JINJA — If you visited the Source of the River Nile in Jinja, your appetite for adventure ends the moment you realise that in 30 minutes there is nothing else to see. Very disappointing for a world renowned landmark which took explorers from Europe in the 19th century to solve the mystery which disturbed geographers of the time. Well, the mystery may not be solved completely, but the Nile river emerging out of the Lake Victoria is a mystery on its own!
It goes without saying that Jinja is indeed the tourism capital of Uganda.
Sorry Fort Portal, you take second place!
Unfortunately Jinja is yet to realise its potential as a tourism destination giant – in the League of Mombasa, Arusha, Cape Town, Alexandria – which actually it belongs. Blame our lack of imagination, innovation and enterprise in the sector of tourism, leisure, sports, cultural product development. The people of Jinja and Uganda at large, should not wait for Jinja City Council or Ministry of Tourism to recreate the Source of the Nile to provide enough fun for the visitors’ eyes, ears, hands, legs, and other senses!
For decades, tourists, local and foreign have been coming down to Jinja to enjoy its natural beauty and endowment. From Jinja, the White Nile flows down north, an adventure which flows over 6500km through four countries to pour into the Mediterranean Sea. Of all parts of the Nile, no place offers more turns and twists for the river like Jinja.
However, it is Egypt which has made the most of the river. Making the Nile, life itself for the country. Well, what do you expect from a country which made its burial grounds (pyramids) top tourist attractions? The creative spirit of Egyptians is what we need to emulate.
The Nile provides big economic value to countries on its lower side. From electricity, fishing, agriculture, tourism, sports, name it – it took President Yoweri Museveni to at least get enough electricity from the river – which decision has actually helped in spurring economic activities and improved livelihoods for the rest of the country – however, when it comes to benefits from the Nile – the private sector should start seeing the right things.
As the Source of the Nile, craved for by thousands of tourists, Jinja should start to be seen in the lenses not of the old town but a city which attracts millions of people to enjoy its tourist destination.
When Jinja was made a city in 2020, it rightly stood out for its tourism potential. The Source of the Nile, the river falls, Lake Victoria, the green vegetation, architecture, serene streets, and the marvelous new bridge at its entrance, – all these offer the city the best scenic view for any city in Uganda.
Jinja city is endowed with a lot of tourism potential which when well harnessed can become the mainstay for the residents and business community in this city – and Uganda at large.
It is very important that leaders of Jinja wake up to the reality that tourism is a gem that will get them to where they want to be.
Everyone here is concerned about the road and lighting infrastructure of the city, however, the tourism economy alone can generate the funds needed to build these infrastructure. All that it requires is a one-time investment for things that attract and keep visitors in the city, particularly at the main attraction, the Source of the Nile.
Everyone is scratching their heads on how to raise revenue to run the town. Not when you have the Nile’s wealth.
Of all towns battling unemployment of youths, Jinja should not be one of them.
Many people agree that most solutions are always right there under our noses.
We need to invest in Jinja to make it stand out as a tourist city. As the adventure capital of Uganda.
With hundreds visiting Jinja, for events such as Nyege nyege, agricultural shows, fish festival, green festival among other events, the city needs to target at least 1,000,000 tourists every year.
We should look at the million tourists, at least each spending a million shillings in Jinja, which would mean ugx 1,000,000,000,000 (trillion shillings) injected into the Jinja economy. A trillion city economy would make Jinja a bliss in Uganda. Never mind the amount of money earned from related services such as arts and crafts, conferences and meetings, construction, oil and gas, banking, communication, security, business centres, to name but a few.
This is where the political and technical managers, private sector and ordinary residents of Jinja need to organise themselves to ensure they share a piece of that trillion shillings by taking part in the tourism value chain including transport, accommodation, food, drink, entertainment, banking, and memorials.
City managers and entrepreneurs need to ask themselves what it takes to attract a million visitors to Jinja which would bring into the town new money which can be used to create new wealth.
It is time to upgrade the tourism infrastructure to make Jinja city a modern, safe, and healthy city deserving of today’s middle class tourists. In the process of making a beautiful and memorable tourism experience, for visitors and residents, the road network needs an upgrade, the street lights going up, and security needs to up their game to ensure no criminal interrupts the joy and fun in Jinja.
We shall see more conferences taking place in the city, more outdoor events running in the town, and private or group tourists, local and foreign considering Jinja as the destination of choice.
The writer, Mike Ssegawa is the Deputy Resident City Commissioner for Jinja City South Division