It is true that many Ugandans agree that although Uganda is an agro-economy, it has failed to achieve a remarkable economic growth from the sector.
This is partly because our agricultural products are always consumed at home in their raw format and since there is little effort in value addition, (Thanks to the current government of NRM under President Yoweri Museveni which has supported various agricultural programs like NAADS and others which are a manifestation of deliberate efforts to promote agriculture in Uganda, improve household incomes, eradicate poverty and even promote the grand dream of commercialization of agriculture in Uganda!) even the few agricultural products that we export to America,Europe,Rwanda,South Sudan and Kenya who are the chief importers of our coffee and food respectively, we earn some money but it is not enough to finance our National budget apart from making us the most food secure country in both Eastern and Central Africa.
Now, in 2003,various experts working on behalf of the government of Uganda made a comprehensive study and found out that tourism, if well handled (in terms of marketing and product development) could earn the country a remarkable amount of income, a thing that almost all of us, the patriotic Ugandans agreed to in affirmative.
Since then, all stake holders, the government of Uganda through its semi-autonomous arms like Uganda wildlife Authority (UWA), Uganda Tourism Board, and voluntary organizations like Rhino Fund, Wildlife conservation society and obviously us the tour operators who the end retailers of tourism to the tourists under our umbrella body, Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) have been fighting aggressively to promote (read market) Uganda’s tourism potential at home and abroad through participating in Tourism exhibitions, promotional materials like bronchures,DVDs and on social media, international and local print media, and even on electronic media.
Although the efforts have been minimal, remarkable success has been recorded both in individual awareness both locally and internationally on the importance of tourism in uplifting the livelihoods of its indirect beneficiaries like local communities and direct beneficiaries like the tourists themselves.
Currently, tourism is Uganda’s second chief foreign exchange earner to remittances from Ugandans in the Diaspora. Indeed it helps balance our budget, even with this minimal effort that our government has put in to promote it (I give the government 20% if I am to grade its performance in supporting tourism here).
From Gorilla Tourism, the country earns around US$ 225 million! This is wonderful.
Various researches have been taking place since 2003,to see if Uganda can position itself in the region as a chief exporter of services like health, education, hosipitality, education, to mention but a few, a position formerly dominated by Uganda’s neighbor Kenya!
Ever Since the current government of President Museveni took power in1986, it has undertaken various economic reforms like liberalization of the economy, privatisation and investment promotion, since Uganda has a stable economy and the both the economic and political atmosphere is very conducive for doing business. The results are very encouraging.
Liberalized, was also education, which was also restructured, making Uganda the most reliable source of Knowledge in East Africa, producing well educated and competent experts in the professions of medicine, law, teaching, engineering, etc, for the first time in history, overtaking and defeating Kenya in the same field, which it had dominated since independence because of historical reasons! These historical reasons were:-
- The seat of the East African Examinations board and the educational board was in Kenya
- Kenya had been politically stable since independence.
As a result, there has been a massive exodus of students from Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and recently South Sudan.
Students who receive their education (and graduate) from Uganda are highly rated in their countries, very many have continued to trek from their countries to receive first class education and the statistics show that 15 % of the total number of candidates sitting the Uganda National Examination Board exams are foreign nationals and almost the 10% of the total number of graduates who graduate from Ugandan institutions of higher learning (Universities and Colleges) are foreign nationals. South Sudan has gone an extra mile to make the Uganda National Examinations Board it’s official examinations body, and many South Sudanese elites find it more convenient to have their children receive their education from here and they perform better than if they were to receive (what they call substandard education, according to their words) from South Sudan and sit the same exams with well educated students from Uganda. By dong this, it helps Uganda earn from its efforts in Education and also fast tracking the dream of the East African federation which is every East African citizen’s dream!
Strategists in the Ministry of Education who have been watching the upward trend in the demand for Ugandan Education by foreigners have decided to make Education one of the top exports and last week on 4th September 2012 the director the Uganda Export Promotion Board, together with Education officials have decided to make Education a top export by 2020.
Number one on the various strategies is consulting with the Ministry of tourism and borrow an idea of how the ministry has managed to promote tourism and earn from it from US $ 0 in 1990,to more than US $ 225 million today, for a period of just 20 years!