Kampala, Uganda | AFRICATEMBELEA | The Uganda Tourism Board is yet to utilize an offer from India for the construction of the Mahatma Gandhi Heritage Centre.
The donation was announced when the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi visited Uganda in 2018, in commemoration of the Asian country’s 150th-anniversary celebrations. Modi then said that the Gandhi Heritage Centre in Jinja would pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi to ‘remind us of Africa’s role in shaping his mission’.
Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes are believed to have been sprayed on the banks of River Nile in Jinja following his death in 1948. The facility will comprise of a five-star hotel, the Mahatma Gandhi Recreation Centre, a conference centre, a Museum, an Arts and Crafts Village, Car Cable Infrastructure, and an observatory bridge.
The government had proposed to divide the offer and build the Gandhi Conference Centre in Entebbe, leaving Jinja with only the Gandhi Heritage Centre, which would serve as an addition to the Tourism attractions at the Source of the Nile.
But recently, some members of the Ugandan Parliament reported that the Indian government had threatened to withdraw the offer due to the delay in commencing construction, partly caused by the differences on where to build the monument.
Speaking at the inauguration of the 4th Board of the Uganda Tourism Board, the Chairman Daudi Migereko accused the management of UTB of being ‘too slow’ at implementing some projects. He said, Uganda had lost a lot during the COVID-19 pandemics and that it would be difficult to catch up with global trends unless they changed the way they do work.
The other members on the board include Lyazi Vivian, Mwanja Paul, Ronald Kaggwa, Eng. Sooma Ayub and Chemonges Mongea Sabila. Others are Kirya Eddy, Muhwezi Susan Kabonero, Dr Katende Suleiman and Yogi Biriggwa, while the Executive Director Lillian Ajarova will serve as a board as secretary.
The new board comes as several developments in and around the tourism sector are taking place, including the re-opening of Entebbe Airport and land borders to tourists on October 1, just over a month after domestic tourism activities were given a go-ahead. By the time the country went into lockdown, the sector was earning the country USD 1.6 billion and employing about eight per cent of Uganda’s labour force.
The Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Tom Butime urged the board to interest more traditional leaders to participate in the promotion of tourism for the sector to be more embraced by Ugandans.
Meanwhile, Migereko expressed anger at commercial banks for maintaining interest rates on loans even during the times when most businesses were locked up. In April, the Central Bank and the Commercial Banks resolved that they would not be demanding repayment of loans from borrowers for up to 9 months, to support government efforts to protect the economy.
Migereko says the interest charges for the period should have been waived, otherwise, the current seizure of customers’ assets by banks could lead to a collapse of the hotel industry.
Uganda Bankers Association Head of Communication and Corporate Affairs, Patricia Amito says borrowers were advised to approach their banks to discuss any issues they might be found relating to the pandemic so that they are handled on a case-by-case basis.