In Summary

Currently, Uganda records about 1.6 million visitors.

Kampala. More than 100 business people have lost billions of shillings after they were denied entry to South Africa to participate in the Ndaba Tourism Fair, one of Africa’s biggest annual tourism expos.
Mr Amos Wekesa, the Uganda Lodges and Great Lakes Safaris chief executive officer, told Daily Monitor yesterday that at least 100 visa applications filed by stakeholders in the tourism sector had been rejected, occasioning massive losses.
The more than 100 business people, he said, lost about Shs56m in visa application in addition to booked exhibition space, air tickets and hotel bookings, among others.

“Denying Sheila [Kogo-Malinga] a visa shocked me. We had paid about $4,000 for the stand and an extra $1,000 for accommodation. This is close to Shs20m all gone to waste,” he said, noting that Ms Kogo-Malinga, the Uganda Lodges and Great Lakes Safaris business development manager, had been booked to travel to South Africa to represent the company.
Uganda Lodges and Great Lakes Safaris had been booked as one of the 35 international companies that are expected to discuss a number of business issues over a period of three to four days at the annual Ndaba Tourism Fair.

Largest tourism exhibition
The fair, one of Africa’s biggest tourism exhibitions, will kick off today and run up to May 4.
Mr Wekesa noted that there was a lot of outcry with World Ventures indicating that at least more than 100 visa applications for Ugandans had been rejected.
“This mistreatment is beyond tour operators even South African Airways customers are affected too and other businessmen,” he said.
A number of people have been venting their frustration after they were denied visas to participate in the fair, saying South Africa has acted unfairly.

An official from Park View Safaris, who requested for anonymity in order not to be victimised in future, told Daily Monitor yesterday that two officials from the company had been denied visas and their pleas to government to intervene have not yielded any results.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not helped. Okay, we are doing business but we are promoting the tourism of this country,” the source said sounding defeated.
Government has been aggressively promoting tourism within and beyond Uganda with the view of reaching four million tourism visitors by the end of 2020.

Currently, Uganda records about 1.6 million visitors.
Asked about the outcry, Prof Lekoa Solly Mollo, the South African High Commissioner to Uganda, requested for a meeting to explain to Daily Monitor reasons why some of the applicants had been denied visas.
However, he refused to respond to social media outcries, saying some of the people are driving an unknown agenda, adding: “I will not be reduced to someone who acts on social media, this has to be done professionally,” he said.

Ms Yogi Birigwa, the South African Airways country manager, said “our visa regime [South Africa] is still a challenge”, and many Ugandans had over time experienced problems acquiring visas.
“Truth be told, many Ugandan ordinary passport holders are not happy and I have engaged the Ugandan minister,” she said, noting that they would lose money in cancelled air tickets.

A thorn to business people

According to Mr Okello Oryem, the state minister for International Relations, the issue of Ugandans being denied visas, especially by countries such as South Africa, remains a thorn to Ugandan business people and calls for a solution.