President Museveni has said Uganda is endowed with exceptional wildlife diversity which gives it a competitive edge to develop into a top tourism destination in Africa.
Museveni said the NRM Government has prioritized tourism and conservation as fundamental pillars of the country’s economic growth in its vision 2040 and National Development Plan II.
The President’s remarks were contained in a speech delivered on his behalf by the Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda during the World Wildlife Day Celebrations organized under the theme
“Creating a safe environment for the survival of Uganda’s big cats” at Nyakasanga Grounds in Kasese District on Saturday.
The President said Tourism is the leading foreign exchange earner for Uganda, adding that Uganda hosts 54% of the World’s remaining population of Mountain Gorillas, 11% of the world’s recorded species of birds and 7.8% of the global mammal diversity.
“Annual visitor exports stand at US$ 1.4 billion with a recorded total of 1.322 million international arrivals. Contribution of travel and tourism to GDP stands at Ug. shillings 7. 27 trillion. Tourism sector provides 1.173 million jobs in Uganda accounting for 7.8% of total employment,” Museveni said.
The President noted that Uganda almost lost all its wildlife to state inspired poaching and lawlessness that characterized the political turmoil of 1970s and early 1980s. He however added that the situation was reversed by NRM’s visionary leadership that restored peace and stability.
“We have continued to maintain total peace and security, improving transport infrastructure and energy development in the country to spur tourism and conservation. Uganda has maintained a network of protected areas covering about 10% of the total land surface,” the President said.
Museveni also noted that Government is committed to addressing challenges that hinder wildlife protection and conservation such as poaching, illegal wildlife trade and trafficking, human wildlife conflicts and climate change.
He said Government has undertaken several policy and legislation reforms to promote conservation some of which include formulating Uganda wildlife policy, 2014, Uganda Tourism policy, 2015, Uganda Tourism Master Plan and the Uganda Wildlife Bill, 2017 which is before Parliament.
Museveni also said the Judiciary has established a dedicated court to deal with wildlife crimes and thanked all the partners involved in promoting conservation of wildlife in Uganda.
The Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquates, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu said there is need to create awareness about the value of wildlife since the animals in the category of the big cats, which include the Lion, Cheetah and Leopard are under threat.
Kamuntu praised Kasese and the Rwenzori region at large for being endowed and well known for conserving wildlife. He asked the citizens to work towards preserving wildlife.
The UN resident Coordinator, Rosa Malango emphasized the need to save the big cats, adding that the UN has been working with NEMA and the Uganda tourism sector to save the environment.
She said protecting the environment and wildlife are opportunities for investment in world tourism.
Malango also urged the locals to preserve their traditional values noting that local values are key for sustaining tourism.
The function was attended by the Minister of state for Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda, area members of Parliament, local leaders and government officials among others.
BY DOREEN NASASIRA
Monday, March 05, 2018