urgent: a non-violent way of achieving REAL independence in Uganda, learning from India


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FIRST, go to your calendar and mark the day October 2, 2017. Then, set it to ‘Repeat’ annually.

Then read this: I received a phone call from a frustrated-sounding Renu Varun the other day, who introduced herself as “Goodwill Tourism Ambassador of Uganda to India”. Long story cut short, she insisted that we meet face to face and I acquiesced. I really do not like meetings.
She was bright and lovely from the start, but I still demanded firmly that she explain the words on her business card that read, ‘Obuntu Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’. She told me ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam‘ was the Indian equivalent of ‘Ubuntu’ – that oneness of humanity that we espouse over here, and they over there.
Her story was simple yet complicated.
When she arrived in Uganda in 2015 she was blown away by the people and the country and the spirit of peace. Within a couple of months, she had immersed herself into a project to get Uganda and India closer intertwined by way of increasing tourism from India to Uganda or, at least, by Indians in Uganda.
She was so amazed by the story of a young man called Victor Ochen, and the fact that he was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, that she put two and two together and decided it would be most fitting for him to be celebrated at a ceremony held at the place where a world icon of peace had been laid to rest.
According to his wishes, Mahatma Gandhi, assassinated in 1948, had some of his ashes scattered at The Source of the Nile in Jinja. (Next year, we have the opportunity to mark 60 years of that event right HERE, but that’s a whole other discussion).
Renu, seeing the link between Gandhi, Ochen and Jinja, contacted the Gandhi family and they agreed to give Victor Ochen a tunic made off the very hand loom that Mahatma Gandhi himself used to make his own tunics off of.
Gandhi at the Loom
That tunic was airlifted to Uganda and, in a ceremony attended by the Indian Association of Uganda and officiated over by the Indian High Commissioner to Uganda then, given to Victor on October 2, 2015. Victor Ochen owns a tunic woven off the hand loom of Mahatma Gandhi, handed to him where Mahatma Gandhi’s remains were scattered. He is special.
Did you mark this date? It is October 2. That is the day, in 1869, on which Mahatma Gandhi was born. Because of that it is marked globally as the International Day of Non-Violence.
Monday October 2.001
After Victor received his tunic, Renu shared her big idea – Uganda needed to mark the ‘International Day of Non-Violence 2017’ in a grand way leading up to Independence Day celebrations, with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance at the Source of the Nile in Jinja. During the 2017 ceremonies, millions upon millions of people in India would tune in and pay attention to the event and Uganda, thus taking a further interest in tourism opportunities here.
See, in 2017 (she has been explaining to all and sundry since back in 2015) India would be marking 100 years of their Swadeshi Movement – the equivalent of what we are calling ‘Buy Uganda, Build Uganda’. Their Swadeshi Movement was a successful boycott of British products and establishment of Indian nationalism, industry and what Gandhi described as “the soul of Swaraj (self-rule)”.
How appropriate it would be, she argued, if on October 2, 2017 Uganda became the world’s home of the ‘International Day of Non-Violence’ celebrations and marked it at the Source of the Nile in Jinja by launching the ‘Buy Uganda, Build Uganda’ (did I hear Zimba Uganda?) Movement while marking 100 years of the Swadeshi Movement?
Very appropriate!
Swinging back to the Peace part of this, did you know that Uganda’s allocated SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) is Goal 16: “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”? Think about how all this ties in.
Not only that, Renu told me, Uganda’s special place in the minds of India is so deep-set that the cover photograph used on the Indian Government website of the India Africa Forum Summit in 2015 – the biggest held so far – bore a photograph of the Indian Foreign Affairs Minister shaking hands with only one African Foreign Affairs Minister – Uganda’s Sam Kutesa.
India Africa Summit Front Page
Meeting a very high ranking Indian government official in India one day, she said to him, “We talk about Gandhism every day here in India, but in Uganda they live Gandhism!”
Did you mark the date, by the way? It’s October 2, 2017 – at the Source of the Nile in Jinja.
By the time our coffee was done, I still didn’t know the theme of this year’s Independence Day celebrations or whether Ugandans would be wearing foreign-made suits and ties to celebrate ‘Independence’. Also, there was no confirmation of a government-sponsored or organised event at the Source of the Nile in Jinja on October 2, 2017.


