The Senior Presidential Advisor on Diaspora, Amb Abbey Walusimbi has commenced meetings with ministries, agencies and government departments in a bid to engage them to create policies and a favourable environment for Ugandans abroad to invest home.
According to Walusimbi, the meetings follow a directive by President Museveni to ensure he coordinates and builds a coalition between the different agencies, ministries and departments so as to increase the number of Ugandans abroad who invest back home.
“The President does not want isolated offices and leaders swimming with different objectives. This has limited our capacity to tackle challenges that our people in the diaspora face,” Walusimbi said during a meeting with officials from URA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Gender, Post Bank Uganda and the Office of the President.
Walusimbi noted that such meetings will help create a joint system directed towards achieving a common vision of creating a conducive environment for the diasporas.
He explained that the diaspora is an important part of the Ugandan population and anything that can ease their attachments to their motherland needs to be handled with care.
“That is why the President sought to bring all our stakeholders under one roof as a move to forge a workable way forward towards helping our people. Some of them have been frustrated by our poor service delivery and have since turned to the opposition thus becoming a threat to our government.’
The Senior Presidential Advisor on Diaspora Affairs underscored the 2018 World Bank report on migration and remittances which indicated that Ugandans in the diaspora globally remitted $ 1.4 billion in 2017but the same declined to $ 1.3 billion in 2018.
He said the remittances should be going up and not declining, adding that this can only be achieved with a favourable environment for the diasporas.
“We should keep in mind that our diaspora continue to contribute to the development of our country through foreign direct investments, remittances, promotion of trade, public diplomacy and culture, technology and skills transfer, philanthropic activities, peace building, education investment, health support and national reconciliation activities. We need to create a conducive environment for them to invest back home,” Walusimbi said.
He requested tax body, URA to popularize the available tax incentives for the diasporas as a well-tailored campaign that would entice them to return and invest in their motherland.
“My specialized team and I are committed to working with each of you, so that we transform Uganda through tapping the opportunities abroad. Our target is to increase the impact of the diaspora to our GDP by 39% in 2021-2022 from 15%,”Walusimbi noted.
During the meeting, the acting URA Commissioner General, Patience Tumusiime expressed the commitment of the tax body to work closely work with Walusimbi’s office to address tax challenges faced by Ugandans in the diaspora.
“As URA, we are very interested in understanding what challenges are faced by the diasporas and find out how we can tailor our services to make sure that we are providing a conducive environment that will attract them to come and invest home,” Tumusiime said.
She noted that there is a misconception that URA favors foreign investors as opposed to domestic investors in terms of offering tax incentives.
“The truth is that we have provided a lot of incentives to local investors including our diasporas. For example whereas a foreign investor is required to a minimum investment capital of $50m to be exempted from income tax for a period of 10years, a local investor only requires a minimum capital of $10m,” Tumusiime said.
She however admitted that more needs to be done to educate Ugandans on the available tax incentives hence the need to work hand in hand with the President’s office and other stake holders.
According to Walusimbi, subsequent meetings will see officials from the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), NIRA, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Diaspora Desk at Parliament, NSSF and Bank of Uganda engaged.