Uganda hosts first Conservation and Tourism Investment ForumOct 10, 2017
Kampala - Uganda has hosted the first investment summit to pioneer public private sector partnership in tourism and conservation.
The Giants Club Conservation and Tourism Investment Forum, hosted by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, attracted major global investors focused on responsible tourism.
The meeting which was held at the Lake Victoria Serena Hotel in Kigo was attended by various private investors, development partners, conservationists and tourism operators as well as government officials who were all looking to market Uganda as a high end tourism hub while conserving its natural beauty and its environment.
“Uganda really is unique. The lowest part is 650 metres above sea level. The highest point is 5,000 metres, where there is snow. The terrain between the two is where we have all these wonderful things happening, ” President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni said adding that despite inefficiencies in the tourism sector, it had grown over the years with 1.3million tourists coming into the country in 2016, up from 700 in the 1980s.
The President further stated that Uganda was ready for smart and compelling investment ideas for appropriate development that allows visitors to enjoy Uganda’s unique natural habitat and support the economy and communities now and in the future.
During the Forum, details on a series of new land concessions in the country’s network of conservation areas, some of which are being made available for the first time in 30 years, were shared with the investors.
The government also announced a number of investment incentives, including allowing chartered aircraft to fly directly into the parks from neighbouring countries for the first time, and the waiving of a range of government levies.
Ms. Rosa Malango, the UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator agreed with him saying that the forum comes at a very critical moment in Uganda’s tourism sector.
“In Uganda, tourism is an engine for inclusive growth and sustainable development thanks to a focus on conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity; protection of cultural heritage and empowerment of local communities,” Ms. Malango said.
She added that beyond being the postcard of African tourism, the sector is poised to be an “accelerator” for the achievement of Uganda’s Vision 2040 which envisions the transformation into an upper middle income country.
She called on participants to use the forum as opportunity to ensure that tourism protects the country’s natural environment which was on the decline with the forest areas now at 10 percent while wetlands are at 10.9 per cent of the country’s total land area.
“As the UN, we are committed to supporting Uganda create incentives for conservation and tourism, like new conservancies, and better managed protected areas,” Ms. Malango said.
Among those in attendance was Evgeny Lebedev, the Patron of the Giants Club conservation initiative, which organised the event in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and the African Wildlife Foundation. Mr. Lebedev is also Evening Standard proprietor.
“Only by getting the private sector to invest in these areas can the revenue be generated to pay for the work required and to create the jobs for local communities that will ensure they want to protect the wildlife too,” Mr Lebedev said who was accompanied by his father, Alexander Lebedev and the Evening Standard editor George Osborne who was also UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer between 2010 and 2016.
Max Graham, founder of the elephant conservation group Space for Giants, was also in attendance alongside Patrick Fitzgibbon, the senior vice-president for development for Europe and Africa at Hilton. Other high profile guests included leading safari lodge operators Wilderness Safaris, Great Plains Conservation, Singita and Asilia Africa.
Space for Giants, which administers the Giants Club, together with its partners is already working with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the National Forestry Authority (NFA) to identify a number of sites offering scope for commercial tourism enterprise as well as Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) for area management. Some sites also offer scope for other conservation compatible investments such as renewable energy production or livestock.
Identified sites with opportunities for PPPs include; Bugungu Wildlife Reserve, Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve, Kalinzu & Kashoya - Kitumi Forest reserves, Kyambura Wildlife Reserve and Budongo Forests while opportunities for new conservation tourism concessions are available in at least five of Uganda’s major national parks.
Also in attendance was Erik Solheim, the head of United Nations Environment Programme whose remarks emphasised the linkage between Africa’s tourism and its environment hence the importance of ensuring that it’s protected.
“Uganda has already set up a good example for supporting refugees in Africa and the world; it could do the same with tourism and environment,” Mr. Solheim said.
Ephraim Kamuntu, the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, hailed the event as a “great success” and said a new chapter had been opened in Uganda’s conservation and tourism efforts.
The Giants Club is an initiative of non-governmental organisation Space for Giants. Its founding members were the presidents of Uganda, Kenya, Gabon and Botswana and it works to unite political leaders with enlightened businesses, conservationists and philanthropists in order to protect Africa’s remaining wildernesses.