The news about the Source of the Nile making it to the list of the seven wonders of Africa has come as a shock for many.
But not to Dr Philip Imler, the proprietor of Seven Wonders of Africa project. Imler believes the recognition of the Source of the Nile is just what the government needed - a reminder to throw more support towards tourism. Soon after the news was relayed, Maria Mutagamba, the minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, said the central government would move to manage the source of the Nile, taking that responsibility away from the local government authorities in Jinja.
Already, the ministry has contracted Alex Muhwezi of Future Dialogues to draft a "Sustainable Development Plan for the Source of the Nile." The paper will advise central government on how to manage the Source of the Nile.
While Jinja municipality has welcomed the new development, Mayor Mohammed Baswari Kezaala told The Observer that it was unfortunate that government took so long to do something about the Source of the Nile.
"We had to wait until a non-Ugandan recognized it [source of the Nile] that government woke up," he said by telephone.
Kezaala advised the central government to involve the local government in the planning process, noting that there hasn't been any official communication about the central government's plans to take over the Source of the Nile. On the surface of it, there is nothing much to write about the Source of the Nile. The place looks more like a picnic ground for students, with dilapidated infrastructure, and small kiosks for restaurants and bars.
Corporate companies have become part of the problem, painting the area with company billboards.
"The source of the Nile is a key attraction, which needs to be redesigned. If you come to Uganda and don't reach the source of the Nile, it is like you haven't been to Uganda," says Grace Aulo, a commissioner with the Tourism ministry. "We want tourists to stay longer at the source."
Aulo noted that the new plan would be ready in two months, and one of the things that the government looks forward to doing is partnering with a private investor to turn the place around. Kezaala says the municipal council has had plans to develop this site. However, land ownership issues have stood in the way.
The source of the Nile sits on 12.5 acres of undeveloped land, which, according to Kezaala, were allocated to different individual developers by the Jinja District Land Board.
"We had plans of building a view deck connecting to the middle of the river and putting up a modern hotel, but we cannot do this because the land question has to be sorted," Kezaala added.
Nile Breweries has expressed interest in developing the Source of the Nile, but it hasn't got positive response from the council. According to Kezaala, the council was about to make a decision on Nile Breweries but with the latest development, they will have to wait. The Source of the Nile has hardly attracted funding, with tourism funds going, instead, into conserving and marketing wildlife, whose biggest concentration is in the national parks in the Albertine rift.
According to Amos Wekesa, the outgoing president of the Uganda Tourism Association, the Nile has potential to change Uganda's tourism fortunes given what it has done for Egypt. Egypt is reported to be earning millions of dollars as a result of the tourism potential along the Nile.