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Uganda Lures World Investors to Boost Conservation Tourism

FILE - The sun sets over Lake George near Uganda's Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda.
FILE - The sun sets over Lake George near Uganda's Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda.

Home to half the world’s Mountain gorilla and 50 percent of world bird species, conservation tourism marketing remains a challenge for Uganda. In a first ever conservation Finance Giants Forum, Uganda also known as the Pearl of Africa, Friday, got an opportunity to market its beauty in a bid to lure more investors and tourists into the country.

Uganda held the first ever Conservation and Tourism Investment Forum Friday, gathering senior business figures from around the world.

Emphasis was put on new marketing strategies, particularly the need for private sector investment to compliment traditional sources of conservation capital.

The government’s intention was to show investors that Uganda is open for responsible investment in the conservation sector and for conservation organizations to take note of the opportunity to co-manage protected areas with the government.

Stephen Asiimwe is the Chief Executive Director Uganda Tourism Board.

“Because we've got forests, we've got Rift Valley, we've got the Mountains, we've got the national parks, we've got places near falls, we've got places near rivers, lakes," said Asiimwe. "So basically, we are selling locations, which offer the customer at the end of the day a fantastic experience that gives them a sense of saying, I want to stay here.”

The investors made it clear what they needed from the government. Max Graham, founder of the elephant conservation group Space for Giants, one of the organizers of the conference, says Uganda has great conservation and tourism potential - but needs investment.

“It’s the opportunity for the first time really to have a very willing partner in government to create the right environment," said Graham. "Political security, you know, security generally, great apes, and the opportunity to create a unique circuit and then finally a willing partner in government to help make the transaction simple. So, currently across most of Uganda’s protected areas, they are under-resourced. They don’t have the investment to maintain the roads. They don’t have the investment, and this is critical, to protect their wild life populations.”

Reassurance is what they got from President Yoweri Museveni.

“We have been able to establish a strong security system, a strong army which has been able to defeat terrorism," he said. Then we had some strong anti-poaching measures, that’s how the elephant population came up. Then we have been able to work on some roads, like for instance Murchison Falls and now we have done one for Kibaale Forest Reserve. We are working on the roads to Karamoja, eventually to Kidepo, even towards Bwindi.”

In 2016 Uganda received one million three hundred tourists accounting for 1.3 billion dollars with hope of growing tourism figures to four million by 2020.