UTB Boss Ajarova Calls On Missions Abroad to Boost ‘Explore Uganda’ Tourism Campaign

The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) is seeking to leverage Uganda’s missions abroad to boost tourism growth, according to CEO Lilly Ajarova. She called on these missions to support Uganda’s tourism efforts, particularly in branding, marketing, and attracting investors to the ‘Explore Uganda’ campaign.

Ajarova expressed confidence in the support of missions abroad, which she believes will help achieve Uganda’s vision of becoming a top destination in Africa. “We count on our missions abroad to help us achieve this goal by identifying opportunities, lobbying for Uganda to host international meetings, and supporting our Explore Uganda destination brand,” she said.

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, Ajarova noted that Uganda has made significant progress in tourism development, rising from an unknown destination to becoming the 10th best destination on the continent for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) in 2018. “The country currently ranks seventh and aims to become one of the top five destinations in Africa,” she added.

Amb. Richard Kabonero, Head of Regional Economic Cooperation, highlighted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is developing a new framework aimed at promoting economic growth through commercial diplomacy. This initiative seeks to guide Uganda’s missions abroad in marketing and attracting investments to the country.

“The MoFA decided to come up with a framework under which we can guide our missions abroad to market the country in three main areas: increasing our exports, attracting foreign direct investments, and attracting tourists,” Amb. Kabonero explained.

The initial phase of the program will involve 10 missions and two consulates in areas with high potential for investment, such as ATM, agriculture, tourism, mineral development, and science and technology. “We need to measure results and then scale up to all other 37 missions that Uganda has abroad,” Kabonero noted.

He emphasized the importance of addressing non-tariff barriers, including standards, competition, and lack of compliance with regional trade protocols. The ministry is also working to address tariff barriers, infrastructure challenges, and standards and certification issues to increase exports.

Ms. Julianne Mweheire, Director of Industry Affairs and Content Development at UCC, noted a significant shift in data consumption trends over the past two years, with an increasing number of users opting for video communication. This has led to substantial changes in data utilization.

According to Mweheire, the cost of data has significantly decreased by 51% since 2019, with mobile operators reducing data prices. The price per gigabyte of data in Uganda is relatively low compared to other East African countries, at $0.86 per GB, compared to $0.76 in Rwanda, $0.97 in Kenya, $1.53 in Tanzania, $4.00 in South Sudan, and $0.83 in South Africa.

However, despite this progress, Mweheire noted that the penetration of digital devices remains low, with only 16 million smartphones in use out of 35 million active SIM cards. She attributed this to high taxes on smartphones, which hinder their adoption.

Vincent Bagiire, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted that the 40% tax on smartphones is counterproductive, as telecom companies generate more revenue from data usage than voice calls. He argued that reducing the tax would lead to increased smartphone penetration, resulting in higher tax revenues for the Uganda Revenue Authority.

Other presenters on the second day of the workshop included Mr. Abel Kagumire, Commissioner for Customs at URA, Ms. Patricia Bageine Ejalu, Deputy Director at UNBS, and Mr. Ben Kajuna, Director of Transport at the Ministry of Works.

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