Uganda President Yoweri Museveni was the chief viewer of the hybrid eclipse episode which gathered thousands of Ugandans and international enthusiasts to Owiny Primary school in Nebbi district north western Uganda.Here below we reproduce his speech as he appeals to all Ugandans to embrace tourism as an engine of socio-economic transformation.
I warmly welcome you to Pakwach and to Uganda on this rare occasion of viewing the hybrid solar eclipse. The last eclipse of this kind in Uganda was witnessed in 1466 and the next one is forecast for 2117. So all of us are privileged to be viewing today‚Äôs eclipse.
As you will have observed on your way here, Uganda is endowed with a variety of tourism resources including stunning landscapes, beauty water bodies, unique cultures, a variety of flora and fauna and is the source of the second longest river ‚Äď the Nile. Since the 2007 Common Wealth Heads of Government Meeting.
About 26.4% of the country‚Äôs total area is under protected areas such as national parks, species management areas, game reserves, wilderness areas, marine reserves and Ramsar sites. Uganda is strengthening efforts to conserve its rich biodiversity. Resulting from this, wildlife populations in all protected areas have rebounded from the dismal figures of the 1970‚Äôs and 80‚Äôs when the country was ravaged by war and political instability. Creation of the Tourism Police, increase in game rangers and strict border control have significantly reduced poaching and illegal trade in animals and their parts, all of which have also contributed to the steady increase in wildlife populations in the country.
Further evidence of Uganda‚Äôs remarkable tourism potential is the various accolades received in the past few years. Lonely Planet, an independent tourists‚Äô trusted information source, named Uganda its top destination for 2011/12. In addition, Uganda also received accolades from six trusted publications including: Virungas: One of 20 Must‚ÄźSee Places for 2012 by National Geographic Travel Magazine, Bwindi: Best African Birding Destination (2011) by Travel Africa Magazine and Rwenzori Mountains: One of World‚Äôs 15 Best Hikes by National Geographic in 2012.
Uganda is regaining her position as a top African destination as it was in the 1960‚Äôs. From 100,000 visitors in 1993, Uganda received 1,151,000 visitor arrivals in the year 2011 representing an increase of 34% from 2010, an indication of a growing tourism market. The industry‚Äôs total contribution to GDP amounts to over 1.5 billion dollars, representing 9% of national GDP. The sector is also one of the major employers in the country, with a total of 522,700 jobs created in 2011, representing 7.9% of the total work force in Uganda. (Figures from Uganda Tourism Sector Situational Assessment, 2012)
The tourism sector which was prioritized as a primary growth sector in the 2010/11‚Äź2014/15 National Development Plan (NDP), once again has its own fully fledged Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities to spearhead the process of harnessing Uganda‚Äôs tourism potential for economic development and social transformation.
We believe that by promoting investment in tourism, we invariably support the whole economy through the creation of employment and additional investment opportunities. In Uganda, we have packaged attractive investment incentives ranging from profit repatriation; tax holidays, facilitating importation of special tourist vehicles and property acquisition through a one stop center, the Uganda Investment Authority. Uganda offers attractive tourism investment opportunities in accommodation, hospitality training, tour operations, and water based attraction development.
Tourism is a green economy; it aspires for social inclusiveness and equality. The beauty about the tourism industry is that it is largely a young people industry, strong on entrepreneurial skilling and has relatively low costs or barriers to entry. Although tourism is one of the major sectors contributing to the social and economic transformation of Uganda, we should not fail to be mindful of the negative effects of the travel and tourism economy to social economic fabric of our societies, the effects of terrorism, drug trafficking, poaching, child labour and prostitutions are raw cancers perpetuated by and through this industry. We need to have in place monitoring mechanisms and sanctions to fight these evils. Parents, Schools and communities must be more vigilant against these vices.
Ladies and Gentlemen, once again I am happy to be hosting you here in Pakwach today.
As you have experienced, we are all safe and secure here today, with no threat from any form of insecurity. Previously displaced people have been successfully resettled and efforts are being put into improving their social and economic conditions. The government is constructing schools and health centers, improving access roads and funding various development initiatives for the people of Northern Uganda.
Let me take this opportunity to inform you and the world at large that Uganda is safe and all parts of Uganda, including northern Uganda are safe and open for tourism.
Uganda is endowed with rich cultural and natural biodiversity found nowhere else in the world. I encourage investors from within Uganda and other countries to start investing in this region because of the significant potential it has.
Before I conclude, I wish to express my appreciation to all our foreign visitors who have come all the way to view the eclipse in Uganda.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, as we participate in activities to mark this unique hybrid eclipse, I invite you to explore other parts of Northern Uganda and indeed the country at large to experience more of our legendary hospitality, culture and the natural beauty of the Pearl of Africa.
I thank you for your kind attention and Happy Eclipse Viewing.
For God and My Country.