Last night was a night of happiness as Uganda High Commission in Kigali hosted an event dubbed ‘Uganda Night’ in which a new brand of Uganda tourism – Explore Uganda: The Pearl of Africa – was unveiled.
Exerybody keeps talking about The Pearl of Africa but why is Uganda referred to as the Pearl of Africa? The High Commissioner Rtd. Gen. Robert Rusoke, had this to say:
“It is not simply an invention by modern .com artistes. You know everybody now is in the period of invention. The slogan Pearl of Africa has its roots in the colonial history of Uganda. The explorers of the time from Speke, Norton, Stanley and others, had difficult descriptions of what they had seen in that part of the world. It was quite mesmerizing. However, on record, it was Sir Winston Churchill in his memoirs published in 1907 who popularized the term ‘The Pearl of Africa’. And in his own words, he said he was mesmerized by what he saw and for short of any description he chose to call it the pearl. But why the pearl? Because pearls are rare to find in nature, and they are only located within living creatures, so he notorized that Uganda was the germ found in the living creature called Africa. That is the origin of the Pearl of Africa.”
In his book entitled ‘My African Journey’ published in 1908, Sir Winston Churchill about his visit of Uganda in 1907, he wrote, “For magnificence, for variety of form, for profusion of brilliant life, – bird, insect, reptile, beast – for vast scale, – Uganda is trutly “The Pearl of Africa.”
Uganda Night was a nice opportunity to showcase the trans-boundary tourism potential of both Rwanda and Uganda at CHOGM 2022 taking place in Kigali for the first time since Rwanda joined the Commonwealth in 2009.
It is part of a travel trade partners initiative between Rwanda and Uganda to promote common transboundary resources in a bid to strengthen the trans-boundary tourism market to 54 Commonwealth Member Countries and other observers from other non-Commonwealth countries present in Kigali.
Commonwealth countries have an estimated population of 2.5 billion people and include both advanced economies and developing countries. The Commonwealth Secretariat aims to: protect the environment and encourage sustainable use of natural resources; boost trade and the economy; support democracy, government, and the rule of law, and develop social and young people, including gender equality, education, and health and sport.
The promotion of transboundary tourism with common shared resources is a gesture to other Commonwealth countries of collaborative natural resource governance and trade between Rwanda and Uganda to get more tourists to visit the resources shared by the two countries and simultaneously send tourists from Rwanda to Uganda’s destinations or vice versa.
Ambassador Monique Mukaruliza, Stategic Advisor to Rwanda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs welcomed to Rwanda Rtd. Maj. Gen. Robert Rusoke who is new at the high commission, promising good relations and partnerships as he starts representing Uganda in Kigali.
She lauded Uganda Night, terming it an “oportune moment” to reflect on “vast opportunities and natural endowments bestowed to our region.”
“Uganda in particular has numerous sceneries, heritage sites, rich and diverse culture. On a broader scale all East African counties share common and natural features. And every country in the East African Community has something unique to offer but our potentials are under-utilized because of intentional barriers.” she said.
“So far, international tourists need multiple choice visa to enter some partner states. Movements of local tourists is restricted by non- acceptance of identity cards to enter some partner states. When tourists visit some countries in the region, they cannot easily reach their families, there are cheap loaming telephone services, these are unnecessary and unprofitable barriers,” Mukaruliza added.
“Complete removal of these barriers of the tourism sector and movements of people in the East African community is overdue. Our leaders have instructed us to remove these barriers. That is why innovative instruments like the East African Single-Tourist Visa, East African Tourism Platform, Use of National Identity Card to cross the borders, harmonization of loaming charges in one are network have been put in place.” Mukaruliza said.
A number of transboundary initiatives/projects are already established between Rwanda and Uganda especially for mountain gorillas and its habitat conservation like the Greater Virunga Transboundary Conservation and Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (commonly referred to as Gorilla Doctors).
These transboundary initiatives or projects work across the three sister countries of DRC, Rwanda and Uganda to conserve the mountain gorillas and encourage sustainable use of natural resources of Greater Virunga Region (consisting of Virunga National Park in DRC, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga – Bwindi Conservation Area in Uganda) for sustainable livelihood of the local people living the region and to boost gorilla tourism trade to support economies of the three countries.
Tourism is a significant sector of Uganda’s economy. Before COVID-19 pandemic the country received an estimated number of over 1.5 million international arrivals and the sector contributed 7.75% of GDP and 6.7% of total national employment in 2018 – 2019.
Detailed analysis of products that have highest international market shares contributing to more of these international arrivals are shared resources like mountain gorillas existing in the 3 countries. Currently mountain gorilla is the iconic product for both Rwanda and Uganda.
Rwanda, which borders Uganda, shares a number of tourism products and currently mountain gorillas has the biggest international market share for both Rwanda and Uganda, making it signature resource that can be used to brand the two countries.
Showcasing the potential of transboundary tourism trade between Rwanda and Uganda at CHOGM 2022 Kigali targets CHOGM 2022 delegations that represent 2.5 million population of Commonwealth countries, which helps the two countries move towards their goal of joint promotion of transboundary tourism and resource conservation.
Present at Uganda Night were also tour operators from Rwanda and Uganda, whom the high commissioner urged to strenghten ties “to promote national and regional tourism in our economies.”
He noted that a number of international visitors now land in Kigali International Airport and cross by road to either Bwindi Impenetrable or Mgahinga National Parks via Kyanika in Kisoro District or Katuna in Kabale District in Uganda.
He added that some land in Entebbe International Airport, fly to Queen Elizabeth and cross over to Rwanda for Gorilla tracking, commending the one visa policy instituted by the EAC that has helped to boost international trans-boundary tourism trade between Rwanda and Uganda with a number of tour operators having branch offices in the two countries.
Uganda’s participation in CHOGM 2022 Exhibition Kigali with other accompanying activities like rebranding Chancery Building, road show and road trip were organized to communicate to CHOGM 20022 delegates about the trans-boundary products and therefore take an experiential road trip to Uganda to see these products.