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I have heard, though, that His Royal Highness the Aga Khan will be a Guestof Honour at this year’s Independence Day celebrations. Why is this significant?
At some point in his life, Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned in the Aga Kahn Palace in Pune, in India. After launching the ‘Quit India’ Movement in 1942. Read some of the story for yourself, off the plaque at the Palace itself:
Aga Khan Gandhi Plaque
Seriously, Uganda, all the elements are coming together so well that we don’t have to wait for another announcement, as peace-loving, tourism-propelled Ugandans who are lauded the world over for being a haven of peace in the Great Lakes Region and the world’s shining example of refugee handling and regional conflict resolution.
This is not for the Government of Uganda to hire tents and public address systems and then prepare speeches by a Guest of Honour. All of us can go out there and talk Peace and Security and Buy Uganda Build Uganda/Zimba Uganda.
Renu had an interesting idea: If the Parliament of Uganda declared that for that week all MPs were required to dress up strictly in traditional garb or clothing made in Uganda, surely a message would be sent. Perhaps some of them might wake up on the eighth day and feel like NOT going back to clothes made in China, Turkey and Bangladesh?
What about in our own private companies? Can WE not do the same for that one week?
Starting on:
Monday October 2.001
October 2, 2017 – International Day of Non-Violence at the Source of the River Nile, all decked out in Ugandan made clothing, eating Ugandan food and picking up from 100 years of Swadeshi to make Buy Uganda Build Uganda (Zimba Uganda) a success that will make INDEPENDENCE on October 9 much, much more meaningful!
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tourism promotion? uganda has it all except, apparently, the ‘capacity’ to turn potential into reality


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IN the month of May, after the Innovation Africa Digital conference at the Speke Resort Munyonyo, I wrote an article about how Uganda needs to stop missing events and meetings, so we bag more benefits from them.
In that article, I wrote “in September, Uganda will be hosting another massive gathering of ICT people, at ‘Capacity Africa 2017’. They were here last year and loved it so much they chose to return instead of rotate to another African country.”
They did – and were here from last weekend.
Some of them might still be here, though many have flown out.
I attended the Conference, at the Kampala Serena Hotel, and even got to be a Speaker, besides interacting with Managing Directors, Chief Executive Officers and other high-sounding titles of companies engaged in providing internet access around the world.
More importantly, I pushed and prodded the visitors to go out and spend their money on tourism, entertainment, and shopping of local products.
At last year’s version of the event, I took some people to tourist hotspots like Bwindi and Jinja, and they told a few of their friends about it so we benefitted from the word of mouth factor.
I will deliberately not name anyone in this particular article, so that all the people involved stop and think about their lives, as I am thinking about mine.
I was flummoxed one evening when I bumped into one of the topmost Tourism Promotion people in Uganda at the entrance of the Serena as I was walking towards the marquee holding an evening drinks reception event for the delegates.
“Chief!” he said, after finishing a lengthy phone call with one of his superiors as I listened in, “What’s happening here?”
I told him. I wasn’t arrogant enough to assume that he had read, at random, one of my articles that mentioned ’tourism’ and ‘Uganda’, or that he had a Google alerts system set up for those two words posted online together.
Now that I have typed that sentence out, I am going to suggest to him that this would be a good use of his government-provided internet access. It would enable him to monitor all online mention of ‘tourism’ and ‘Uganda’, so he can take advantage of all opportunities and ideas and whatnot around those two.
I urged him to walk with me and led him down the Serena walkway to a point where we could look down onto the marquee, which was full of people buzzing with drinks and hor d’ouvres.
After I told him what we were doing he saw no reason whatsoever to take the conversation further along his line of work, and left.
Very late into that night, I met five of the delegates who had come in early so they could go to see Mountain Gorillas and had spent the week enthusing about the experience.
Minutes later, I met another delegate from Spain whose favourite holiday destination was Cape Town until last weekend when he arrived in Uganda.
“You guys!” he shouted above the music and in between dropping kisses onto the cheeks of one of the ladies in the group, “This country is amazing! You don’t know what you have got here! The weather is always great! The people are wonderful – beautiful (another kiss on the cheek)! And you have wildlife and rivers and lakes?!!! This is my favourite country in the world!”
He is coming back on holiday. I confirmed this with him the next day as we drank water in clearer circumstances.
But then, shortly after that a young Ugandan fresh out of university approached me with an angry tale about a delegate he had met on the flight into Uganda who was excited to be coming to Kampala.
This young Ugandan was having breakfast at the Acacia Mall when he spotted the fellow alighting from a boda boda, on the roadside.
He was astonished and went over to find out what was happening with this foreigner, then noticed that he was wearing a shirt bearing the hotel logo.
His luggage had gone missing, the delegate explained, and he was now searching for a forex bureau so he could change money and buy some clothes for the week.
The young Ugandan helped with directions and watched the delegate leave, and berated me – ME – over issues such as:
Why did the prestigious hotel NOT give this guy forex services, instead of sending him out on his own? By the time they had provided a shirt for him, surely they could have enquired into how to solve his problem for him. Why is there no ready information everywhere – right from the airport – about where to find things like forex bureaux? How is it possible that a delegate to a Conference of this nature can get onto a boda boda so casually and be gallivanting around town without…

