Jinja, Uganda

Jinja, Uganda

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Jinja is the second commercial centre in Uganda, Africa. It was established in 1907.


Jinja lies in the south east of Uganda, convert|87|km north east of the capital, Kampala. It is located on the shores of Lake Victoria, near to the source of the White Nile river. The city is the chief town of Jinja District, and is considered the capital of the Kingdom of Busoga.

Nearby towns and villages include Njeru (convert|1.9|nmi|abbr=on|disp=/|lk=on), Buwenda (convert|2.8|nmi|abbr=on|disp=/), Kimaka (convert|2.8|nmi|abbr=on|disp=/), Mpumudde (convert|2.6|nmi|abbr=on|disp=/), Masese (convert|2.3|nmi|abbr=on|disp=/), Walukuba (convert|2.4|nmi|abbr=on|disp=/) and Bugungu (convert|1.5|nmi|abbr=on|disp=/)


Before 1906, Jinja was formerly a fishing village that benefited from being on long-distance trade routes. The origin of the name 'Jinja' comes from the language of the two tribes (the Baganda and the Basoga) that live either side of the River Nile in the area. In most of Africa, rivers like the Nile hindered migration, this explains the ethnic boundaries along the Nile as one moves north from the river's source at Lake Victoria. However the area around Jinja was one place where the river could be breached due to the large rocks near the Ripon Falls. Here on either bank of the river were large flat rocks where small boats could be launched to cross the river.

These rock formations were also accredited with providing a natural moderator for the water flow out of Lake Victoria. However for the locals it was a crossing both for trade and migration, and as a fishing post. This explains why despite this barrier the two tribes have very similar languages, and the more powerful Baganda had an enormous influence on the Basoga. The area was called the 'Place of Rocks' or 'The Place of Flat Rocks'. The word for stones or rocks in the Baganda language is "Ejjinja"" (Plural "amayinja""), and in the Basoga dialect this became "Edinda"". The British used this reference to name the town they established - 'Jinja'

When the Ripon Falls was submerged with the building of the Owen Falls Dam (later renamed Nalubaale Power Station) in 1954, most of the 'Flat Rocks' that gave the area its name disappeared too. However a description of what the area looked like can be found in the notes of John Hanning Speke, the first European to find the Source of the Nile:

:"“Though beautiful, the scene was not exactly what I expected, for the broad surface of the lake was shut out from view by a spur of hill, and the falls, about twelve feet deep and four to five hundred feet broad, were broken by rocks; still it was a sight that attracted one to it for hours. The roar of the waters, the thousands of passenger fish leaping at the falls with all their might, the fishermen coming out in boats, and taking post on all the rocks with rod and hook, hippopotami and crocodiles lying sleepily on the water, the ferry at work above the falls, and cattle driven down to drink at the margin of the lake, made in all, with the pretty nature of the country—small grassy-topped hills, with trees in the intervening valleys and on the lower slopes—as interesting a picture as one could wish to see.”"ref|Great_African_Travellers

The town was founded in 1907 by the British, as an administrative centre for the Provincial Government Headquarters for Busoga region. This was around the time that Lake Victoria's importance in transport rose due to the Uganda Railway linking Kisumu, a Kenyan town on the lake, with Mombasa on the Indian Ocean, 900 miles (1400 km) away. Cotton-packing, nearby sugar estates, and railway access all enabled it to grow in size. By 1906 a street pattern had been laid out, and Indian traders moved in from around 1910. The Indians were Catholic Christians and English-speaking, and originated in the former Portuguese colony of Goa on the west coast of India.

British-American Tobacco Uganda (BATU) established a tobacco processing factory in Jinja in 1928.

The town remained the capital of Busoga region, and in 1956, it was granted municipality status. At that time, it was the industrial heart of Uganda between 1954 and the late 1970s - supported by power from the hydroelectric Nalubaale Power Station at the Owen Falls Dam, which was completed in 1954. The dam meant that Jinja enjoyed clean, potable water on tap and an unwavering electricity supply throughout the 1960s. There was also a new and highly efficient drainage system leading into capacious sewers that emptied directly into the River Nile. Cars began to appear in the 1960s, often as taxi services.

