This week on 09/10, Uganda will mark 54 years as a sovereign nation. The British who were the colonial masters granted us the autonomy in 1962. The first president was Sir Edward Muteesa II and so far, nine presidents have ruled this East African country.
Uganda is fondly referred to as the ‘Pearl of Africa’. This term was bestowed upon us by Sir Winston Churchill in his book “My African Journey” (1908). Churchill was impressed by the country’s magnificent natural beauty and its friendly people. As we observe Uganda’s 54th year of independence, here are the most astounding facts about this pleasant nation…
“For magnificence, for variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life — bird, insect, reptile, beast — for vast scale — Uganda is truly ‘The Pearl of Africa.'” – Sir Winston Churchill.
Africa’s top tourist destination for nature lovers
Not a long time ago, Uganda was voted as the world’s best tourist destination by Lonely Planet. Since then, adventurers have been flocking in large numbers to explore its glittering beauty! As its marketing slogan says ‘Gifted by Nature’, Uganda has never disappointed its curious visitors who are awed by its scenic landscapes, lakes and rivers, equatorial rainforests and the rift valley. Uganda is the source of the world’s longest river, the Nile which is 6853km long. It flows from the world’s third largest lake, Victoria (69485km²). Uganda lies in the African great lakes region and it comprises of 29 lakes and 26 rivers.
Uganda is also a top bird haven that hosts a total of 1061 bird species in its heavily forested areas, that is 11% of the world’s birds! A few of them include the Short-tailed Warbler, Shoebill, Green-breasted Pitta, African Green Broadbill, Great Blue Turaco, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, Doherty’s Bushshrike, and the Bar-tailed Trogon.
A serene haven for wildlife
Uganda’s evergreen jungles host an incredible number of wild animals that freely roam about in their well-protected habitats. These include the largest living land mammal called the African Elephant, Antelopes, Cape Buffalo, Chimpanzees, Hippos, Leopards, Lions, Mountain Gorillas, the Rothschild Giraffe, Spotted Hyena, Warthogs and many others. These can be found in any of the country’s 10 national parks and the most popular include Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls, Kidepo, Lake Mburo and Semuliki. In the forests of Bwindi National Park, Uganda hosts over half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas.
Besides observing wildlife, Uganda’s national parks are becoming the favorite for bird watching, bush camping, Chimp tracking, mountain biking, game drives, gorilla tracking, horseback safaris, sport fishing and nature walks. The country’s wildlife authority has helpful information on how you can make your incredible wildlife expedition in the pearl of Africa.
The World’s Youngest Population
Statistics indicate that 78% of Uganda’s population is below the age of 30 and more than 13 million of them are between 15 – 24 years. This also means that more than half of the total population is below 16 years. This makes the country’s population the youngest in the world. Uganda’s fertility rate is the second highest in the world with 6.2 children per childbearing woman, according to the UNFPA. Life expectancy is at 58 years for men and 60 for women. Estimates indicate that Uganda’s current population stands at more than 40.5 million people making it the world’s fastest growing population.
Africa’s best climate
In a recent ranking of countries with the best climate, Uganda emerged fifth. While being located along the Equator line, the country enjoys a unique all-year-round tropical environment with two main seasons, the dry and wet seasons. Its south-central and western regions receive heavy rainfalls due to the presence of the great lakes including Lake Victoria, compared to the much drier northern region. The average temperatures are between 22- 26°C. The most pleasant time to stay is during the dry season and that is between June-August and December to early March.
Uganda is generally a highly elevated country with an average of 1100m (3609ft) above the sea level. Two of Africa’s four tallest mountains are in Uganda and these are Mt. Rwenzori – nicknamed ‘Mountains of the Moon’ (5109m) and Mt. Elgon (4321m). Other notable ones include Mt. Sabyinyo, Muhabura and Mgahinga all in the Virunga Mountain range, Mt. Moroto, Kadam, Morungole, and Zulia. The south-western part has a unique hilly terrain that rises as high as 1500 meters above the sea level!
The Land of Boda-bodas
One of the most striking things first-time visitors will notice in major Ugandan towns is the high number of passenger motorbike taxis commonly referred to as “Boda-bodas”. These can take you to almost anywhere within a very short time while cruising past the notorious traffic. The boda-boda industry is estimated to be the second-largest employer of Ugandans after agriculture. Even visitors have become fond of them that they’re finding it as a cheap alternative to the untimely and inconvenient public service vehicles. The country is estimated to have more than half a million bodabodas which rival matatus and buses for the city streets.
Fill your African culinary appetite
Being the food basket of Africa, Uganda produces much more food than any other African country. About 80% of its land is fertile and hence arable plus its precipitation (rainfall) rate is at 1500mm. The Ugandan cookery combines both traditional and modern cooking styles and several nutritious meals are served. These include Ugali, Matooke, Malewa (smoked bamboo shoots), Kalo (brown millet bread), Kikomando (Chapati & fried beans), Rolex (Chapati & fried eggs) also listed by CNN as the fastest growing African delicacy, cassava, yams and sweet potatoes.
For a very delicious meal, these are served alongside a variety of sauces like beef, chicken, goat and pork stew, fish, sim-sim, mushrooms, green vegetables (Amaranth, Nakati or Eggplants), beans, or groundnut paste. For a more established Ugandan food adventure, you may also need to try out the Luwombo which is very popular in central Uganda. It is also common to visit a country household and be served a tasty insect dish of Nsenene (grasshoppers) and Enswa (white ants).
Don’t Forget, We’re the most courteous & ethnically diverse country
Anyone who’s visited Uganda before can wholly agree that its people are very friendly and more cordial than anywhere on the earth! Recently, the world’s most ethnically diverse country (Uganda) also ranked as the second most friendly country in the world with a highly rated ‘ease of settling in’. Being a very hospitable country, Uganda hosts more than half a million refugees from every neighboring country and this is inspired by the Ugandan spirit of sharing what you have with your neighbor. Ugandans are very proud of their cultures and heritage as portrayed by their deep interest in traditional music most notably the Kadongokamu (one guitar music), Ekigwo (traditional wrestling), and their traditional way of dressing.
There are a lot of more astonishing facts about Uganda but you can’t comprehend all of them by just reading. You’ll need to personally visit the pearl of Africa for a comprehensive rendezvous with everything we have reviewed here. Join Uganda’s 54th independence festivity by having a feel and taste of the best it has to offer. Happy 54th Independence Day, my motherland…