 

I cut him short. 

Next week he will be meeting with the top Tourism official to state his questions directly to him, in my absence. I will be too busy emailing as many of those delegates as possible, inviting them back here on private visits and encouraging them to enjoy Uganda at length in the near future.

Shiyaya Coupon Book Advert FINAL.001

 

dear uganda tourism…#eish! from a local tourist and his children


Below is a copy and paste job I am particularly proud of. Not because of the quality of my copy and paste skills, but because of the content therein.

Alex Twinomugisha is a resident of East Africa, living in Nairobi and Kampala and working right across the region.

He is one of my favourite Ugandans for a long list of reasons, some of which will be evident to you shortly if you pay attention all through the article he has written below and shared with the Uganda Tourism Board.

Please don’t let your anger, reading his piece, distract you from the content, ideas and possibilities around what YOU could do to improve things in Uganda. 

Sadly, some people are going to go on the defensive and engage in some whataboutism instead of applying soap, water and polish to those antique limousines and doing other childishly simple things they are paid salaries to do.

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By Alex Twinomugisha

Dear Management of  Uganda Tourism Board,

I write to you to share my recent experiences as a local tourist and offer my humble suggestions for promoting tourism in Uganda. In August of this year, I traveled with my family (kids aged 6-15 years old) to Jinja and to Kabale. We also visited the Uganda Museum. The travel and visits were aimed primarily at showing my kids the richness of our great country. We were in short, local tourists.

Our family experience and my kids’ feedback led me to wonder what we, as a country and specifically the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) and the Ministry of Tourism is doing to effectively promote Tourism both local and international in Uganda.

I have lived or worked and traveled extensively within East Africa (limiting my comparison to our neighbors only) and I believe that no country in the region has better tourism potential than Uganda. We are indeed gifted by nature. Unfortunately, I can also unequivocally state that Uganda has some of the worst tourist infrastructure, support structures and information services of any of our neighbors, in spite of our better ranking in our tourism sector. We have so much potential.

We can do better, with limited resources, just by applying common sense and better planning. Now to specific observations during our trip. This is fairly long because I want to capture my observation in detail.

  1. Visit to Uganda Museum

This was a long planned visit and the kids were excited to visit. However, by the time we left, the kids were disappointed with the state of affairs of our museum. Yes the kids! As for me, I was left speechless and seething with rage that we can allow our cultural and social heritage to rot. The first shocker was the state of past presidential cars. In any serious museum, these would be kept immaculate and even visitors allowed to sit in the car and/or take a peep inside to see how the cars’ interior looks. At the Uganda Museum, the cars are kept in an open shed in a dilapidated state (see picture). How on earth is this allowed to happen? What is so difficult with building a simple concrete floored shed to house these cars with a regular wash and polish? My daughter (14) asked why the cars can’t be kept in storage away from the public if we can’t afford to display them properly!

