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Uganda Looks at Formula One Track Along Source of the Nile to Boost Tourism

In a bid to transform the Source of the Nile into an international tourist destination, the Ugandan government has unveiled an ambitious redevelopment master plan that includes the construction of a Shs47 billion Formula One (F1) race track and a Shs13 billion equestrian facility in Jinja City.

However, the grand vision has raised questions and skepticism about the feasibility and practicality of such expensive sports amenities.

The Source of the Nile redevelopment master plan, totaling Shs430 billion, encompasses various facilities, with significant allocations for hotels (Shs146 billion) and the upgrade of the Kimaka airstrip (Shs130 billion).

Other proposed amenities include golf courses, cable cars, a mini zoo, and cultural sports, among others. The plan is intended to unfold over a 20-year period, gradually transforming the region into a hub for tourists.

Despite the government’s enthusiasm, not everyone is convinced of the viability of such an ambitious undertaking. Joseph Kabuleta, a former presidential candidate and prominent sports journalist, dismissed the plan as a “pipe dream” at this point in time.

Others, like Kosea Wambaka, the director of Strategic Friends International (SFI), the organization contracted to develop the master plan, argue that the implementation will occur gradually, beginning at the Source of the Nile.

While proponents of the plan believe it will enhance socio-economic benefits and attract a broader range of tourists, skeptics argue that the proposed F1 race track and equestrian facility, with costs of Shs47 billion and Shs13 billion respectively, may be overly ambitious and financially unsustainable.

Some critics have questioned whether the Federation of Motorsport Clubs of Uganda (FMU) was consulted in the design of the master plan, emphasizing the need for realistic financial considerations.

Veteran sports journalist Fredrick Musisi Kiyingi acknowledges the attractiveness of the project on paper but questions the practicality of constructing an F1 track that may not see sufficient use.

The projected cost of the F1 track, at Shs47 billion, appears modest when compared to international standards, raising concerns about the track’s potential effectiveness and return on investment.

The Source of the Nile, the world’s longest river, has historical significance and draws international visitors to Uganda. Jinja, the proposed redevelopment site, is already the second-most popular tourist destination in the country after Kampala. Recent tourism statistics indicate that Jinja accounts for 24 percent of all tourists.

In addition to the controversial sports facilities, the master plan includes a glass pier construction worth Shs17 billion, designed to enhance the tourist experience at the Source.

The pier is expected to connect from the riverbanks to the exact point where the Nile emerges from Lake Victoria, offering thermal restaurants, art villages, and a docking area for modern boats.

As Uganda has recently undertaken several ambitious projects, including a COVID-19 vaccine factory and Lubowa Hospital, the Source of the Nile redevelopment plan has become another subject of scrutiny for taxpayers.

While the government envisions transforming the region into a tourism hotspot, the skepticism surrounding the financial feasibility of the grand sports amenities suggests that further consultation and a realistic assessment of costs and benefits may be necessary to turn this vision into reality.

 

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