are working with the diaspora in ways that support partnership, mutuality and capacity building.
A close scrutiny of these areas indicates that diaspora tourism is an indispensable mechanism for each of these contributions involving tour and travel. It means that the diaspora are a chief source of visitors and travelers to Uganda throughout the year. Ugandans return home not just for sun and relaxation, but also to invest and do business, to establish a new residence, to attend festivals or family events such as weddings or funerals. The second and third generation diaspora, come to find out more about their heritage.
Not only do Ugandans come alone but many times they bring visitors with them for leisure, business and targeted humanitarian missions. Ugandans posses the power of “word of mouth communication”. They can pass on the secrets of a truly great vacation in the community recommending little places with great service such as a small hotel or guest house that treats them like family. They stimulate community centered tourism to the market place bridging the gap during periods when the flow of foreign tourists is low. This presents a golden opportunity for the Uganda Tourist Board to be at the forefront of developing a targeted market campaign for Ugandans who double as clients and country ambassadors. In fact once Uganda tourism diversifies, the visiting diaspora who are composed of the old and the dot com generations are likely to increase sustainably.
In the past the government of Uganda has made very positive remarks about the Diaspora with very little in terms of commitment to tap this constituency. During the recent 2013 UNAA Convention in Dallas, Texas, the Director of Oxfam International Winnie Byanyima suggested that a Ministry of Diaspora Affairs should be created along with the diaspora Member of Parliament. It is not known whether the government picked up on that. Currently, there is a department responsible for Diaspora Affairs within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs whose duties and accomplishments have yet to be disclosed. One school of thought within the diaspora community is that this department should have been located in the President’s or Prime Minister’s office for better attention. Recently, the Uganda Investment Authority and the Ministry of Finance launched a Compendium Diaspora Policy that was launched in Nairobi. It is not known whether this features diaspora tourism as well.
Uganda government can learn from Kenya’s support for diaspora. In 2007, Kenya created the Diaspora Directorate followed by a US$500,000 grant from the World Bank in 2011. The grant was used to develop Kenya’s Diaspora Engagement Strategic Policy Framework. Kenya’s aim is to formally integrate the Kenyan Diaspora in national development. This diaspora policy is outlined in Kenya’s Vision 2030 as well. Kenya has an estimated 2.5 million of its people living overseas and the government is committed to partnering with them.
Many countries around the world have benefited immensely from diaspora tourism treating this group with care and due respect. Examples include Israel, Greeks, Armenians in Europe while in Africa Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia have strong Diaspora links. It is time for Uganda government to do more including the removal of many roadblocks and frustrations faced by the returning Diaspora. The people and the media can also help by finding a better label for Ugandans living overseas. Recognizing the diaspora as an integral part of travel and tourism and as a global link will be a good start. These are extended members of Ugandan society who have experienced both worlds and are now anxious to contribute to the national development both financially and materially.
– See more at: http://www.ugandandiasporanews.com/2013/11/11/diaspora-tourism-uganda-government-should-embrace-its-diaspora-to-foster-national-development/#sthash.tb4stByb.dpuf