Nyege Nyege:  The festival fueling cultural tourism

The festival ‘has grown beyond showcasing creative arts talent to demonstrating the beauty of Uganda as a society’ attracting thousands of visitors from across the globe. PHOTO/GABRIEL BUULE

What you need to know:

Even though the festival was designed to stand for peace, love and abundant joy for underground music, tourism is another beat that has been promoted in the mix of it all

Nyege Nyege is the most important four-day international music festival in East Africa given its unique curation that guarantees party atmosphere.

Since its inception in 2015, the festival has attracted thousands of both local and international tourists who throng Jinja to celebrate music, dance and art.

From native dances such as Kadodi to the Bwola and Larakaraka from the north of Uganda, the festival blends a couple of artistic experiences both local and international fusing vast cultures through music and perhaps re-assuring the fact that music and art have a role in Uganda’s tourism sector.

According to Derek Debru, the Nyege Nyege co-founder, even though the festival was designed to stand for peace, love and abundant joy for underground music, tourism is another beat that has been promoted in the mix of it all.

World over, Debru says, cultural tourism and music is the fastest growing segment in tourism business since it is a people centered trade that sells experience.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, cultural tourism is defined as “movements of persons for essentially cultural motivations such as study tours, performing arts and cultural tours, travel to festivals and other cultural events, visits to sites and monuments, travel to study nature, folklore or art, and pilgrimages.”

In future, arts analysts project  the festival - presented by Uganda Waragi will rival international festivals such as Tomorrowland in Belgium, Glastonbury in England, Coachella in California and Lollapalooza in Chicago among others.

“Nyege Nyege is focused on promoting the arts and cultural tourism and we are happy that the Ministry of Tourism has been supportive,” Debru adds.

Also, the Festival works hand in hand with the Ministry of Internal Affairs to guarantee a quality experience for all foreign visitors as well as Ugandan and East African audiences.

Formerly held at Nile Discovery Beach in Njeru, Jinja, the event that found a new home at Itanda falls has so far attracted around 15,000 both local and international travelers since it opened on Thursday.

Data obtained from organisers indicate that the last edition held before the pandemic in 2019 attracted at least 13,000 people with approximately 4,000 foreigners, making Uganda the premier music travel destination on the continent. Most of these were from Kenya and Rwanda.

That year, the festival was named as the “Best Overall Tourism Event in Uganda 2018” at the Ekkula Pearl of Africa Tourism Awards.

“The festival is driven on musicians in Africa with a deep interest in getting to know the continent better, it stands for fun and curiosity, pushing boundaries always with a sense inclusivity and an invitation to wonder,” Debru says, adding that the event has indeed promoted not only local but also international tourism and selling Uganda abroad as well.

 “For those four days at least, we really want you to have the best time of your life and discover Uganda, the Pearl of Africa and that is what tourism entails,” he says.

Unlike the last editions, this year, there are 15 party buses bringing revelers from Kenya, two buses from Rwanda and a chartered flight bringing attendees from Tanzania with plans to charter planes to ferry attendees from South Africa, Ghana and Europe.

The festival also markets Uganda first as a party and hospitality destination but goes beyond that to expose tourists to many of the other travel destinations available in the country.

“The event is timely especially as our tourism and hospitality sector, one of the biggest contributors to GDP, recover from the effects of the pandemic that saw many businesses fall on tough times,” Emmy Hasakimana, the Uganda Breweries Limited Marketing and Innovations Director says.

“We are proud to sponsor a festival like Nyege Nyege because it is not just a music festival, but has evolved into a destination event attracting tourists from all over the world.”

Hasakimana adds that the festival ‘has grown beyond showcasing creative arts talent to demonstrating the beauty of Uganda as a society - the diverse array of people, culture, music, food, fashion, unity, joy, sharing and great experiences.’

“This results in a big boost to the economy especially the hospitality industry and the various complimentary services within the value chain,” he says.

The festival is also at the forefront of national tourism, by introducing camping culture to Ugandan audiences. The previous edition saw 1,500 Ugandans pitching camp at the Nile Discovery Beach.

“Many festival attendees elect to spend more time in Uganda, visiting national parks, or tracking gorillas among other activities,” Christine Zalwango, a tour operator based in Jinja says.

Creating opportunities for locals

Locals in Jinja and its environs are employed either directly or indirectly as parking attendants, accredited guides, offer transport services, supply both raw and cooked food in the process earning much needed revenue.

Jonas Mukisa, a resident of Njeru, has embraced homestay - a form of hospitality and lodging whereby visitors share a residence with a local of the area to which they are traveling.  During the duration of the festival, he surrenders his house to visitors who pay him between USD300 (Shs1.1m) to USD500 (Shs1.9m).

“The money I make within the four days of the festival, I can barely make in a year so this is a God given opportunity. I look forward to expanding my house to accommodate more visitors next time,” Mukisa says.

Nyege Nyege also provides space for multiple local SMEs from around the country to make money as vendors within the festival grounds. In 2019, 45 SME vendors were part of the festival and this year, 75 SMEs have been confirmed to take part in this year’s four-day event.

Most importantly each of these groups either directly or indirectly remits revenue to the national purse through taxes, fees, licenses and so on – essentially contributing to the growth of the economy.


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