This week the President of Uganda said, we shall lose USD 1.6 billion due to Covid19 as potential earning from Tourism this year. I think without covid19, tourism fortunes were going to be higher this due to advance bookings we had experienced.
As a Country, we haven’t milked this cow called Tourism well partly because we haven’t studied the positive trickle down effects of the same sector and communicated to the population to take advantage. Data captured is very basic to be very useful.
A simple study by Makerere University business school about 8 years ago revealed that tourists that come to Uganda underspend by almost 60% . Which means that if they had USD 1000 to spend, they only spend USD 400 and that’s true.
We get as much as possible from the adventure tourists who are a small portion of the bigger picture because they spend more days in the country and move more. The tourists that come for say conferences in and around Kampala from abroad aren’t exposed to enough info to allow spending.
Our city hotels for example should have proper information centers of different activities in and around Kampala, tourists can spend money on. Kampala and Entebbe should have many information centers for easy access to information. The quality of information center at our airport must improve.
The layout of our new terminals at our airport should be done with commercial mindset. We should be able to display our art, our fabrics, our manufactured products that people can spend money on. When you visit say Singapore, you will understand why some countries develop and others fail. At hotel reception, all type information is provided. Think about Dubai airport (completely commercial).
The information should focus on activities like Ndere troupe center, our night life locations, different types of food places, activities on lake Victoria, our museum, Kabaka tombs, our churches, mosques, all historical places. People should be able to know they can do day trips to Jinja, Mabira forest, Mpanga forest, ngamba island etc. Our shopping centers as well.
At the start of every conference be it on water, team building, footage of attractions of different regions of Uganda must be showcased. I saw that in Malaysia and it’s because they realised that 4 out 10 people who come for a conference, will most likely return with families within 5 years to spend money in the country.
Just doing the above will double our earnings from the same numbers of tourists. We would earn over USD 3.2billion. That would help us reduce the balance of payments deficit by over USD 1.6bn. If we doubled our tourists’ numbers to 3.2m and used the above commercial approach, we would earn over USD 6bn and that’s not hard if UTB becomes serious.
I personally believe that people at the Ministry of finance or government in general has very little interest in investing in tourism because, tourism money is complicated money. It must be earned but also it’s spread is so wide that no single person can control it. For example, if I want fuel, I will choose a station I like, restaurant, I choose what I want, hotel same, guide same etc.
He also talked about coffee bringing in over USD 400m into Uganda’s economy. The challenge with things like coffee, coffee is very controlled and farmers get something but not enough. The guys that earn from coffee are majorly multinationals and I will give you an example below for you to understand.
In March this year, Uganda exported 477,561 bags and the top 7 exporters are locally registered companies who sell to their parent companies outside Uganda.
These companies were:
1-Kyagalanyi coffee( 87,657 bags),
2- Ugacof ltd( 65,217 bags),
3-Olam Uganda( 45,842bags),
4-Ideal Quality( 38, 340 bags)
6-Touton Uganda( 31,828 bags) and
7- 23,064 and these Top 7 buy between 70 to 85% of our coffee.
Unless we(ffe banaUganda) started picking interest in real things like above, we shall continue talking very good English without results. We need to ask ourselves, why are these companies dominating? Are they doing it for fun? And us Christians ( me inclusive) keep saying, we shall be the heads not the tails and yet not paying attention to the above.
Now look at who owns the above companies:
Kyagalanyi subsidiary of Volcafe / ED&F Man (Founded 1783 London)
UgaCof subsidiary of Sucafina (Founded in Switzerland 1977)
Olam (Founded 1989 Singapore)
Ideal Quality Commodities
Kawacom subsidiary of ECOM Agroindustrial (Founded 1849 Spain)
Touton Uganda Ltd Subsidiary of Touton (Founded in France 1848)
Ibero subsidiary of Neumann Gruppe (Founded in Germany 1990)
According to the East African, Uganda has borrowed over USD 500m in the last 3 months. We wouldn’t need to over borrow if we thought and acted right.
Some people want us to continuously discuss very trivial things and yet we can only grow if we focus on important things.
By Amos Wekesa