Officials from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities have revealed they are in the final stages of awarding the contract to the developer by the end of this financial year which ends this June to transform the longest river in the world and largest in Africa into a tourism center.
This was revealed by Jimmy Andrew Kigozi, a senior tourism officer at the ministry during a stakeholder sensitization meeting for the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) study for the acquisition of land for the SON development project held at Source of the Nile Hotel-Jinja on Tuesday.
Kigozi revealed that the development involves constructing quality modern facilities at the Nile which will greatly improve the visitor experience. Some of the facilities include; a modern pier, a Nile civilization village, an aquarium, play facilities for children, Zipline, a modern cruise, a living museum, modern parking, restaurants, and accommodation among others.
One of the ministry’s mandates is to develop the country’s different tourist attractions. He said a census was carried out, and the source of the Nile ranked the highest among sites that should be developed because it has the potential to attract lots of tourists.
Important to note is that the development of these projects will be done in a phased manner according to the National Development Plan (NDP111).
“There are few activities people can enjoy at the Nile now, like eating fish, and boat cruises. We want to develop the place into a first world-class tourist site, so that when tourists come here, there are several activities they can enjoy, stay longer, spend more, thus boosting our revenue, and economy,” he said
He applauded Strategic Friends International (SFI), for a great job done in developing a Master Plan and Strategic Environmental Assessment for the Source of the Nile Area.
In the financial year, 2018–2019 tourism earned Uganda’s GDP 5.6 trillion Ugandan shillings (US$1.60 billion or €1.3 billion as of Dec 2019) from 1.6 million tourists (World Bank 2019).
Jinja City is known as the adventure capital that attracts both local and international tourists such as the Nyege Nyege International Music and Arts Festival, the Vumbula festival-which aims at bringing together all tourism enthusiasts in one space to celebrate Uganda’s beauty, culture, music, and heritage among others.
Mr Henry Kitambula the Deputy Resident District Commissioner (RCC), Jinja City said as leaders, they are in total support of the project.
He explained that through the development of these infrastructures, more jobs will be created for the people of Jinja City, and Buikwe district, and many others will be able to supply goods and services thus improving their social-economic status.
Recalling his first visit to the SON, he was shocked. He said it has an international name, but when you get to the site, it is a total quash.
“Whoever visits the Nile the first time, they wonder why they came. The only thing you see is people eating fish and those on boat cruises. Nothing else attracts people. But if it is well developed, it can attract many more tourists than it does now,” he said
He asked the leaders both at local and district levels to mobilize their communities and give them the right information on what the project is all about, and what they stand to gain, adding that if people are not well informed, the project will suffer setbacks.
Mr Daudi Migereko, the former Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development asked those who are responsible for the project to move faster.
Like some other speakers, he said this project is long overdue.
“The pace at which we do things in this country is not good, and we have to change. Plans to transform this place have been ongoing for way too long. This is an appeal to the consultants and the Ministry of Tourism! Can we move faster, we want to see things on the ground taking off. The willingness of the people to support the project will be greatly enhanced when they see action,” he stated.
Dr. Kosea Wambaka, Head of Party and Programmes at Strategic Friends International (SFI) who is a team leader for the Source of the Nile development project said 3kms have been demarcated for this project right from the source of the Nile.
He explained that the firm is soon starting to carry out social-economic, and cadastral surveys to compensate all those who will be affected by the project. Dr. Wambaka assured everyone that the project will be very transparent and that those affected by the project will be adequately compensated in this settlement action plan.