Uganda museum

We moved on past the cars to the cultural village. At the first “hut” we visited (the Hima hut), my son (9) excitedly started exploring the construction design (he took a course on human housing a year ago) while I prattled away telling the youngsters how our grandparents lived in these types of houses. A few minutes later, he interrupts my guided talk, points at the reed walls and says “Dad, this is a big scam!” I ask him what he means and he says “Dad, the walls behind the grass are made of concrete. You just told us that grandpa’s house was made of mud.” As I confirm that indeed the reed is covering a brick and mortar wall, he proceeds with this bombshell… “Dad you mean there is no one in Uganda who can still build a real old house that grandpa grew up in?” He added…” This is a total scam!” I was left speechless. That was the end of his and his brother’s excitement. As we walked around the cultural village, we found rotting huts, huts with rubbish strewn around and inside the hut, half built or most crumbling huts etc. At some point, my youngest (6) asked why “they” can’t cut the grass around the village to have a nice lawn. Yes, why not indeed?

But wait, we were not done yet: As we were leaving the cultural village, things got worse: the kids visited the bathrooms. In their own words ”this is the stinkiest (sic) toilet in the whole world”. I concur.

Really, what is difficult about keeping our Museum in decent shape? What do the tourists who visit think of Uganda? What’s wrong with us? What will we tell future generations about our past and culture? Why can’t we keep public toilets clean? Why not privatize them at this rate? And what the heck is UTB and the Ministry of Tourism doing?

  1. Visit to Source of the Nile at Jinja and my search for Ugandan Coffee

Here, we generally enjoyed the experience with Brian, our excellent guide. Until it started raining. And we entered one of the restaurants. And I asked for a coffee. Remembering my friend, Simon Kaheru’s insistent lectures on BUBU, I asked for Ugandan Coffee. The waitress looked at me blankly and responded (in Luganda), “what is that sir?”

I proceeded to tell her that I wanted a hot coffee preferably with milk made from Ugandan grown coffee. Still – blank face.

I asked her to call her manager (turns out the lady behind the counter who all along was listening to our conversation was the manager). She pointed at the manager lady and walked away.

I thought ‘Welcome to customer service Uganda-style.’

I got up and walked to the manager-lady-behind-the-counter and told her I wanted a coffee, for example “African Coffee” (some establishments I have been in call coffee with milk African Coffee) or a Cappuccino (thinking with all the foreign tourists that visit surely this should be familiar) provided it is made with Ugandan grown coffee.

Same blank look and an amused, “I don’t know what you are talking about sir.” At this point, I call Simon and rant.

But this is about UTB.

Really? At a major tourist attraction such as the Source of the Nile, we can’t promote Ugandan grown coffee and tea?

I will not get into the quality of the restaurant infrastructure.

coffee uganda

By the way, I ended up having a Cappuccino at The Source Café in Jinja since Brian, the guide at the Source of the Nile, told me that was “where all the Bazungu have coffee.”

Suffice it to say, at the Source Café, the waiter didn’t know whether the coffee was Ugandan but he did make me a great Cappuccino.

The source cafe

What does serving Ugandan coffee at a tourist attraction have to do with UTB? Everything sirs! The reason we (should) attract tourists to Uganda is not only to admire our beautiful country (that too is important) but spend their hard earned cash in Uganda on Ugandan products!

If they spend on Nescafe, then most of that money goes back to Europe! So much for the lost revenue to Uganda’s toiling coffee farmers and processors.

  1. Stop over at Namawojjolo (and Lukaya) for “Lolipop Chicken”

One of the truly unique foodie experiences (aside from Rolex and the good old roast pork joint) in Uganda is the chicken or meat on a stick at our highway stop overs.

I travel a lot and often marvel at how my colleagues (mostly Muzungus) want to experience unique local cuisines and specifically street food.  It’s a global trend (tune in to CNN or BBC Lifestyle for numerous programs on street food). I think our Rolex and Chicken-on-a-stick-on-the-highway are authentic Ugandan street food.

And I have made sure my kids partake of this experience (these things are not for Muzungus only). And they love it!  We should be promoting these foodie experiences in a big way. My Kenyan colleagues always ask me to bring back some “Chicken Lolipops”. I give them credit for this name.

