By Rogers M. Wanambwa
Recently, Kenya was once again hit by a terrorist attack where a group of armed men attacked the DusitD2 hotel and complex on January 15th this very year; the attack claiming the lives of 21 people so far. This is not the first nor second attack Kenya has experienced by the hands of these militant Islamist who go by the name of Al-Shabaab because they also bombed the West Gate mall in Nairobi in 2012 were over 70 died.
So one may ask what is Terrorism?
Terrorism according to Title 22 Chapter 38 U.S. Code § 2656f is defined as premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents. From this definition we can see that as Ugandans and East Africans at large we’re facing a humongous problem that needs urgent solutions and no the current ones see not to be working, at least not very efficiently or effectively as we would like. It is imperative that we find lasting solutions but before we get to these, let us first look at the impact of terrorism in Uganda and East Africa.
First of all, we need to know that this kind of negative publicity apart from the loss of the lives of young people that had a lot of potential in them, we’re losing and are going to continue losing billions of dollars in revenue from tourism since tourism always shies away from unstable countries especially countries flagged as terrorism prone. According to the World Bank, East Africa earned more than $3billion from tourism alone last year and it also employs more than 200,000 people directly in Uganda alone.
In Uganda, tourism earned us the most last year(2018), around $1.4billion to be exact, Kenya earned $1.55billion. An example of how bad publicity from such happenings affects the economy is from Mr. Amos Wekesa’s(CEO of Great Lakes Safaris) own publication last year after the riots of Bobi Wine’s people. He said that the company lost around Ugshs900million as people cancelled their trips and bookings. This is just one company’s losses. How much we’re going to lose because of the DusitD2 incident can only be imagined.
Apart from foreign currency that is lost, we have to look at the disruption of daily business in the East African countries. An example is the slow movement of transit vehicles at the border of Kenya and Uganda due to the heavy and tedious checking of each vehicle enroute from Kenya into Uganda that started immediately after the DustitD2 bombing.
Investors too are scared away by such incidents because money always runs away from conflict to those areas that are safe. It is after all volatile in itself. Since the early 2000’s, the East Africa community(at least the original East Africa, that is, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania) has had a relatively peaceful environment that seen many foreign investors flocking here and hence our economies have seen an upward rise for all these years. This will not stay the case if such impediments and orchestrated killings continue unabated and there are no suspects that are apprehended, tried and charged. It is sad that the two Kenyan men who were arrested on charges of the 2010 bombing in Uganda were released last year according to the Monitor and were to be deported. Our security organizations should show more agility in hunting down these criminals and justice be served.
As it is, no one would like to do business in a war prone area.
Hence, even the locals themselves will not work or invest in the region and this will lead to further loss of revenue in form of taxes, not to say the number of jobs that will be lost. It should be noted that over 70% of Ugandans for example are occupied by subsistence farming according to the Ministry of Agriculture. This can only be solved by investment and investment can be done in a peaceful atmosphere, well mostly anyway.
In my humble opinion, we should counter all this negative publicity that comes with all these atrocities with a lot of good publicity out in there in the world. Uganda, for example hired two PR firms which in the past year alone had seen to an increase of up to 50,000 more tourists visiting Uganda, according to the Ministry of Tourism statistics. Kenya, on the hand has over 10 PR firms, not to say that it has an estimated budget of over $700million for advertising itself in other countries, Uganda doesn’t even have 10% of this, or put better, doesn’t accord its resources to this even though the difference in earnings was $15million on Kenya’s side last year. This goes to say, if Uganda out as much in to promotion of tourism as Kenya does, the results would be even better than the $1.4billion we got last year.
Terrorism has become a global phenomenon that can’t be ignored and hence East Africa should devise better ways of tackling this. This is not to say that the respective governments, have not done anything, but more should done.