For its proximity to the hydroelectricity power plant- Owen falls dam and fresh water bodies Lake Victoria and River Nile, the growth of Jinja into an industrial hub of Uganda and the East African region was inevitable.
As early as the pre-independence era, Jinja town located 80 kilometres east of the capital Kampala was a favourite destination for both local and foreign investors. They established industries that consequently attracted multitudes of job seekers from all over the region in search of employment opportunities.
Buoyed by its strategic location along the Trans-African highway from the port coast of Mombasa, on the northern shores of Lake Victoria and eastern bank of the world’s longest river Nile as well as the presence of European and Asian settlers, Jinja made great economic strides in the 1950s and 1960s.
However, the economic slump witnessed following the expulsion of Asians in 1972 by former president Idi Amin, probably hit Jinja the hardest as many of the successful factories then was under their management.
There was a decline in production capacity of mighty factories like British American Tobacco (BAT), Chillington, Nytil, Grain Milling, Steel Corporation of East Africa, Papco, and Dunlop which employed thousands of people from across the country, while others totally collapsed.
For decades, Jinja lost its glory as an industrial centre earning itself the unenviable name of a ghost town; it became a shadow of what it used to be.
The rotting infrastructure aside, many of the industries remained underutilized with overgrown grass and shrubs as a common feature. Some turned into hideouts for criminals. The tarmac roads that led to the industrial areas became synonymous with potholes
However, the trend has since changed. Several new industries have been established with many more are in the offing. A couple of those that had gone dormant have been revived for production. From steel plants to timber processing factories, oil refinery to beer brewing, paper packaging manufacture to corporate branding, tea processing to world class liquor distilling, plastics manufacturing to electricity poles treatment plants. The town is once again bustling with industrial activity.
Steel Rolling Mills Limited, established in 1985, has increased its production capacity from 60,000 tons per annum to 120,000 tons per annum following a $50 million (sh130b) expansion project of its plant, commissioned by president Yoweri Museveni in October last year.
With the expansion, the plant expects to recruit an additional 400 workers from the existing 600 employees, according to the human resource and legal manager Hussein Hilal. Cognizant of Jinja’s immense potential in tourism, the town leadership has prioritized to revamp the tourism sector as a strategy to fast track growth.
The campaign to promote Jinja as a top tourism destination was launched in May this year by President Museveni at a ceremony attended by Tourism and Wildlife minister Maria Mutagamba, Parliament speaker Rebecca Kadaga and a delegation from the city of Skelleftea in Sweden.
Mayor Mohammed Baswale Kezaala says the campaign kicked off with beautification exercise of the town that includes painting of at least 70 buildings along Main Street, installation of street lights, reconstruction of roads and road verges, as well as tree planting along the streets.
He adds that all available avenues will be exploited to market to the outside world Jinja’s natural endowments such as the Source of River Nile, fresh water bodies and cultural sites like Mpumudde hill where Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro is said to have breathed his last in
April 1923, on his way from the Seychelles Islands where he had been exiled by the British colonial masters.
There are plans to upgrade the Source of River Nile to international standards including the construction of a museum and a five star hotel at the site, with a view of attracting more tourists. This, Kezaala argues will enable them to fully exploit the potential of this historic spot and spur development through job creation and revenue to the municipal council coffers.
Other tourism sites include the palace of the Kyabazinga (king) that sits atop the imposing Igenge hill in Bugembe, Jinja, the man made Kirinya hill in Walukuba/Masese division and exciting sports activities such as bungee jumping on the River Nile and water rafting at Itanda and Kyabirwa falls on the Nile.
Growth has also been realized in the hotel and hospitality industry. From the Government owned Crested Crane Hotel as the only player in the 1980s, several other modern hotels have been built. They include among others the 4-star Nile Resort Hotel overlooking the banks of River Nile, Sunset Hotel, Brisk Hotel, Travel Hotel, Source of the Nile Hotel and Paradise Hotel.
Jinja is home to the Crested Crane Hotel and Tourism Training Institute, the only government funded tourism training institute in the country.
Nile Resort: A home away from home
Located at on the eastern banks of River Nile is a white pleasant and surprising gem that is sure to make you feel home away from home. “It has one of the best views in Jinja and gives you a relaxed and soothing atmosphere,” one of the guests, who recently stayed at the facility stated in a review posted on trip advisor.
Nile Resort has a spacious exterior for guests to unwind. He was talking about the Jinja Nile Resort, which has for the last 15 years been a must-visit and stay-in hotel for both local and international visitors. Set on over 30 acres just by the River Nile, one of the Seven Wonders in the world, Jinja Nile Resort Hotel commands a panoramic view of the longest River in the World.
Jinja Nile Resort is located 80 kilometres from the Ugandan capital, Kampala, and just 4kms from the country’s tourist’s hotspot, Jinja town. The over $10m investment property has been beautifully landscaped with lush lawns, palm trees, tropical plants and all areas have been designed to give guests Nile-facing views. Jinja Nile Resort is part of the MADA chain hotels established by the late Tarlatan Mhajan.
James Mbatia, the general manager, says the resort has 140 guest rooms fitted with facilities to ensure that guests receive the very best during their stay. Each of the rooms has its own balcony where guests can relax and the rooms tailored in colonial type cottages allow for plenty of privacy. All rooms en suite have a small sitting room, work desk and private balcony. You will find the 170 staff impressively professional, adding to the place’s palpable air of authenticity in terms of hospitality.
The kitchen has been designed to provide scrumptious local and international cuisines to guests at a point of their convenience. There are three strategically located restaurants equipped to offer professional service to international standards. Each restaurant has a Nile-facing terrace.
The main restaurant comfortably seats up to 150 guests at a time. It has a terrace, which overlooks the swimming pool and offers an excellent view of the Nile and the surrounding countryside. The equally spacious conference dining room is located near the conference halls and allows fast and effective service to conference participants. It also has an independent bar for serving refreshments to the conferences/ workshops guests. Snacks are served to the guests at the pool side terrace.
For those requiring privacy during their meals, the hotel has two private dining rooms to meet this requirement. Room service is also available to all clients staying at the hotel. Outside catering facilities can be provided on request. Be sure to catch the treat of cocktail juice served to arriving residential guests as they usher them into their rooms. A food basket also awaits them in the rooms.
The resort has five bars stocked with a wide selection of wines, spirits and beers. The main bar is centrally located to provide efficient and effective service to the main restaurant, lounge and poolroom.
The large swimming pool bar provides refreshments to guests at the swimming pool and pool terrace area. The conference hall bar offers service to guests using the conference rooms (for conferences and private parties).
Mbatia says the Resort health club is equipped with the Italian techno gym equipment offering several cardio-vascular and free weight machines. A large private rest room is provided for guests to relax and refresh themselves after enjoying the facilities at the gym, sauna, steam bath and massage parlour.
Recreation/entertainment for recreation and entertainment, the resort offers a free form deck swimming pool (with separate children’s section), badminton, one professional pool table and darts. The hotel also has a squash and tennis court. For music lovers, there are facilities for weekend discos. And excellent spacious stage (for up to 40 persons), has been provided in the conference hall for plays and bands.