Now to my gripes: why don’t we have a proper rest stop with sitting areas, proper parking (and Ugandan coffee plus Ugandan tea with Lemon Grass plus Ugandan made fruit juice) developed at Namawojjolo, Lukaya and other stop overs across our highways?

Incidentally, I have never seen a tourist van stopped over at any of these stops. Perhaps because there are virtually no facilities or the guides don’t want them to fall sick eating in a dingy place.

And incidentally (again) there are no public bathrooms at either Namawojjolo or, Lukaya (except the bush as someone pointed out to me). And before you say “its not our job to develop high-way rest stops”, I checked.

In many countries around the World, high-way rest stops are public projects typically developed by governments to promote local jobs.

May I request that UTB plan to develop proper, safe (no people running around on a highway), high-way rest stops at Namawojjolo, Lukaya etc with proper parking, bathroom facilities, sitting places to enjoy the local cuisine and proceed to promote these unique dining experiences in Uganda. If you Sirs, think it is not your job to develop and promote roadside stop areas, may you coordinate with the appropriate local and national governments.

And attract local entrepreneurs/ local investors to develop the facilities while protecting local jobs and livelihoods.

  1. Stop over at the Equator and my continuing quest for Ugandan Coffee

On my way to Kabale, we made the obligatory stop over at the Equator along Masaka Road. First observation- every tourist probably stops here. Not a single one (in all my stops over the years) seems to spend a shilling here. Local travelers stop over at the “katogo place” off the Masaka town bypass. Anyhow, I again asked for coffee made from Ugandan grown coffee. Same as for Jinja- no idea what I was talking about.

Interestingly, they had a sign outside one of the restaurants listed “Americano” and “African Coffee” (see photo). I didn’t bother ask what coffee they used for these coffee (in hindsight, I should have asked!). But I wondered why the sign appears to promote Coca Cola (who probably paid for it) and not UTB!

Well, there goes BUBU I thought!

Equator menu

So what’s the point of this (long) article? It is not to lay blame. It is to highlight some of the short-comings in our Tourism Promotion Strategy.

It is seemingly “small” things like investing in preserving our heritage at the Uganda Museum, clean bathrooms, promotion of unique Uganda food and drink and smart decent rest stops that will linger in the minds of tourist and lead them to spread the word. Instead, we probably have negative word of mouth such as “I couldn’t find a clean bathroom in Uganda!” that dent our image. Exhibit A- Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear.

Ask Simon, and no let’s not get into the Top Gear Uganda debate.  The Source of the Nile is a major tourist attraction- a unique attraction in the whole of Africa. But the facilities around the Source are a disgrace frankly. Give it a face lift.

Moreover, promoting things like Uganda coffee also has an impact on our export potential. Focus on the small things.

Before I sign off, one last thing: our planned trip to visit the Queen Elizabeth national park was postponed. The rates are simply crazy- even when I inquire for local/ resident rates (a concept that sounds strange to the proprietors of these establishments). Shouldn’t UTB be heavily promoting local tourism and educating local hotels on the strategic role of local tourism?.

As for me, I will take up an offer I have for the Mara in Kenya to the Hemingway Ol Seki open only to East Africa Residents. Offers me better value for money. Look it up on the web too.

