Saturday August 30 2014

For the love of promoting Busoga tourism

A view of the Kagulu Hill in Buyende District.

A view of the Kagulu Hill in Buyende District. PHOTO by Edgar R Batte 


The actions of those who succeed at what they do motivate us to take initial steps to achieving our dreams. That explains what inspired lawmaker Edward Baliddawa to start the Busoga Tourism Initiative (BTI).
Inspired by a friend, Amos Wekesa, a reputed tourism entrepreneur, “I started reflecting on how Busoga as a region has really not leveraged from the Source of the Nile and other historical landmarks as economic sources,” Baliddawa explains. He started BTI as a vehicle to coordinate, galvanise and harmonise ideas and efforts towards developing tourism in Busoga.

A selfless cause
He decided that he wanted to be one of the catalysts in the promotion of tourism in Busoga because he hails from this region. He enlisted the support of President Museveni, the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, fellow legislators and tour operators.
On the face of it, one would think that he was doing it to canvass for political capital. Surprisingly, he says he is serving the last term as Member of Parliament for Kigulu North.
When Baliddawa kick-started the BTI project, the reactions from the locals were mixed.
“There are those that appreciated my efforts and thus see the potential of tourism to the overall social economic transformation of the region. However, there are also those that need to be sensitised about the benefits of tourism,” the legislator explains.
“More particularly, there are those, especially my political constituents, who tend to think that as their MP and representative, I should not be spending time in trying to promote any activity such as tourism if it is not within the boundaries of the constituency I represent. So some of these people do not appreciate the broader picture of Busoga in the overall national economic transformation drive,” he observes. When he started out about three years ago, Baliddawa convinced locals in Busoga and took them to some of these sites to prove to them that there was gold right before their eyes.
Baliddawa believes tourism activities like the Busoga Tourism Expo and the three editions of the Kagulu Rock Climbing Challenge are big strides in getting people to appreciate tourism in the region.
The Kagulu Rock Climbing Challenge is part of a broader campaign to promote tourism in Busoga. It is a day-long climb up rock tied with other activities.
Baliddawa says Busoga’s cultural and natural heritage endowments need to be exploited and leveraged, particularly, given its geographical location as a transit centre. The Source of the Nile has been declared a national heritage and Busoga offers opportunities for unique adventures.
“There is need to develop the various tourism sites in Busoga, starting with the re-development of the Source of River Nile as a Busoga’s tourism flagship. There is need to document these sites and create a compelling story that the visitors would be able to relate with,” Baliddawa further explains.
“Although we initially identified more than 32 potential tourism sites in Busoga, for strategic planning reasons, we decided to first focus on three; Kagulu Rock in Buyende District, Bishop James Hannington Memorial Site at Kyando in Mayuge District and Bukaleba Peninsula in Mayuge,” the tourism enthusiast says.
At the initial Kagulu Challenge, both politicians and tourism players like the Association of Uganda Tour Operators joined him.
The Kagulu Challenge offers a memorable experience of fun and adventure because it offers a beautiful view of parts of Busoga, Teso and Lango. The site though needs such developments as the hospitality infrastructure in terms of accommodation for visitors and recreational amenities.

Tourists enjoy themselves at the Source of

Tourists enjoy themselves at the Source of River Nile in Jinja.

The challenges
But to achieve all this, there is need to document and form a compelling story about these attractions.
“The other challenge is lack of resources to do research, and the actual preparation of the sites for the unveiling. It requires a substantial amount of funding to transform a site from bushes to where it can be appreciated by visitors,” Baliddawa says.
“The President of Uganda has been very supportive by offering us initial funding. This of course is not enough but we hope to get the private sector on board who should take on to develop these sites further on viable commercial basis,” he adds.

Who is Baliddawa?

Baliddawa holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics (Foreign Trade) and an MBA in Management.
After graduating, he worked in the Judiciary at the Chief Magistrates Court, Buganda Road Court as a Court Clerk/interpreter for two and half years before going to Yugoslavia for further studies on a government scholarship.
He proceeded to USA for a Masters in Information Technology and on his return in 1996, he got a job with an American Telecommunication Company called Starlight Communications (Starcom). He worked at Infocom, an internet provider company as Sales and Marketing Manager.
Baliddawa says he is self-made. “Knowing my family background, I had to succeed in whatever I did. Otherwise I had no godfather to fall back to. I had to create a better life for my children and siblings and this required me to have self-discipline, work hard and be resilient,” he explains.