By Edwin Muhumuza
Renowned Senegalese American artist and businessman Akon, concluded a weeklong trip in Uganda where UTB held talks with him on leveraging his networks and celebrity status to tap into the wealthy celebrity North American travellers and African diaspora market.
Akon, whose real name is Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam was in the country at the invitation of Ambassador Abbey Walusimbi, the Senior Presidential Advisor on Diaspora affairs to explore various investment opportunities in the country.
During his stay, UTB CEO Lilly Ajarova hosted Akon and his wife Rozina Negusei for a familiarization trip to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the most visited national park, together with Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are famous for the Mountain Gorilla and host 53% of the World’s population of gorillas. Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to over 95 mammal Species and over 600 bird species.
Describing the gorilla tracking in a media interview, Akon and Rozina said it was rare, tough and beautiful at the same time.
“We had an amazing time—a beautiful experience. “It was amazing, I got an up-close and personal shot with the gorillas… you don’t see shots this close.”
At another media address in Kampala, Akon said: “I cannot believe what I have experienced while in Uganda, the kind of welcome I never knew Uganda had and I’m determined to expose how beautiful this country is to the rest of the world.”
Ajarova said that Akon’s visit follows another February 2021 meeting between Ajarova and Akon’s wife and entertainment entrepreneur, Rozina Negusei.
“One of the key opportunities discussed with Rozina then, and again with the couple was an opportunity for a huge potential for a back-to-Africa (in this case Uganda) International Music Festival,” she said, adding that they also discussed marine tourism- given Uganda’s abundance of water bodies, the redevelopment of the Equator—UTB has profiled up to 6 areas of investment as well as the construction of especially luxury accommodation facilities in and around 10 National Parks in addition to a favourable business environment such as government incentives, widely available and affordable labour, all, combine to make Uganda, one of the best places to visit and invest,” she said.
She also said that UTB hopes to leverage the multi-platinum selling singer, rapper, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and actor’s celebrity and wealthy networks, first to create awareness about Uganda in the North American markets especially and subsequently influence investments inflows as well.
Ajarova said that the North American Market, constitutes only 9.3% of overall tourism numbers to Uganda, they, together with European and Oceania Australia, New Zealand) were largely leisure travelers that spend between 8 to 14 nights.
Nearly one-third of all leisure visitors were much more likely to stay in either Uganda’s Safari Lodge or Tourist campsites.
In an interview with Associated Press News, an American newswire, Akon said that Uganda was rich with potential and indeed confirmed that his company was interested in and would host an international music festival in Uganda.
“We do want to be able to invest in the local artists. One of the reasons for the festival is to expose the local artists here in Uganda because they play a big role in the East African music also hinted at and plans to build what he called an entertainment city in Uganda.
“That is on the list of things that we are doing. That is one of the reasons why we are doing the Akon Entertainment City here; because we want to be able to focus and showcase the entertainment all throughout East Africa,” he said.