She started her speech with the issue of dual citizenship, which she said used to be a big problem to members of the Diaspora, and assured attendants that they could now apply for Ugandan citizenship again, and that it only entailed to take the oath of allegiance. This dual citizenship also entitles spouses to apply.
She then enumerated a few prominent Ugandans who all returned from the Diaspora to become a success back home, one of these being none other than Hon. Maria Kiwanuka, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, also present on the day, who was a consultant with the World Bank. She also mentioned two members of the Diaspora who went back home to run in the last elections and did get elected Member of Parliament. She reassured the Diaspora that they did not lose out by remaining abroad and invited them warmly to come back home. Her ultimate example was Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who, after many years in the World Bank, became President of Liberia.
Next, she spoke about the challenges that Uganda recently faced, such as high rate of inflation, high food and commodity prices, which were however not unique to Uganda.
She then whetted the audience’s appetite by mentioning the magic word of ‘money spinners’. She said that Uganda is the best education destination in the Great Lakes region. Uganda has students from Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, starting from primary level, and would be an ideal location to set up primary and secondary schools and even universities. “Uganda is the destination for Education”, she stressed.
The next investment sector she mentioned was tourism. She stated that every major airline now flies to Uganda including Brussels Airlines which is a Premier sponsor of this Convention, in addition to the hundreds of buses that move every day between the capitals in the Great Lake regions. “This high volume of movement and trading”, she said, “was an area worth looking at for investment”.
She explained that there were plans to build a dual carriage way between Entebbe and Kampala to speed up the connection between the airport and the capital. Another plan being looked at is the construction of another bridge on the river Nile to ease the congestion.
She went on to talk about agriculture and opportunities available in agro-processing, and that the energy provision would be addressed so that this area of investment would not be impeded.
Real estate was mentioned next as another important growing investment area. She said that housing is still in shortage in Kampala for the middle class and encouraged people to invest their money in that sector.
She then addressed the area of information and communication technology. She said that each Ugandan may well have 3 phones lines each and that since the population was steadily growing, the demands in ICT would also increase, ICT being the fastest growing area in the Ugandan economy.
The East African Federation was next on the agenda, which she said will create bigger markets for food products and manufactured goods, stressing that Uganda would be at the centre of all these opportunities. She invited the Diaspora to ‘be there’ for the big markets coming up. She explained that the East African community was still discussing and working towards a common market and eventually also a common currency.
She especially addressed skilled Diasporans who should consider investing the skills their acquired whist living abroad into the improvement of Uganda.
She concluded by expressing her happiness at attending the event, and that she would be very happy to welcome members of the Diaspora back home, “Let’s come and work together. Despite your long absence, you are still part of us and we are part of you. So let’s join hands and make the life better for our children and grandchildren”.