Ugandans are becoming increasingly concerned over the increase in the number of Chinese men marrying their women.
In recent years, Uganda has been one of the top African destinations for Chinese contractors, artisans, businessmen, and investors. In other to get a quick residency permit and, in some cases, operational licenses, Chinese nationals marry Ugandan women to gain citizenship status.
What is even more worrying for the Ugandan immigration officials is that majority of the marriages are either arranged or shady. The majority of arranged marriages leave Ugandan women at a disadvantage once the Chinese nationals receive the required operational licenses and residency status as a result of the marriages.
Within the past decade, the number of Chinese immigrants in Uganda has increased. According to the Uganda Investment Authority, China is a top investor in the east African country and accounts for as much as half of the total foreign investment it generates.
Although the government may be benefiting from the direct foreign investments which these Chinese nationals and companies offer, immigration officers, say there is a major downside. They say there is an increase in the number of Chinese men marrying Ugandan women to gain residency and continue their business interests in the country.
In November last year, immigration officials in the country told a parliamentary committee that they see more and more Chinese-Ugandan couples, often in sham unions.
The officials say that although there is a system in place to interview Ugandan women present by foreign nationals who want to apply for spousal status, it is inadequate in effectively eradicating sham marriages. They also added that a high number of Chinese men involved in sham marriages had been deported.
“But we have many who are marrying and even producing… Even our Ugandan women are accepting to [reproduce] with these men,” an official from Uganda’s directorate of citizenship and immigration control told the committee.
Major infrastructure projects like Uganda’s Mandela National Stadium, a $1.7 billion hydropower dam in western Uganda, and the highway connecting Entebbe to Kampala have all been built by Chinese companies. Attracted by Uganda’s stability and demand for cheap goods, independent traders and business people are also opening factories and retail shops selling imported Chinese goods. There are between 10,000 and 50,000 Chinese in the country.
But now, tensions appear to be rising. Ugandan authorities are conducting more raids to catch foreigners illegally living there. In July this year, 12 Chinese were arrested for violating immigration laws.
Government-to-government relations have also come under strain. Last month, Ugandan lawmakers summoned a Chinese executive of the state-owned China Communication Construction to explain the circumstances of his company’s securing a $475 million contract to build an expressway in Entebbe.
Annoyed during the briefing, Zhong Weidong, managing director of the company, told the panel, “China assists African countries to develop. If you don’t like, it can stop; we can stop.”
China’s investments and presence in Uganda have increased rapidly over the last decade, coming only second United Kingdom – which colonized the African country from 1894 to 1962. What are your thoughts?
Credit: QZ Africa