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Key findings
  • One-third (34%) of Ugandans say they have considered moving to another country to live, including 11% who have given this “a lot” of thought
  • Potential emigrants are particularly common among citizens with post-secondary education (52%), urban residents (50%, including 61% in Kampala), and young respondents (40% of those aged 18-35).
  • Among respondents who have considered emigration, about one in 12 (8%) say they are making preparations to leave, such as getting a visa. Most others say they are not yet taking specific steps but plan to move in the next year or two (22%) or are not making plans to leave (70%)
  • Among respondents who have considered emigration, three out of 10 (30%) say they would move to another country in East Africa, while 23% would prefer to go to North America.
  • Among respondents who have considered emigration, most say they are motivated by a desire for economic opportunity: to find work (50%), to escape poverty (20%), or to pursue better business prospects (9%).

Migration has marked Uganda as a country of destination and transit as well as of origin. Responding to political violence, economic problems, and humanitarian crises both within its borders and in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other neighbouring countries, migrants and refugees have traveled to, through, and out of Uganda in large numbers over the years. As of April 2018, estimates of refugees living in Uganda stood at about 1.4 million – more than any other African country. While data are sketchy, a 2013 estimate placed the number of Ugandans living abroad at about 629,000 but noted that the diaspora could be as large as 3 million (International Organization for Migration, 2015, 2018a, 2018b).

With one of the world’s youngest and fastest-growing populations and high unemployment, providing education and job opportunities is a persistent challenge (Among & Munavu, 2019). Out-migration has had a particularly negative impact on the health sector, which has lost many trained professionals looking for better employment opportunities in Rwanda, South Africa, or elsewhere (World Bank, 2016; New Vision, 2018).

According to the most recent Afrobarometer survey in Uganda, about one-third of Ugandans have considered emigration to other countries, although far fewer are actually making plans to leave. Young and educated citizens are among the most likely to consider moving abroad. Among potential emigrants, the largest number say they would move to another country within the East African region, generally in search of economic opportunity.

Derick Msafiri

Derick Msafiri is an intern for REPOA, the Afrobarometer national <br /> partner in Tanzania.

Makanga Ronald Kakumba

Makanga Ronald Kakumba is a research associate for Hatchile Consult Ltd., Afrobarometer’s national partner in Uganda.