The Uganda Minister of Tourism, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, lamented the lack of funding when opening a new privately-owned heritage museum in Mbarara just before Christmas. He used the opportunity to ask for equitable funding for his ministry and the tourism sector, commensurate with the contribution of the sector to the national economy, which he pegged at over 9 percent of GDP, and yet in his own estimate, his ministry was receiving a paltry 0.13 percent from the national budget allocation.
Only recently was Uganda elevated by “Lonely Planet” as THE destination for 2012, but in the absence of sufficient funding, matching the promotion and marketing expenditures of say Kenya or Rwanda, Uganda is expected to fail capitalize on this unique opportunity, leave alone being able to produce some very special promotional campaign as the country enters its 50th independence year.
President Museveni, who was present at the opening ceremony of the new museum in Biharwe township in Mbarara, Western Uganda, was seen nodding to the remarks, giving some hope that a directive to the finance ministry may yet come forth, but its value immediately put in doubt considering the general budgetary constraints of government, in the light of economic developments and runaway inflation.
While most lodges were booked up over the Christmas holidays, fewer than normal Ugandans were seen entering the parks, leaving the field to wealthier expatriates who are not hit by the devaluated shilling as they are paid in hard currency, countering a policy of bringing more and more Ugandans into the national parks and game reserves and staying in the safari lodges and safari camps, unlike in Kenya where the Kenya Tourist Board together with Kenya Wildlife Services has launched the TembeaKenya campaign, having to get Kenyan know their country better.