A local Ugandan employment agency in Uganda, HAM Property Services has partnered with Saudi Arabia Manpower Services (Smasco) to take two million Ugandans to Saudi Arabia for employment on limited two-year contracts in roles such as drivers, housemaids and nurses.

In the face of Saudi labour controversy, the Ugandan firm has strictly codified the terms of employment – guaranteeing wage delivery of the on the 28th of each month and that all staff will not reside with employers but commute to work for the regular hours of 8am-5pm.

“Our company is going to invest $850 in each youth who will work with them, to cater for the air ticket, passport, Interpol letter and health insurance,” noted Hassan Mugoya, HAM CEO, adding that married couples would also be encouraged to relocate and work together.

At least in theory, the partnership stands as a model of how foreign labour imports should be handled, both by the host country and by the governments and agencies of the country of origin, in contrast to the medley of outright illegal or legally grey approaches in the Gulf.

“Employment agencies should respect workers’ rights and give them mobile phones so they can communicate with people back home in case of maltreatment,” commented Deborah Mbabazi, the commissioner for the Lubaga Division of Kampala, speaking at the launch.

Every worker will be provided with board and lodging, as well as ATM cards, though Mbabazi encouraged the first batch of youths to not spend but invest their money by sending it home.

And for Saudis it is a chance to break away from the unprofessional arrangements of the past that have sullied the country’s international relations. Depending on the reception, the move could represent a reset in relations between the Gulf country and its foreign workers.