I did not plan to retire in Africa

Sunday September 12 2021
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Princess Margaret-Anne Mazzi Wampamba

By Phionah Nassanga

In Bukasa about three kilometres off Kawuku, on Entebbe road, stands a signpost, Princess Mazzi.  A few metres from it is a  glamorous white storeyed house facing the lake.  It is here Princess Margaret-Ann Mazzi Wampamba retired to the cool breeze after 50 years of living and working in the diaspora. 

Born with a silver spoon in the mouth, Margaret-Anne Mazzi Wampamba’s childhood was not a hustle and she tells an enviable tale without the usual abyss-to-bliss challenges.  

She says after fleeing the country to study in England and then working at the Uganda High Commission in London as an intern, she was later on hired by the British Gas Company where she worked for three years. She was then hired by the Commonwealth University to work as an administrator.  

However, in the 80s she left England to try her luck elsewhere. The United States was her destination.  Juggling a number of jobs while there, she was later granted citizenship, and along the way she got an opportunity to serve in the American government as an administrator, working under seven American presidents before her retirement on December 31, 2017. 

Life in the diaspora  
Wampamba says life away from home is not as easy as the people imagine and to get a job, you must be a great deal better than the nationals.  

“There is a lot of discrimination and biases about people, they can bias you because you are black, a foreigner and a woman. These are things we go through when we live outside our own countries. But a lot of people do not know,” she says adding that you have to be a very strong person to succeed in those countries. 

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She says that despite all the obstacles, she was able to get a work permit and a year later she applied for a green card seeking for citizenship. Having attained citizenship five years later,  she did not think twice about applying for a government job.   

“Initially, I  worked with the Airbus industry for a couple of years before joining  the National Science Foundation where I served as an administrator and  was part of the research team assigned to work with different African countries.”

Planning for retirement 
After 30 years of working in the United States government, in 2017, Wampamba decided to retire.   
“I decided to retire because I wanted to enjoy my life when I can still walk and see,” she jokes. 
She had started planning her retirement in 2012.  One of the most important things was to decide on where she would retire .  None of the African countries, not even Uganda, her motherland had crossed her mind. 

It was until she realised the countries she preferred would not match her pension money and list of priorities. Among which were taxes,  weather and security.

“My first choice was England, since that is where I grew up  and all my relatives are there.  Unfortunately, the dollar and the pound were not compatible and because of that my pension could not carry me far. The other place that crossed my mind was France, but I would have been lonely there. ”

Having failed with Europe, the remaining  option was  Africa and Kenya topped the list. But the fact that she did not know any Kiswahili, it was also taken off the list. 

A feeling of belonging 
In 2014, Wampamba traced her way back to Uganda. She was devastated by the dusty roads and still promised herself  that she was not retiring here.

“I have some friends in the country that tried to convince me, asking me to visit the country three more times before I could come to a conclusion. And on each visit I realised there was something different and nice about the country. My dollar was also compatible with the shilling, and I knew the culture and language spoken by my people. I later realised that Uganda was the place I wanted to retire.”

In early 2016, Wampamba visited the country and bought a plot of land in Bukasa where she started the construction of her retirement home a year later.  She says despite working abroad, she made sure that she visited the country every now and then to supervise and inspect every stage of the construction for fear of being conned by the constructors.  In 2018 Wampamba was here to monitor the final touches of her house and in 2019 she moved in.  

“I retired into tourism because I am passionate about nature and I love travelling. When I retired I promised to take a break from everything and just enjoy the beauty in nature.  Due to that I started up a tour company, Williams Safaris and Tours because Uganda and the East African region are blessed with   breathtaking nature and wildlife.”

Advice 
To those planning to retire in Uganda, Wampamba advises them to plan a few years before their retirement and do research on the place they want to retire. 

“In case you want to retire in Uganda, come every year, buy the land yourself and do the checking of the title deeds and make sure they are genuine.  When it comes to constructing your home you have to be on the ground since it is you that knows exactly what you want,” she advises.  

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