Scientists ought to contribute to building a better Uganda


Is it possible for Engineers to join hands and form an association that would provide technical advice.

By Arthur M.  Makara

KAMPALA – It is an open secret that Ugandans in the diaspora are the major contributors to Uganda’s economy in terms of the remittances of forex back home.

They have over the years played a key role in stabilising our currency and strengthening our economy in that sense.

However, I would like to look beyond mere remittances from Ugandans working in the diaspora to the potential they have to contribute to building a better Uganda particularly the professional category including scientists, teachers, nurses, doctors, teachers/educators in institutions across the globe, accountants, engineers, economists, businessmen and women among others.

I know very well that even if they left our Country to search for greener pastures or under other circumstances that may have made their departure rather not deliberate, they have their Country at heart.

I would like to use the media to sound a ‘think-about-home’ call to all Ugandans wherever they are to give back to Uganda more beyond regular remittances to their families back home.

I would like to explore other avenues through which they can be of help to transform our Country using whatever skills, experiences and opportunities they have wherever they are located.

As has been stated over and over again by different people including experts and researchers, Uganda is endowed with various forms of resources, and its potential is largely untapped.

How can such experts say engineers in the diaspora contribute to exploitation of our resources for the benefit of Ugandans?

Is it possible say for Engineers in the Diaspora to join hands and form an association that would provide technical advice and supervision of major infrastructure projects implemented by Government?

Can medical practioners such as doctors in the diaspora form an alliance through which they can properly identify themselves and their areas of specialisation such that they can link themselves to local hospitals and work with the local doctors to provide more advanced medical services to the people of Uganda?

Can professors in various universities specialized in specific disciplines link up with those in local Universities here to help improve curricula and modes of instruction?

Can teachers in lower and mid-levels of education be helpful in improving our curricula help our educators produce practical and foresighted graduates?

With the advancement in Information and Communication technologies (ITs), all that I am talking about is very possible and easy to do.

Similarly, can Ugandan economists scattered across the globe in major universities and other international organizations form an alliance that can be helpful in providing high-level economic advice to the Ugandan Government.

I am writing this well knowing that allying people of different generations scattered in different countries, doing different work for a common cause is an uphill task, but with modern tools of communication, and with a common binding interest of developing our motherland, this is possible.

In the past few years we have seen organizations such as the Uganda North American Association (UNAA) becoming a force to reckon with, with many prominent Ugandans such as the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament and a number of Members of Parliament having the Annual UNAA Convention as a prominent feature on their annual travel plans.

When they attend such gatherings, harnessing the interests of Uganda’s development especially getting the contribution of Ugandan professionals in the diaspora should be a priority.

The other growing organization of similar nature is the Global Banyakigezi association with its Annual Convention that brings together all Bakiga people wherever they are together for the development of Kigezi.

If the Banyakigezi group can be a success, why not a Global BanyaUganda Association whose core interest would to contribute knowledge, expertise and ideas and even resources towards the development of Uganda?

I am saying this because, Ugandans in the diaspora have the moral and social responsibility of making Uganda a better place for them, their children or grandchildren to desire to return to in future. At the moment, when you check most places of worship, one of the main things Ugandans are praying for is to secure visas to leave the Country!

Is it possible for us to dream of a time when people in other Countries including the current developed countries would dream and struggle to get visas to travel to an advanced Uganda?

I believe that this will happen if at all we change our mindset, and those of our posterity to work for it.

Soon, it will be the case for people desirous to travel to our neighbor to the South Rwanda because deliberate efforts (including action and mindset change) have been made to make it a better Country.

I would like to challenge Ugandans those in the diaspora and those here at home to think about how we can make Uganda a better Country for our posterity.

As I was reading in preparation for this piece, I landed on a story in The Guardian newspaper about one Chinese case study of how China has invested and benefitted from her scientists in the diaspora.

The author of the paper interacted with this young Chinese scientist as an undergraduate student in China. The then young man told him that it was his dream to study in a US University.

Four years later, when the same journalist was writing a story on nanotechnology which is a new advancement in science today, he realized that the expert he was connected to was this same Chinese scientist now at the University of Arkansas in USA, and he had just published his findings which emerged as one of the best scientific papers in the world’s best scientific journal—Nature. The journalist could not believe it.

Again a few years down the road, when the same journalist tried to write followup stories about this Chinese’s work, realized that he had moved back home to China and was a Professor at one of China’s leading Universities.

True, we have many Ugandan scientists who have travelled to study abroad and returned home, but China had a deliberate program, with clear targets of which capacities they needed, and where to send her young scientists, and how to benefit from those who were there on their own. In the absence of such a deliberate programme, what can our scientists and other professionals do?

Our scientists go where there is opportunity, and many of them never return home.

 It is, therefore, my call on all those that did not return, that they can still make a significant contribution to building a better Uganda from wherever they are.

This is because they cannot guarantee that their children and grandchildren will never be compelled to return home. Moreover, as I earlier stated, contribution to building your motherland is a social responsibility.

The writer is a scientist and science advocate.

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