The fifth Africa–Asia Business Meeting opened on Monday morning under the theme of “Forging Business Linkages for Sustainable Tourism Development in Africa” at the Speke Hotel and Conference Centre in Munyonyo – Kampala’s premier lakeside resort and meeting facility. None other than President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni opened the gathering, which will extend until Wednesday this week.
In his address, the President highlighted the fact that the forum was for the first time entirely focusing on tourism, held at an appropriate moment in time as the world faced an economic downturn and needed to gain fresh momentum for growth. He also paid tribute to the sector as one of the fastest growing in Africa, but decried the lack of more investment from around the world, in particular in Uganda, but also the rest of Africa where magnificent sceneries, intact ecosystems, and fabulous wildlife await visitors. In fact, the President included the tourism opportunities in neighboring countries, too, especially Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, eastern Congo, and southern Sudan, all of which he thought should work hand in hand to promote their attractions. True to form, the President also, for a while, left his script and gave a sweeping historical update of the African continent, which prompted much applause from the visitors from the Asian continent. In fact, the President said that while crops are important in the country’s context, tourism resources like parks and forests must be protected, considering that tourism is now bringing more money into the country than coffee exports. The President also revealed that a 5-year development plan was supporting sensitization of communities towards tourism’s benefits, while infrastructural projects would provide access to remote areas that would be interesting for visitors from abroad.
This top level support to the tourism fraternity was well noted and has also been appreciated by all participants. Both private and public sectors are represented at the meeting, with key Asian and African countries represented on the ministerial or ambassadorial level. In fact, fellow eTN correspondent Alain St. Ange from the Seychelles attended the meeting as a head of delegation, representing the Seychelles Tourist Board.
While the public sector represented will, during the next two days, discuss largely policy issues and cooperation on a regional and global basis with their Asian counterparts present, the private sector will primarily engage in business-to-business sessions, listen to and watch presentations about market trends, and generally brainstorm how to best counter the present global economic and financial crisis, which affects tourism destinations very hard, depending on the sector’s contributions to their respective economies. Plenary sessions will be interspersed by “Negotiating Sessions” providing for one-on-one meetings and group sessions for those interested in creating synergies, pooling their resources, and joining hands to achieve common objectives.
The Uganda Tourist Board, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, and the country’s private sector used the opportunity to make an impression on the visitors from Africa and Asia and promote their wide range of nature-based attractions. Amongst those present from Uganda was Cam McLeay, the CEO of Adrift Uganda, a company that specializes in adventure activities along the upper Nile – like white water rafting, bungee jumping, and jet boat tours on the lake – besides some other prominent participants well known to this correspondent from the entire region.
The meeting was put together and sponsored by the government of Japan, the United Nations Development Program, UNIDO, the UN World Tourism Organization, the UN Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, and the World Bank. The government of Uganda and the Ministry of Tourism, Trade, and Industry also played a major role to facilitate the meeting. Event organizers expected some 250 participants but many more eventually showed up, a clear sign that there was intense interest in this fifth edition of “AABF V,” in particular from the east African region. Visit the following websites for more information on the meeting’s objectives: www.ticad.net and www.ticadexchange.org.
As to the venue, visit www.spekeresort.com should you wish to learn more about this fabulous location at the shores of Lake Victoria.