Reseachers tell Uganda to drop ‘Pearl of Africa’

Reseachers tell Uganda to drop ‘Pearl of Africa’
By David Lumu

US-based University of Berkeley researchers and stakeholders in the tourism sector have agreed to change the brand to ‘Small Africa’

Ever since former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, described Uganda as the ‘Pearl of Africa’, the tag has been the main brand for the country’s tourism sector and beyond.

But US-based University of California, Berkeley researchers and stakeholders in the tourism sector have agreed to change the brand of the country from ‘Pearl of Africa’ to ‘Small Africa’.

The need to urgently revamp the stagnating tourism sector, the researchers say, has informed the need to change the Pearl of Africa brand.

In a 70-page report compiled by a team of researchers from the US-based University of California, Berkeley, which was presented to government officials at the Office of the Prime Minister last week on Wednesday, the brand ‘Pearl of Africa’ has been described as one that is not in line with the changing dynamics of the tourism sector and the marketing strategy of the country.

The researchers called on Ugandans to start thinking about refining the Pearl of Africa brand.

Pearl of Africa is too wide

“The Pearl of Africa tag does not communicate. People don’t know why they should come to Uganda. The message is not consistent. We suggest that the country changes to a single brand which has the name Uganda and gives reasons why someone should visit the country. Most tourism adverts don’t have the name Uganda,” said Libby Andrada, the team leader of researchers during her presentation of the report to the Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, at the Office of the Prime Minister.

The researchers, who spent three weeks traversing the country’s top tourist attraction sites, were invited into the country by Prof. Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, the Bank of Uganda governor, under the Tumusiime-Mutebile Centre of Excellency for Private Sector Development in Uganda.

The researchers indicate in their report that tourism is stagnating in Uganda compared to neighboring countries such as Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania because of limited budget allocations, among other things.

rime inister r uhakana ugunda 2nd left with the team from erkeley ass chool of usiness led by uca osentino left together with ank of ganda mmanuel umusiime utebile right during the launch of the report on tourism in ganda hoto by odfrey imonoPrime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda (2nd left) with the team from Berkeley Hass School of Business led by Luca Cosentino (left) together with Bank of Uganda Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile (right) during the launch of the report on tourism in Uganda. Photo by Godfrey Kimono
Recently, Rwanda partnered with Arsenal under the ‘visit Rwanda’ campaign to promote tourism.

The researchers have praised the Rwandan move, urging Ugandans to adopt a single tourism message.

Change Makerere tourism course

To revamp the sector, the researchers are calling on government to provide incentives such as low interest loans to the private sector players, who are willing to invest in tourism, give tax incentives to tourism investors, re-train the tourism work force and change the Makerere University curriculum for the bachelor of tourism course.

“Update the university degree curriculum to match international standards and real world skills demands,” the report noted.

Rugunda said the ideas fronted by the researchers will energise the tourism sector.

“As government we see tourism as a major foreign exchange earner for our country. So, we just need to tweak a few areas which you have identified and attain the tourism potential. A number of people raise the question of why people are not coming yet we have the best offer? So, this report has given that question answers,” he said.

UTB is the problem

Some key tourism and private sector players in the country such Amos Wekesa, Patrick Bitature, Theresa Mbire, who attended the function yesterday , welcomed the report, arguing that it if implemented it will change the face of tourism in the country.

“The problem is that the people in the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB). They are not bad people but they just don’t know what to do,” Wekesa said, underscoring the need to develop a brand that markets all the tourist attraction sites in the country.

Ephraim Kamuntu, the minister of tourism, said government will implement the report.

“We have a country that is so endowed and still so poor; how do you explain this? Therefore, we shall make sure that the recommendations of the report are implemented, especially the issue of inadequate funding,” he said.

Mutebile said funding of tourism should become a priority of the government.