Regards,

Alex

tourism is everybody’s business – on world tourism day


baby-gorillaWHOEVER in Uganda coined the phrase “Tourism is everybody’s business” meant very well and should be explained better.
Tourism IS everybody’s business, in any nation that values the business of tourism.
We, all of us and everybody, plug into tourism both as beneficiaries and contributors to the business in more ways than most people actually recognise, and if we all stopped to think about it starting this World Tourism Day then we would all be the better for it.
Follow the path of Mr. & Mrs. Joe and Mary Tourist, from a foreign country of your choosing.
Before they actually make their holiday plans and decide on a country to visit, they are most likely going to do a little bit of research on the countries on the list. Regardless of what their passion is – be it walking with gorillas, trotting alongside chimpanzees, whitewater rafting, zip-lining in the Mabira, eating muchomo and Rolleggs, or going on game-heavy drives, they will want to check which country has the best offers.
The offers they will google for will not only be activity related but the additional things as well – security, hospitality and friendliness, efficiency, the general atmosphere and so on and so forth.
They will not restrict their google search to what the governments or politicians or hotels and restaurants say, but they will also check what the bloggers post and the tweeps from the different countries say, as well as what other people say about Ugandans in general.
That’s the ‘Word of Mouth’ element.
Their source of tourism information will also include ‘everybody’, as ‘everybody’ will have operated as country marketing and public relations officer by way of what they say about the country.
After the bookings are done, Mr. & Mrs. Joe and Mary Tourist head over to the country and arrive at the airport or border crossing point. Of course the people that they interact with are principally the government and commercial officials that handle their transportation and other things, but there are other aspects of their arrival into the country that ‘everybody’ has an input into.
See, the ordinary travellers in the various queues and in the same general area as our tourists form part of the pleasurable (or otherwise) experience that the tourists enjoy. I’ve been to countries where I’ve seen people turn their faces to the side and spitting heavy amounts of disgusting material onto the floor, with no-one batting an eyelid. I mentally began preparing to cut short that particular trip right there as soon as it had began, just because of that experience.
When the officials at these various desks are polite and courteous Joe and Mary Tourist will not be surprised because they expect them to be so – they are being paid and have been trained to be this way. When the ordinary people milling about them are also polite and courteous then our tourist couple will be writing blog posts, tweets and WhatsApp messages back home saying, “This place is great!”
Meanwhile, those polite and courteous everyday people that smile at Joe and Mary Tourist with no ulterior motive have no idea that their demeanour is marketing Uganda much more than a paid television campaign probably would.
And, in most cases, they do not realise that their unintentional efforts get rewarded directly by way of Joe and Mary Tourist spending money.
First, the bookings they make always attract a certain amount of taxation that goes into the coffers that the government collects from to build roads, fund schools and hospitals, and spend on other essentials such as defence and security.
Then, when Joe and Mary Tourist buy a cup of freshly ground Ugandan coffee on arrival at Entebbe International airport, or pork ribs at a stop en route from Entebbe to Kampala, or take a taste at a roadside market of their first washed and massive fresh and organic fruits and vegetables grown right here in Uganda, the money they spend goes straight into the economy, having originated from whatever country they flew in from.
Plus, everything they consume and purchase is in most cases grown or manufactured or processed by locals who find themselves earning a living because Joe and Mary Tourist have chosen to visit Uganda,
That is very different from the money you and I spend while we go about life in Uganda, because all we are doing is re-distributing the wealth that is already within the economy. A thousand Uganda Shillings in my pocket right now at my typing desk in Kahangwe, Hoima may go to the receptionist at Shiyaya Tours & Travel to pay for something there but that doesn’t change the amount of money in circulation within the Ugandan economy. But when Joe and Mary Tourist bring in a thousand Uganda Shillings from their country of origin they are increasing the amount of money in circulation inside the Ugandan economy.
Besides the amounts that we get to keep in our pockets as direct earnings from Mr. & Mrs. Joe and Mary Tourist, a certain portion of the money they spend goes into the coffers of the government because the various bits of that money are taxed by way of VAT and other commercial taxes levied on all these items – from the drinks and eats they consume to the crafts they buy and the fuel used to convey them from place to place.
So the beneficiary of tourism is not just the commercial entities engaged in tourism and the people employed directly by the sector.
Understanding this chain of benefits from the tourist to the ordinary Ugandan is an essential part of the efforts of the Competitiveness Enterprise and Development Project (CEDP) intervention in tourism.
Creating this understanding among ordinary Ugandans will better gear us to directly identifying what opportunities are available to us as a result of increased tourism, as well as how we can directly contribute to that increased tourism.
The World Bank alongside CEDP, has invested US$1.5million in hiring three PR and Marketing firms to promote Uganda as a tourism destination – specifically in the UK and Northern Ireland, Germany and parts of Europe, and the United States of America.
The efforts of these PR and Marketing firms will result in increased numbers that must be met with increased production and servicing across the industry – right from the additional mouths to feed to the need for much higher quality products – accommodation, transport, activities and more.
The performance indicators for the CEDP initiative are an increase of tourists to 1,500,000 (one million five hundred thousand) international visitors into Uganda, up from 945,000 in 2010 and 1,206,000 in 2013.
As those PR and Marketing firms go about doing their promotion and representation of Uganda abroad, we – the private sector – should be finding out what else Joe and Mary Tourist might be interested in, so we offer it to them almost intuitively and have them saying the right things about Uganda to their friends and relatives and perpetuating the Word of Mouth cycle.
Because Joe and Mary Tourist, once they have visited Uganda, will join the team ‘Marketing Uganda.
You see, Tourism is everybody’s business – including the tourists themselves.

