Uganda Expelled Indians Once, But Now Ugandan Indians Are Thriving

For one thing, Ugandan Indians now account for 65% of Uganda’s total tax revenue.

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What's a landlocked African nation got to do with India?

Actually, PM Modi's speech at Ugandan Parliament makes total sense, because Gujarati businesspeople make up a huge portion of Ugandan Indians. In fact, Uganda's richest person is Sudhir Ruparelia, the son of a Gujarati business family.

Though they make up just 0.05% of Uganda's population today, Ugandan Indians account for about 65% of Uganda's tax revenue.  Sounds incredible, but in 1970, Ugandan Indians accounted for 90% of the country's tax revenue and owned 90% of its businesses! Back then, they numbered around 80,000 compared to around 20,000 today. What caused such a drastic drop in a successful population?

Ever since the British took Indians to Uganda as indentured labourers around a 100 years ago, Ugandan Indians have lived there and made it their home.

But in 1972, Ugandan military dictator Idi Amin took over a legacy of Indophobia, and ordered a purge of Indians from the country within 90 days. The charges were that Indians didn't integrate into the culture, and were sucking the economy dry.

"bloodsuckers, who have milked the Ugandan economy of its wealth"

"I will make any remaining Indians feel as if they are sitting on a fire!"

Their businesses, homes, and wealth were redistributed among native Ugandans, as Indians fled mostly to Britain and Canada.

Ugandan Indians had been made a scapegoat for the country's economic underperformance. Even ordinary Ugandans found it easy to blame the suspiciously wealthy foreigners for the country's troubles. Ugandan Indians were reduced, by some reports, to as little as 100 in number.


But with Amin's brutal dictatorship, even educated native Ugandans fled – the Ugandan economy felt the double whammy of this brain drain and the wiping out of its commercial class overnight. It plunged soon after, losing as much as 5 GDP points between 1972 and 1975.

In 1986, President Museveni took power from Amin's successor Obote, another dictator who had played to the Indophobia. Finally, he put out a call to the Ugandan Indians that had been exiled – 'Come back, and you'll have your lands, businesses and homes returned to you.'

While most of those who fled the country did not return, a substantial number did, and are now thriving.

Ugandan Indians' economic participation has soared to where it stands now, bringing in 65% of the tax revenues while making up less than 1% of the population.

So no wonder the PM is on his second visit to Uganda!

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