Minister of Gender, Labor, and Social Development Hon. Betty Amongi Addresses Challenges in Labor Externalization Industry During Meeting with UAERA

The Minister of Gender, Labor, and Social Development held a meeting with the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA) to discuss the challenges the industry is facing in externalizing workers aboard. The UAERA Board presented a comprehensive assessment of the major challenges faced by recruitment agencies and highlighted reasons why the business of labor externalization has declined.

One of the key obstacles highlighted by the board was the persistent delays within the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development. Specifically, the board pointed out that the ministry’s pre-condition mandating candidates to secure contracts before
undergoing pre-departure training was causing significant setbacks in the recruitment process. the Board further drew attention to the delays encountered at Interpol and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in documents attestation and it was revealed that the entire process of obtaining Interpol approval took an alarming 28 days, severely prolonging the deployment of workers and compromising Uganda’s competitiveness in the labor externalization market globally.

Another pressing concern raised during the meeting was the difficulty companies are encountering in obtaining Enjaz from the Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Kampala, and the halting of accreditation of new companies by the Uganda Embassy in Saudi Arabia forcing many Ugandan companies to suspend their operations while still incurring monthly costs. This situation has added immense pressure to the industry, leaving it in a precarious state, according to the Chairperson UERA, Mr. Baker Akatambira.

They implored the Ministry to negotiate for new markets noting that the monopoly of the Saudi Arabia market possess
a significant challenge for the association. With Uganda having only a bilateral labor agreement with Saudi Arabia, it restricts the scope of the industry and hampers opportunities for expansion. This limited access to a single competitive market is putting local agencies at a disadvantage and stifling the industry’s growth potential. They noted that Ugandan workers are being exposed to abuse and trafficking due to a lack of bilateral labor agreements with countries like Qatar, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait. Several Ugandans have sought employment in these nations despite the absence of formal protection structures, making them susceptible to exploitation.

They called for measures of ensuring swifter processing of passports and Interpol procedures, and reduction in the cost of recruitment to enable them to compete with other countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, and Rwanda, whose process is shorter with lower associated costs. This contrast highlights the urgent need for Uganda to streamline its bureaucratic processes to bolster the labor externalization industry and secure its long-term sustainability.

The Minister of Gender, Labor, and Social Development reaffirmed her commitment to facilitating a more efficient recruitment process, which will likely involve reevaluating the pre-departure training condition and resolving the issues causing delays at Interpol and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On opening new markets, she noted that the government is actively exploring opportunities to diversify bilateral labor agreements with other countries.