Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is seeking an increase in the agency’s ceiling of Non-Tax Revenue (NTR) from Shs106.7 billion to Shs140 billion in the 2023/2024 financial year.
The request was made by UWA’s Executive Director, Sam Mwandah while appearing before the Committee on Tourism, Trade, and Industry on Tuesday, 11 April 2023.
Mwandah told the committee that the request is based on the projected NTR collections of over Shs150 billion.
“We are not asking the Ministry of Finance to provide this money in the budget, they can just raise the ceiling,” he said.
He said that the increase will be used in the upgrade of protected areas, staff accommodation, Rhino translocation, electric fence maintenance, valley dam construction, and boundary surveillance and maintenance.
The Minister of State for Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities, Martin Mugarra who also appeared before the committee requested an additional Shs97 billion on top of the proposed Shs214.5 billion budget for the 2023/2024 financial year.
He said that the funds will finance the underfunded priorities in the ministry as well as Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), and Uganda Hotel and Tourism Training Institute (UHTTI).
“I am more confident that a decision to prioritize funding to tourism is the most cost-effective, timely, and feasible economic strategy that our government can take,” Muggara said.
He added that the ministry has developed a strategy that will see tourism foreign exchange earnings increase to US$$5.9 billion annually by 2028 and also achieve the Vision 2040 target of US$$12 billion in annual tourism foreign exchange earnings by 2040.
“This strategy requires a funding of Shs440 billion annually but the returns are relatively immediate and massive,” said Mugarra.
The Permanent Secretary, Doreen Katusiime said that foreign exchange earnings of US$7 billion were realized in 2022 showing a 44 percent recovery against 2019 levels where USD$1.6 billion was earned from tourism as an export.
She added that Uganda has been recognized internationally as a tourist destination that should be visited.
“For example, CNN, the world’s biggest and highly ranked news network published a travel article in January 2023 in which Uganda was listed as one of the best tourism destinations in the world and recommended its audience to explore it in 2023,” she said.
Lawmakers applauded the sector for promoting the country and agreed that the required funding should be provided to enable the generation of more revenue.
“The committee should look into considering these unfunded priorities like construction of staff houses to facilitate them to do their work,” said Betty Engola (NRM, Apac District).
Alfred Edakasi (NRM, Kaberamaido County) agreed to the need to provide an additional Shs5.5 billion to UHTTI for the operationalization of the institute’s new staffing structure and construction of student hostels, saying that the infrastructure is outdated.
“The institute should also review its curriculum to meet the current market needs. This institute should be a human resource destination for the private sector as well,” said Edakasi.
The Committee Chairperson, Mwine Mpaka pledged to advocate for adequate financing of the tourism sector but expressed disappointment with the quality of graduates from UHTTI.
“I am still not convinced that there is value for money from the institute. The quality of students is still wanting compared to those from Kenya. The committee needs to visit the institute and ascertain the challenges there,” he said.