The prestigious Shell V-Power Pearl of Africa Rally happens once a year.
Part of the legs for the Africa Rally Championships (ARC), it is one event of intense preparations, merry-making, celebrations as well as serious business on the gravel, mud and tarmac in the SCOUL sugar cane plantations and Kasuku tea estates.
It remains one of the most eagerly awaited sporting events not only in Uganda, but also East Africa, on the continent and globally.
The 2022 edition only returned after a two-year hiatus because of the Coronavirus pandemic that ravaged the entire world.
By close of business, the Ugandan crew of Jas Mangat and Joseph Kamya came top of the rest.
Racing in a Mitsubishi EvoX, the Pilipili rally team clocked 1 hour, 53 minutes, 6 seconds to count their second pearl rally win since 2013.
The crew earned return air tickets for two for a tour of Dubai, courtesy of Uganda Airlines, one of the vivid event sponsors.
Zambia’s racing couple Leroy and Urshlla Gomes, racing in the Ford Fiesta R5 came second.
Giancarlo Davite (Rwanda) and Sylvia Vindevogel (Burundi) were third placed.
The local organizing committee was left with broad smiles after fans maintained discipline throughout with no major worrying incident reported.
This rally which was officially flagged off by former prime minister of Uganda Hon. John Patrick Amama Mbabazi at Nile Hotel, Namanve had far-fetched positive impact on the country’s tourism industry.
Hon. Mbabazi reflected how he used to keenly follow the East Africa Rally Championship back in the 1950’s from Kabale and only returned to a rally event over 5 decades later.
For starters, Uganda is endowed with a wide range of tourism resources, including biodiversity, varied landscapes, and cultural and religious heritage.
This boldly eluciates Winston Churchill’s assertion when he dubbed Uganda as the Pearl of Africa in his publication; “My African Journey” of 1908.
Uganda tourism has been intricately linked to the country’s natural history, exploration, trade, and colonial history since the 19th century.
According to the World Bank report in 2019, the financial year, 2018–2019 witnessed tourism earn Uganda’s GDP 5.6 trillion Ugandan shillings (US$1.60 billion or €1.3 billion as of Dec 2019) from 1.6 million tourists.
Authoritative stats from the 2022 Shell V-Power Pearl of Africa Rally in Uganda; a total of 49 crews registered.
Of these, 43 were in action in a wet rally marred by rains especially on day one of the competition, forcing the organizers to cancel two of the competitive sections due to flooded terrain.
From the rally crews, service team members (including mechanics), local organizing committee, media and darling rally fans, these all yearned for something dear to eat.
This is food needed that Uganda produces owing to the rich agricultural background precipitated by the friendly weather and nutritious loamy-sandy soils.
The major ingredient for cars is fuel and oil; there was definitely husky business as usual for the petrol stations.
Majority of the crew members and fans checked in various accommodation confines of all classes.
This is direct revenue to the various accommodation places in Entebbe, Kampala, Mukono, Lugazi, Jinja and elsewhere where the people were accommodated.
The customs and immigration departments at Entebbe International Airport, Gatuna, Malaba, Mutukula and Busia were busy parties for the foreign crews that took part in this rally.
One stand-out moment was at the Mehta Stadium where the official service center, parking lot, results tally center, media center and official prize giving ceremony took place.
At the Mehta Stadium, the podium finishers had their respective national anthems played aloud with the Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Uganda and East African anthems passionately sung along.
The different top performers and exceling crews were also rewarded with various plaques and artifacts.
These artifacts reflected the rich fauna of Uganda’s natural heritage with Mountain Gorrilas, Antelopes, Hippopotamus, Crested Crane and other animals.
The adoration of these artifacts by the different winners communicated volume about the unrivalled love for nature.
At some stage, I reflected how the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) alongside the Ministry of Wildlife, Tourism and Antiquities could be involved to tap on these potential tourism for well organized tours to the wild parks and other tourism destinations.
Now, the onus lied upon the Federation of Motorsport Uganda (FMU) to engage pertinent stakeholders as the Government of Uganda, UTB, Tourism Ministry for a formal partnership.
Perhaps, the Peal Rally has proved beyond the reasonable doubt that Uganda’s Tourism Industry is much alive and active.
After hitting an all-time high 1,542,620 tourists’ arrivals in 2019, Uganda’s numbers will sprout again following 72.7 percent decline in earnings because of the grey patch 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.
In 2019 alone, tourists spent US$1.60 billion was spent in Uganda and this such promising statistics will brighten up with well-organized international sporting events as the Shell-V Power Pearl of Africa Rally.
VIVA Uganda, Shell-V Power Pearl of Africa,
Uganda, the Pearl of Africa!