On 1 July, Ugandans and Egyptians were invited to board a Nile cruise ship that was transformed into a mini Uganda for the night. The main idea of the festive event, which included a number of Uganda-related exhibits and shows, was to give Egyptians a taste of the diverse sites Uganda has to offer and motivate them to visit the country.
Organized by IBIS, an Egyptian company that promotes Egypt through tourism, investments and social and educational development, and hosted by the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), an agency of Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism that contracted IBIS for the occasion, this party in Cairo was only one in a series of related activities intended to bring the two Nile-connected countries closer together, primarily in the field of tourism.
“This is an ongoing campaign to promote tourism and collaboration between Uganda and Egypt; actually, this is just the start,” Nancy Hadi, Founder and Managing Partner of IBIS, and representative of Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism in Egypt told Egyptian Streets.
On a grander scheme, this series of events that were strategically held during AFCON 2019 and attended by a Ugandan delegation of government officials, ministers and activists, provided a suitable occasion to promote not only collaboration in the fields of tourism and investments but also capacity building and South-South cooperation more generally.
They are part of a broader tourism campaign entitled #VisitUganda initiated by the Ministry of Tourism in Uganda and their agency, the UTB, that signed a protocol with the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) to promote tourism in Uganda during AFCON 2019 with the slogans: ‘Uganda Source of the Nile’ and ‘Uganda Pearl of Africa’.
“Our goal is to promote tourism in our country and increase interdependence,” the Ugandan Minister of Tourism, Honorable Godfrey Kiwanda Ssuubi stated in a press release, reiterating that with all cameras faced towards Egypt during the popular sports event, timing has proven perfect for strengthening relations between the two countries: “Sport is a good opportunity to bring the two peoples together.”
Elaborating on the many elements of this relationship, Nancy Hadi emphasized the Nile as being key source of national pride and important resource to both countries: “For us as Egyptians the Nile is the core of our life.”
Furthermore, tourism forms a crucial source of income for the two African and developing countries, whereby both could ideally learn from one another’s experiences: “We don’t compete because actually we complement each other in terms of what we have to offer as countries. They have more wildlife and greenery; we have antiquities and we have an ocean and a sea.”
Beyond the fun Nile cruise event that was hailed a large success by Hadi and the many Ugandan and Egyptian attendees, several other important meetings and more serious discussions about tourism took place in this context.
The Egyptian Travel Agents Association, for instance, took the Ugandan delegation on a trip to the coastal town of Alexandria, where they discussed different avenues for collaboration and the importance of medical tourism. The former revolved around the idea that were travel agencies to learn about and visit the other country, they would consequently be better able to promote one another.
Regarding cooperation in the field of medicine, the delegation had the opportunity to visit the Egyptian pharmaceutical company PHARCO, where they learned about the ‘Tour n’ Cure’ campaign and ways to cure Hepatitis C across Africa, in the presence of former Governor of Alexandria, Dr. Mohammed Sultan, who presides over the medical committee at AFCON.
Keen on finding ways to make Uganda a hub for medical treatment in Africa, Nancy Hadi explains that the idea driving collaboration would be to have medication come from Egypt, with Uganda becoming the location where all East Africans could go for treatment: “Africans help Africans with African medication.”
These various gatherings were perceived very positively by all attending parties, with the stars of the Uganda team also repeatedly expressing their desire to participate in this general campaign to promote their country, as noted in a press statement by the UTB.
Ugandan player Emmanuel Okwi was quoted saying that “in order to encourage tourism in our country, we must show the true side of the people of Uganda, who can be characterized by their morality and respect.”
Okwi added that Uganda’s most important characteristics are its pleasant weather and scenic nature, where the diverse landscapes as well as the source of the Nile are important – “because they both connect us to Egypt.”
The two Nile neighbors, Egypt and Uganda have long-standing bilateral relations that have developed in recent years in light of Egypt’s interest to collaborate with other African countries, be that in terms of international issues or regional issues such as water, terrorism and trade through joint projects.