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HomeHow an App Tubayo, Transforming Tourism in East Africa and Beyond

How an App Tubayo, Transforming Tourism in East Africa and Beyond

In 2019, Brian Namanya found himself in Nairobi, Kenya, eager to explore the city but unsure where to start. Faced with the high costs of traditional travel agents, he ended up staying in his hotel. This experience planted the seed for Tubayo, an online travel marketplace that connects travelers with locals offering unique experiences and accommodations within East Africa. Today, Tubayo boasts around 77,000 users, demonstrating the power of community-driven travel.

The Birth of Tubayo

Namanya envisioned Tubayo as a platform that allowed travelers to book walking tours with knowledgeable locals who could offer an authentic experience of their city. The name Tubayo, meaning “we are everywhere” in the local Ugandan language Runyankole, reflects the platform’s goal of reaching a broad audience. With just an internet connection, Tubayo could potentially connect with millions in Uganda and beyond.

Social Media Beginnings

Facing financial constraints, Namanya initially turned to social media to showcase Uganda’s beauty and promote travel experiences. However, the initial response was disappointing. Undeterred, Namanya sought support from his Instagram followers and relied on word-of-mouth marketing. His perseverance paid off when Mastercard recognized his efforts, awarding him a $15,000 grant that enabled him to hire developers and officially launch the Tubayo app in 2020.

Unique Features and Local Appeal

Tubayo allows anyone to showcase products or offer experiences, such as city tours, wildlife excursions, or fitness classes. One key feature is the flexibility in payment options, allowing users to pay in local currencies or use smartphone money apps like M-Pesa. This caters specifically to local travelers who find these options more familiar than the strictly dollar-centric transactions of international travel platforms.

Challenges and Successes

While Tubayo has gained recognition and success, it hasn’t been without challenges. Accommodation hosts, like Collins Mbulakyalo, note the platform’s higher commission rates compared to global counterparts. However, Mbulakyalo remains committed due to Tubayo’s local focus and the business it brings him.

Recognition and Future Plans

Despite challenges, Tubayo has garnered recognition, winning awards like Best Startup for 2022 and 2023 Tech Influencer of the Year. The platform’s monthly markets in Kampala and Nairobi, featuring over 200 businesses, not only create job opportunities but also showcase local craftsmanship.

Looking ahead, Namanya envisions Tubayo expanding beyond Uganda, gradually taking on the regional and eventually the global market. He emphasizes the untapped potential in African tourism, urging communities and governments to invest more in showcasing the continent’s natural wonders and cultural richness.


Tubayo stands as a testament to the transformative power of local initiatives in the travel industry. By connecting travelers with authentic experiences and accommodations, Tubayo has not only provided a platform for locals to thrive but has also created a community-driven travel ecosystem within East Africa. As Tubayo sets its sights on broader horizons, it holds the promise of changing the way the world experiences and appreciates African travel.


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