Inside Uganda, Saudi labour export deal

Immigrant workers board the Air Arabia plane at Entebbe International Airport on October 22. Thousands of disillusioned youths who are left out of the ‘economic miracle’ continue to leave the country for greener pastures abroad. PHOTO BY STEPHEN OTAGE.

What you need to know:

  • The Ugandans living and working in the Middle East nation send home about $700m annually. 

The deal to export domestic workers from Uganda to Saudi Arabia has been renewed more than three months after a bilateral labour agreement was temporarily suspended by the East African nation to negotiate better terms last year.

This, according to Uganda’s gender and labour ministerBetty Amongi, will allow Ugandans to travel and work in the Middle Eastern country for work.

“Whereas the bilateral labour agreement on general workers is still valid, the one on domestic workers expired on February 23, 2023 and both parties embarked on negotiations which resulted into renewing the agreement on March 29,2023,” she said.

Amongi revealed that before signing the new agreement both parties discussed several issues to ensure that Ugandans working in Saudi Arabia are entitled their rights while on duty and during the travel process.

According to the new agreement both parties are obliged to establish a mechanism for deliberating on and resolving emerging issues on welfare and rights of the domestic workers as it is stated in Article 2(2) of the constitution. Both parties are to regulate and control recruitment costs according to article 3(6).

The document also states that deduction on salary are prohibited on article 3 (7) and paragraph 10 (L) of the standard employment contract.

“The government of Saudi Arabia is to ensure that employers respect terms and conditions of the employment contract under article 4(5) and (6). An employee wishing to transfer the services of an employee to another employer is obligated to inform the Ugandan and Saudi recruitment agencies before the transfer,” the document states.

In the agreement both parties agreed that an employee wishing to renew his or

her contract must inform Saudi and Ugandan recruitment agencies and also seek approval of the Ugandan embassy in Riyad.

“The agreement also noted that Saudi Arabia online recruitment system will be integrated with Uganda’s eternal employment Management system article 3(11). Saying that this will strengthen migration data management, monitoring of migrants workers as well as eliminate manual clearance of migrant workers,” it added.

Both parties also agreed on a joint technical committee for monitoring the implementation of the bilateral labour agreement to be constituted within two month.

 Amongi said that all the highlighted issues are new in the 2023 agreement and were based on the issues which have been raised by stakeholders in labour exportation.

She also revealed that Uganda has embarked on a process to expand the externalisation employment prospects by exploring opportunities in Canada, Turkey and UK.

About Uganda-Saudi labour exportation

Uganda and Saudi Arabia have historically enjoyed warm relations in different ventures, including labour exportation.

According to Uganda’s gender ministry, over 150,000 Ugandans earn livelihood from or through Saudi Arabia. The Ugandans living and working in the Middle East nation send home about $700m annually.