As most of us were basking in the joy of a victorious Nigeria against the much loved Iceland, my friend Tusiime Samson (fondly known as Samwiri) sent out an interesting tweet. He tweeted; “Let Nigeria’s win not blind you from the fact that high end and mid-tier hotels are all booked 5th to 9th September because of the NyegeNyege Festival. In June…” All he is saying is that there is this huge festival (NyegeNyege) slated for September 5 to 9, 2018 and by now all the major hotels close to the festival venue are fully booked! The annual NyegeNyege International Music Festival takes place along the Nile River in Jinja, Uganda and is a celebration of the arts and culture. For those confused by the name, well the phrase, ‘NyegeNyege’ is derived from that irresistible urge to dance, ‘ekinyegenyege’ as we say in Luganda. The festival has grown by leaps and bounds and now has telecom giant MTN Uganda as the main sponsor for the next three editions and so it is now called the MTN NyegeNyege international festival. The fact that it attracts revellers from all over the world and literally brings the economy in Jinja to a standstill is proof that such festivals should be taken more seriously by our tourism policy makers. In February while chatting with a hotel manager from Kenya, I mentioned the festival and he was surprised that something that big was happening in Uganda. I told him how one of the big regional bus companies even ferries revellers from Nairobi straight to the venue in Jinja and he was impressed. It is considered the 7th biggest festival in Africa and attracts performers from more than 20 countries. When we were younger, Jinja was dubbed the industrial town of Uganda. Over the years this changed as the industries died off or relocated closer to the capital city, Kampala. The town however got its groove back when it transformed into a cool tourist destination best known for its offerings for the adventure lovers. It is one place I know where you can do bungee jumping, white water rafting, quad biking, horse riding and so much more. The festival therefore brings more fun to Jinja as a tourist town. Another event that is slowly growing in prominence in Uganda is the Bakiga Nation - RukundoEgumeho event. Personally I would have preferred that it is held somewhere in Kigezi so people from all over Uganda and beyond head there to have fun. Nonetheless it is a good initiative that brings people together to celebrate the Kiga culture. Our Kenyan brothers and sisters are getting ready for the 11th edition of the annual Lake Turkana Cultural Festival set for June 28 – 30 in Marsabit County. These Kenyans have mastered this festival tourism thing quite well. They have also been helped by the devolved governance system that has seen each county developing a tourism package to lure both foreign and domestic visitors. The Lamu festival in Lamu and the Rusinga festival in Homa Bay are now quite big. In Tanzania, SautizaBusara made a comeback this year after not happening due to some logistical problems. This one happens in the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar and you can be guaranteed to enjoy the best of Taarab music among other sounds from around the world. Zanzibar is already a known tourism destination and this festival just cements its place as Tanzania’s must-go-to destination. All these festivals in the region make me feel sad that Rwanda’s FESPAD is no longer on the cards. The festival used to also bring together performers from all over the continent and needed to keep growing into something bigger. Now that we are on that Visit Rwanda agenda, I think we need to do more to develop festivals that can attract the kind of visitor numbers that see hotels in a place outside Kigali, all booked months before an event. These festivals do wonders to the economy of the places where they are held. Not only are the hotels all booked, homes are turned into AirBnB facilities overnight. The locals are also on pressure to supply the festival attendees with all sorts of supplies especially food. In such times money does not go only to the big players like hotels but it trickles down to the ordinary person much faster than say when a big conference is held in the capital centre. These festivals deserve all the support they can get. Email: email@example.com Blog: www.ssenyonga.wordpress.com Twitter: @ssojo81 The views expressed in this article are of the author.