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Jinja, Uganda

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Jinja, Uganda is located in Uganda
Location in Uganda
Coordinates: 0°25′28″N 33°12′15″E
Country  Uganda
Region Eastern Uganda
Sub-region Busoga sub-region
District Jinja District
 •  Mayor Muhammad Kezaala Baswale
Population (2011 Estimate)
 • Total 89,700

Jinja is the second largest town in Uganda, Africa. It is the second busiest commercial centre in the country, after Kampala, Uganda's capital and largest city. Jinja was established in 1907.


Jinja lies in southeastern Uganda, approximately 54 miles (87 km), by road, east of Kampala. The town is located on the shores of Lake Victoria, near to the source of the Nile River. The nearby Owen Falls Dam regulates the flow of the White Nile and generates electricity. Jinja is the largest metropolitan area in Jinja District, and is considered the capital of the Kingdom of Busoga.

Nearby towns and villages include Njeru (1.9  nmi or 3.5  km; 2.2  mi), Buwenda (2.8 nmi or 5.2 km; 3.2 mi), Kimaka (2.8 nmi or 5.2 km; 3.2 mi), Mpumudde (2.6 nmi or 4.8 km; 3.0 mi), Masese (2.3 nmi or 4.3 km; 2.6 mi), Walukuba (2.4 nmi/4.4 km; 2.8 mi) and Bugungu (1.5 nmi/2.8 km; 1.7 mi)


Before 1906, Jinja was a fishing village that benefited from being located on long-distance trade routes. The origin of the name "Jinja" comes from the language of the two peoples (the Baganda and the Basoga) that lived on either side of the River Nile in the area. In both languages "Jinja" means "Rock". 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 on the northern shores of 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. For the original local inhabitants, the location was a crossing point, for trade, migration and as a fishing post.

This might explain 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 language of the Baganda is 'Ejjinja (Plural Amayinja), and in the Basoga dialect this became Edinda. The British used this reference to name the town they established - "Jinja"

In 1954,with the building of the Owen Falls Dam, (later renamed Nalubaale Power Station, the Ripon Falls were submerged. Most of the 'Flat Rocks' that gave the area its name disappeared under water as well. However a description of what the area looked like can be found in the notes of John Hanning Speke, the first European to lay eyes on 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.”

Cotton-packing, nearby sugar estates, and railway access all enabled Jinja to grow in size. By 1906 a street pattern had been laid out, and Indian traders moved in starting 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.

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 (1,400 km) away. British-American Tobacco Uganda (BATU) established a tobacco processing factory in Jinja in 1928.

Growth patterns

The town remained the capital of Busoga region, and in 1956, it was granted municipality status. Jinja 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.

In the 1950s, Manchester-based Calico Printers' Association, in association with the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC), constructed a large textile mill (Nyanza Textile Industries Limited), locally known as Nytil. The textile mill 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 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.

Population during the 1950s and 1960s

During the 1960s, Jinja, like other towns in Uganda, was subtly segregated. The white population was quite small and tended to live in mixed European/Asian (East Indian) neighbourhoods separated from African neighbourhoods. The European/Asian areas were generally by the lakeside with houses affording large gardens. Although Europeans and Asians lived here in close proximity the facilities of the nearby Jinja Club with golf, tennis, squash and a swimming pool; the Sailing club; Nile Rugby Club; and Nile Football Club were mainly enjoyed by Europeans.

At this time the Jinja Club famously had a golf local rule allowing a free drop (of the ball) if it came to rest in a hippo foot print. Although hippos were rarely seen on the course a number of the more savvy members still managed to take advantage of the rule.

European children studied at the Victoria Nile School, and were then sent to be schooled at Nairobi or in the United Kingdom. The 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.

The Hard Times

All Asians were expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin in 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, but maintenance of buildings and details such as shop-fronts fell after the Indians left. Management of local industries also suffered after the expulsion.

Population during the 2000s

The 2002 national census calculated Jinja's population to be approximately 71,213. In 2008, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), estimated the population of the town at 82,800. With an estimated daily commuter population of approximately 80,000 to 100,000, Jinja on any given business day, contains anywhere from 212,150 to 232,150 people. The majority of the population are of Bantu origin. Lusoga is the main local language. Jinja has a large population of inhabitants who are defined as "working urban poor". The average annual household income is estimated at US $100.