visa fees into Uganda lowered by 50%, making Uganda tourism the cheapest thrill in Africa…another missed opportunity


The first part of that headline above is the kind of thing we call another missed opportunity.

Today is July 21, 2016.

I am approaching the highly exciting news that Uganda has amended the cost of single entry visas payable on arrival at ports of entry from US$100 to US$50, effective today.
This piece of news is of great economic significance for the entire country at large as it makes us more attractive for tourists in general because it enables our tour operators to offer more competitive packages (especially when you consider that you get a lot more wildlife and other tourism-related experiences for your bucks when you spend in Uganda compared to other countries in the region).
It also brings to an end many months of agonising, lobbying and jostling with the government to lower these fees – which were increased in July last year from US$50 to US$100.
I am not here to talk about the tourism aspects of the announcement, but the COMMUNICATION around it – because THAT  has made the excitement of this announcement is as tasty as a soggy piece of photocopying paper.
Which WAS the ‘official communication’ around this – A BLACK AND WHITE PAGE OF PHOTOCOPYING PAPER with not even a watermark to indicate that it was a genuine and authoritative government document. If it wasn’t for the two holes that indicate that a punching machine was used to make the document appropriate for insertion into a file, one would not believe it to be official.
Here it is:
Tourism Visa Fees Lowered
See, ‘Circular 3, 2016’ is on a letterhead of the Directorate of Citizenship & Immigration Control whose email address (which I am copying this link to) is imm@africaonline.co.ug – a domain that is surprisingly ‘co.ug’ rather than ‘go.ug’ that would make you believe it is run by the government.
Maybe the ‘co.ug’ means it is businesslike? No – the email address bounces back mail!
I swear  – see:
Anyway, the sogginess of the announcement is mostly because the people announcing it have taken that annoyingly lazy and ubiquitous path of scanning a document and WhatsApping it around and claiming to have communicated.
The missed opportunity here is massive – which reminds me of the saying often attributed to Thomas Alva Edison, that inventor of things such as the lightbulb: “We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work,” he is reputed to have said!
Whoever is in charge of announcing this Single Entry Visa change was clearly afraid of doing a little bit of work around it.
This is the kind of announcement that needs:
  1. To be accompanied by images and graphics of happy, smiling tourists of all ethnicities very excitedly receiving change or balance at Entebbe airport as they pay for their entry visa, with mountain gorillas and other wildlife in the backdrop waiting to receive them.
  2. To go into funny video memes depicting the excitement at paying much less to holiday in Uganda.
  3. To be translated into as many languages as exist countrywide and then circulated to all embassies.
  4. To get posted online onto ALL government websites.
  5. To get posted online onto ALL websites of Ugandan embassies and foreign missions.
  6. To be given to ALL tour and travel and hospitality companies to share no their platforms and websites.
  7. To be made colourful and vibrant and welcoming and enticing – which even nursery schools do when they paint their walls in bright colours and use smiling cartoon characters, so that parents and children alike choose them rather than a mango tree…
  8. To be carried VERY LOUDLY AND PROMINENTLY by the Uganda Tourism Board, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, and everybody with an interest in seeing our tourism numbers grow.
  9. To be given to the three Tourism Marketing and Public Relations Promotion Firms contracted a few months ago to promote Uganda, so that they make a big meal out of it in those markets they are covering – the UK and Northern Ireland, Germany and Europe, and the United States.
It is not too late to salvage this and do all the above.
For God and My Country.
Update: @PaulKaheru asked for a sample poster and I have to share this, below, which was released an hour or so after this blog post and would have made for a much, much, much better announcement than the letter sent by WhatsApp – so kudos to the Minister:
Hon Frank Tumwebaze Visa Fees Lowered
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