Manchester-based Calico Printers Association, in association with the Uganda Development Corporation, constructed a large vertical textile mill ('Nyanza Textile Industries' or more popularly "Nytil") in the mid 1950s. This utilised hydro-electric power from the Owen Falls Dam. By 1973 Nytil employed about 3,000 people and exclusively used Uganda cotton to spin, weave, and dye or print, to sell via its own retail chain, Lebel, throughout Uganda and Kenya. Genuine Nytil fabric was recognised by the "Silver Shilling" - a foil piece resembling a shilling which was inserted at one yard intervals along the edge of every cloth length produced.

As Jinja grew, new roads were constructed, serving local taxis and the many who lived outside the town. Each morning in the 1960s there would be a line of two-wheel traffic heading for the 'sokoni' or marketplace with cargoes of bananas or sacks of charcoal.

Jinja in the 1960s, like all the towns in Uganda, was subtly segregated, with little mixing of white, East Indian and black neighbourhoods. The white area was by the lakeside, with houses affording large gardens, near a lakeside club with golf, yachting, a rugby pitch and swimming pool. White children studied at the Victoria Nile School, and were then sent to be schooled at Nairobi or the United Kingdom. The East Indians were the commercial and business class and lived in the rest of the town, and they greatly valued education: in 1968, the huge Jinja Secondary School had one white student and about half a dozen blacks, while the remaining 500 students were all Asian.

East Indians were expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin in 1971 and 1972.

Under Idi Amin's bloody rule, it is said that so many bodies were dumped in Lake Victoria that they often blocked the hydroelectric intake channels at the Owen Falls Dam.

Much of Jinja's architecture is Indian-influenced, although the detailed shop-fronts and buildings were poorly maintained after the Indians left. Local industrial concerns also collapsed after the Indians were expelled. Many of the East Indians who are now returning to Uganda are choosing to set up businesses in Jinja.


The resident population of Jinja is approximately 106,000 (an increase from 45,000 in 1980 and 65,000 in 1991), but it also draws in some 80,000 commuters each day.

The majority of the population are of Bantu origin. Lusoga is the main local language. Average annual household income is estimated at US $100.

The Mayor of Jinja is Hon. Muhammad Kezaala Baswale. The city of Jinja has been twinned with Finchley, London, England since 1963.


Agriculture thrives on the fertile soils, abundant water sources and reliable rainfall. Other industries are metal processing, leather and paper processing, grain milling, sugar, some organic fruits and coffee growing for export, and brewing for local sale. There is some local and export fishing on Lake Victoria. British-American Tobacco Uganda (BATU) closed its Jinja tobacco-processing factory in 2005, due to high taxes. The biggest local employer is currently the Kakira Sugar works, which runs on sugar alcohol - since there are said to be frequent power cuts in Jinja's mains electricity supply.

The headquarters of Nile Breweries can also be found in Jinja. It is here too that you can find the Source of the Nile, from which the brewery has been drawing its water for the past fifty years. Building of the brewery commenced in 1952 but was only completed four years later. Bottles of Nile Beer (now Nile Special Lager and still the company's flagship brand) were first enjoyed by consumers back in 1956. In 2001, Nile Breweries Limited was fully acquired by South African Breweries Ltd (SAB). A year later, in May 2002, SAB acquired Miller Brewing Company in the United States, thus forming SABMiller plc.

One pharmaceutical manufacturing company by the name Uganda Pharmaceuticals (1996) is also located in Jinja.

In recent years, Nile brewery's investment in its people, brands and physical assets have given rich reward, both in performance and recognition. Volume growth and profitability have steadily risen, along with significant debt reduction that threatened the company's ability to trade during the early part of the decade. This has encouraged further capital project investment.

