Landlocked and dominated by mountains and lakes, Uganda is rich in biodiversity as well as opportunity – radical economic and social reform has seen the country leapfrog many of its neighbours, in terms of growth and prosperity.
Formerly a British colony, Uganda suffered under dictators Milton Obote and Idi Amin as well as various military regimes. In 2006 free multi-party elections entrenched former freedom fighter Yoweri Museveni as President. Enlightened policies – on HIV/Aids and to a free market economy – are marred only by the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which has received much worldwide press and threatens to alienate the international community. The economy hinges on growth areas of telecoms, services, agriculture and increasingly, tourism. Tourism highlights are the gorillas of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the west, and the Mountains of the Moon (The Rwenzori Mountains National Park), home to the source of the Nile.
Kampala, in the south, is Uganda’s primary city and capital. Its trendiest area is Kololo – home to restaurants, clubs and hotels. The Lake Victoria port of Jinja is second in importance. Entebbe, Kampala’s airport is also on the shores of Lake Victoria, 40 kilometres from the capital. The north is generally under-developed.
Uganda is a tropical country, with the Equator running just south of Kampala. It is hot and wet in summer, cooler in winter. There is heavy rain from March to May and in November. The average Kampala temperature is 25°C.
Travellers from the following African countries are not required to pay for visas – Angola, Burundi, Comoros, Eritrea, Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Madagascar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Ugandan visas are available at all major land borders and the international airport at Entebbe
Internet is readily available. MTN and Vodacom roaming services are available. Uganda was one of the first countries in sub-Saharan Africa to gain full Internet connectivity. Uganda Telecom and MTN Uganda offer ISDN, ADSL and local and international leased lines. Fixed line teledensity is still low at 9% and the cell phone market is growing at around 50% per annum.
Rain and humidity Expect rain, even in the ‘dry’ season, and constant humidity. Take a clean shirt in your hand luggage for a quick change before a meeting – the humidity will ‘iron’ it for you in no time.
Entebbe airport to Kampala Take a yellow taxi to the centre of the city, or better still a hotel shuttle. It’s a half hour trip, and the traffic is nothing like as brutal as Nairobi.
Money The shilling is legal tender, but US dollars are accepted most everywhere.
Uganda’s communication structure is good in the south but poor up north. Roads connecting Kampala and Jinga are decent by East African standards, but any further north than Masindi is strictly four-wheel drive territory, especially in the rain. Yellow taxis are plentiful. Entebbe is the only international airport.
Great strides in social upliftment have meant general health is far better than 10 years ago. Still, drink bottled water and take malaria prophylactics. Yellow fever certificates are required, but typical of East Africa, they are rarely checked at the airport.
Population: 33.5 million
Time zone: GMT+3
Plugs: Three-prong square
Dialing code: +256 +area code + number
Currency: New Uganda shilling. US$1= Ush2470
GDP growth rate (2010): 5.2 percent, down from 7.2 percent in 2009
Language: English is widely spoken and understood. Swahili is the common regional language.