Government has been urged to allocate more resources and efforts into promoting tourism as the only sure means of reviving Uganda’s economy.
Mr Amos Wekesa, the CEO Great Lakes Safaris said Uganda’s tourism has the potential to create more meaningful opportunities than any other sector if the government and Ugandans invest more in the sector.
He revealed that research on Uganda’s tourism potential shows that we could earn up to $12b (UGX 44.9t) annually if we matched the right monies at the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB).
Speaking at the launch of Casa foundation, the charity arm of Casa Uganda Safaris and Roof Top Coffee Bar, first of its kind in Mbale municipality on July 31, Mr Wekesa said Uganda is well endowed with everything including the most fertile soils in Africa and tourist attractions but that our economy is struggling just because we are “wrong people” in Uganda.
“A country that lives and borrows above its budget, a country where people who work with government, steal money but fear to retire because they are not prepared. So they keep changing their ages, these are wrong people in Uganda,” said Mr Wekesa.
“As Ugandans, we must learn from our mistakes and refocus, we must discover our abilities. We must teach our children to have skills as early as four years. The Israelites say that if you raise up a child up to the age of 13 and he/she has no skill, then you are raising up a thief,” added Mr Wekesa.
He said with more potential tourists beginning to look at Uganda as unique and an interesting tourism destination, there is no better time to develop community-based tourism than now.
Mr Wekesa occasionally spoke about his past sending people into laughter and got back occasionally to speak about tourism; those who have met him in person knew that he has a story to tell.
His story gives you an unexpected insight into the life of the person behind Great Lakes Safaris today.
“I grew up in an extremely poor family, I hate poverty and I have a phobia for poverty because of my past. But I am happy that I am not responsible for my past but I am responsible for my future and I want to urge everyone to save however little for investment,” said Mr Wekesa.
He revealed that he was a risk taker, I take risks and that in a country where you do not have many risk takers, development becomes a very big challenge.
Mr Wekesa added that when he wants something, he pursues it and when he fails, he does not condemn himself, he wakes up, dusts off and moves on and that this is what he wants everyone to adapt in order to develop Uganda.
He is these inspirational words that have become the force that drives his efforts and keeps him in business.
He said as Ugandans we must change from aid-led vision to vision led aid, because there is a lot of mismatch between the two.
He told the people that it was high time Ugandans stopped thinking about basics and keep pushing forward on the things that will develop our country and help a generation that comes in future.
He explained that when he met the CEO of Casa Uganda Safaris and Lodges [Mr Saleh Naminya] and mentored him, he asked him to keep away from all negative forces and think progressively.
“And I want to urge all of you to keep away negative thinking because it contributes to anxiety in social and performance situations,” said Mr Wekesa.
He said the only key way to changing negative thoughts is to understand how you think now (and the problems that result) and then use strategies to change thoughts or make them have less effect on you, “And for me when I get angry or annoyed, I start jogging and by the time I get back I will have settled that is why many people think I never get annoyed,” he added.
Mr Naminya, the CEO Casa Uganda Safaris said he visited Italy on invitation of a friend [an Italian] and that although he was supposed to stay there for six months, when they took him out to drink Coffee, it awakened him and he decided to come back to Uganda after only three weeks.
“I thought within myself, my grandfather and my father grow Coffee in Uganda and why do I take Coffee grown in Uganda in Italy. I made up a decision to get back to Uganda to start a Coffee bar in Mbale to sell Coffee,” said Mr Naminya.
By DAVID MAFABI