As you read this, Ugandans are celebrating their 54th Independence Day. This time last year, I wrote that independence is more of a process than an event and many countries in the region still have to keep working at it primarily by taking charge of their own development process. Achieving independence five decades ago marked the beginning of a journey for self discovery and nation building.
This journey has not been smooth for Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi or even the more stable Tanzania. At some stages some countries have slipped and fallen, and also others have picked themselves up and continued with the journey. The biggest triumph at these independence days was the belief that we could take charge of our destiny and do things ourselves as opposed to always looking up to the white man.
It is unfortunate that there are still many things that we view as things that can only be done by others and not ourselves. Some of these include basic things like keeping time and important things like touring our countries and appreciating them more. Many of us still perceive tourism only through the prism of the white foreign visitor. It actually reminds me of when we were growing up and everyone in a home would know that some plates and cups belong to visitors and no one else.
As part of the process of independence, this too has to be corrected and I must say so far so good. I am quite impressed that some of the things we have been saying about domestic tourism have started to sink in at many levels. East Africa has finally embraced domestic tourism not just as a stop gap measure to keep facilities afloat when tourists from Europe and America are not flying in but as an integral part of national and regional tourism strategies.
Some years back the only tourism locals would indulge in was in two forms: One was the school trip to the zoo and the other was the annual pilgrimage to the village for Christmas. Today this is changing, with domestic tourism campaigns in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda taking root. We have seen #TembeaKenya, #TulambuleUganda and #TemberauRwanda all becoming a thing in the recent past.
Lots of individuals and tour companies are now in the habit of organising short and pocket friendly getaway trips complete with unique hash tags to push the message on social media platforms. These trips often happen over the weekends or during public holidays that spill into the weekend. The demand has steadily grown and owners of hospitality facilities are starting to wake up to this new reality and are adjusting not only their prices but also their menus to make local visitors more comfortable.
The local tourists brag about their trips on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp thus offering more mileage and marketing of the places they visited. To me this is an interesting form of independence. It is proof that we too can do this and we should. After all there are so many other products that we consume without having to wait for foreigners to do it for us.
Also a lot of travel writing is now being done by locals in tones and styles that other locals can relate to, whether in form of books or blogs since this is the internet age. Our children don’t have to grow up with a mindset that what is in their country is exclusively for foreigners. It is good that we are in the age of digital photography and pictures of places visited have started to populate online platforms which is also good for the image our countries.
A few years back most of the pictures about our countries were those related to news and therefore you would find starving and dying children plus pictures of war. Therefore this new trend is also going a long way in correcting the image of our countries.
Whether it is #TembeaKenya #TulambuleUganda #TemberauRwanda East Africans seem to have woken up and embraced the beauty of their countries and are proud to show it off to the rest of the world. It is indeed an interesting time to be alive and in my view a remarkable aspect of real independence. We should not forget that it is a process and not an event. A lot has been done but so much more remains to be done. Now go out and enjoy your country and remember to take a selfie while at it.Follow https://twitter.com/ssojo81