Compared to other urban areas, Jinja's economic recovery has been rather sluggish. Uganda's economic boom that started in 1990's saw rapid expansion in Uganda's capital Kampala, which is only 80 km miles away. Unlike before when factories chose Jinja as their base due to the proximity of the electric power station at the Owen Falls Dam, it is now just as convenient to locate in the capital rather than in Jinja. Furthermore a significant number of the Busoga 'elite' have moved to live in Kampala. Another controversial reason is the improvement of the road infrastructure between Kampala and the coast at Mombassa in Kenya which is Uganda's only route to the Indian Ocean and the country's main trade route. The poor maintenance of this route during the 1970s and 1980's meant that most trucks carrying goods to and from the coast were diverted into the heart of Jinja on their way to and from Kampala. This supported a significant part of Jinja's economy. Once the main road was repaired, these trucks can now by-pass Jinja.


Jinja City boasts a main post office and several other smaller branches, town hall, a main hospital,pharmacies and dispensaries a golf course,a sports center with tennis and other facilities available. There is a sports stadium in the city center as well as a football and athletics stadium in the Bugembe urban and commercial center.

Also available now,are several internet cafes. There are numerous commercial establishments including factories and shops and Banks such as Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic Bank, The Arab Libyan Bank, Bank of Baroda and several other local banks such as Sembule Investment Bank.

Jinja City also has several educational establishments such as JInja College and Jinja Philosophy Center, Busoga College Mwiiri, Kiira College Butiiki, Madhvani College, Wairaka, Wanyange Girls School, Jinja Girls Seondary School, Jinja Senior Secondary school also the biggest in the nation,St James Senior Secondary School e.t.c. There is a known military training school in Gaddafi barraks in Jinja.

There are many primary schools due to Uganda's universal primary education.Notable schools that are some of the finest in Uganda include Lake Victoria Primary School, Narambai primary school, Mpumude Primary School among others.They operate a British-style system of education. The literacy rate is currently around 60 percent. There is a Teacher Training college at Jinja.


Jinja is a major station on the Uganda Railway and is a port for Lake Victoria ferries. From the early 1900s access to the railway was by ferry to the railhead at Kisumu. It was not until the 1930s that the track was extended into Uganda.

There is a good tarmac road west from Jinja to the capital at Kampala (80 km, 90 minutes by car, two hours by bus), but the tarmac road to the border with Kenya at Tororo, 100 km to the east, is generally in poorer condition. Buses and minibus taxis provide transport between Jinja and other Ugandan towns.

Transport in Jinja is dominated by the motorbike (Boda boda) and small cars Locally known as Mycar. This is important to the city, and there are thousands of owner operators in the city and the sorrounding towns.

There is an airfield at Kimaka.

Local attractions

Local attractions include white-water rafting, the "Source of the Nile", and a large brewery. Five miles/8 km north of Jinja is Bujagali Falls, which is located downriver from Owen Falls Dam. Bujagali Falls is a world-class spot for kayaking and white water rafting, and also a popular weekend picnic area for local Ugandans. However, the Falls are under threat from the construction of a proposed new 250 MW hydroelectric facility.

There is a private Sailing Club on the shores of Lake Victoria. There is an animal sanctuary at Buwenge.

The 9 hole (18 tee) golf course was originally laid out in the mid 1920's; and famously had a local rule allowing a free drop of the ball if it came to rest in a hippo's hoof print. The course has tremendous views of the Nile and Lake Victoria and the second green is within a 'lob wedge' of the source of the Nile.

Some of Mahatma Gandhi's ashes were scattered into the source of the White Nile. There is a small memorial garden at the spot. There is an active [http://www.shunya.net/Pictures/Uganda/Jinja/Temple6.jpgHindu temple near Jinja] , which has a bronze bust of Gandhi. There is also a Buddhist temple.

About 25 km south, in Lake Victoria, is Buvuma Island — whose forests sometimes attract intrepid bird-watchers.

Geographic data

* Latitude and Longitude: coord|0|44|N|33|20|E|
* Height above sea level: 3,700 feet (1,130 m).


# Great African Travellers, From Mungo Park to Livingstone and Stanley, The Project Gutenburg EBook of Great African Travellers, by W.H.G. Kingston (2007) (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21391/21391-h/21391-h.htm).

External links

* [http://www.gandaancestry.com/dictionary/dictionary.php Online Luganda Dictionary]

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