The Mayor of Jinja is Hon. Muhammad Kezaala Baswale. Jinja has been twinned with Finchley, London, England since 1963. In 2011, UBOS estimated the mid-year population of the town at 89,700.


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, a member of the Madhvani Group of companies. Kakira Sugar Works is one of the largest sugar factories in East Africa, employing over 75,000. The factory burns bagasse byproducts from sugar manufacturing to generate 20 MW of electricity for internal use. The excess electricity is sold to the national grid.

The headquarters of Nile Breweries can also be found in Njeru, a suburb of Jinja, near 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.

In recent years, Nile Breweries' 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 1990s saw rapid expansion in Uganda's capital Kampala, which is only 87 kilometres (54 mi) west of Jinja. However, recently 2010, the economy of Jinja has picked up steadily and many investors are now setting shop

In the past, factories chose Jinja as their base due to the proximity of the electric power station at the Owen Falls Dam. However, in recent years, it has become more convenient to locate businesses in Kampala due to the latter's more vibrant economy. Furthermore, a significant number of the Busoga 'elite' have moved to Kampala to benefit from the social and economic advantages it has over Jinja. Another controversial reason is the improvement of the road infrastructure between Kampala and the coast at Mombasa 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 1980s 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 started to by-pass Jinja.

The International oil refining company called Bidco, maintains an oil refinery factory in the city. The palm oil fruits come from Bidco's 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres) plantation on Bugala Island in the Ssese Islands Archipelago, Kalangala District, in Lake Victoria. The factory in the islands crushes the fruit and the crude palm oil is transported to Jinja for refining into edible oil and other products.

Hared Petroleum a petroleum company has also contributed to the growth of Jinja. It has a fuel depot and several fuel stations in the city. Excel construction company and Salini Construrori are also based in Jinja. These are some of the largest construction companies in Uganda. Salini Construrori is currently constructing the multi-billion dollar Bujagali Hydroelectric Power Dam project in Jinja on Bujagali falls, expected to be completed in 2012

Other industries in Jinja include the following:

  • Nile Plywood Limited
  • White Nile Dairy Limited.
  • Nile Agroprocessors Limited
  • Engano Grain Millers Limited
  • Kengrow Industries Limited
  • Sky Fat Limited
  • Jinja Leather Tannery Limited
  • Uganda Steel Rolling Mills Limited - US$13 million plant under construction, with capacity to produce 150 metric tonnes of steel daily.
  • Alam Sugar Factory
  • Alam Thermal Power Station - A 20MW thermal power station, using baggase to generate electricity.
  • Azania Water


Jinja boasts a main post office and several other smaller branches, town hall, a main hospital, pharmacies and dispensaries. There is also a golf course, a sports center with tennis and other facilities available. There is a sports stadium in the city centre as well as a football and athletics stadium in Bugembe, another suburb of Jinja, 5 miles (8.0 km) east of the central business district. Also available now, are several internet cafes. There are numerous commercial establishments including factories, shopping malls, cinemas, casinos, supermarkets and shops.

Recently, Jinja Municipality was lined up along with Mbarara Municipality for elevation to city status.


The list of financial institutions with branches in Jinja includes:

  • Bank of Africa
  • Bank of Baroda
  • Barclays Bank
  • Centenary Bank
  • Crane Bank
  • DFCU Bank
  • Diamond Trust Bank
  • Equity Bank
  • Kenya Commercial Bank
  • Orient Bank
  • PostBank Uganda
  • Stanbic Bank
  • Standard Chartered Bank
  • Tropical Bank
  • United Bank for Africa
  • Opportunity Uganda Limited, a Tier II Financial Institution
  • Pride Microfinance Limited, a Tier III Financial Institution
  • Uganda Finance Trust Limited, a Tier III Financial Institution
  • Jinja Currency Centre - A currency storage and processing facility of the Bank of Uganda
  • National Social Security Fund


The city also has several educational establishments including:

  • The eastern campus of Makerere University
  • Fairland University
  • Jinja College
  • Jinja Philosophy Centre
  • Busoga College Mwiiri
  • Kiira College Butiiki
  • Madhvani College Wairaka
  • Wanyange Girls School
  • Jinja Girls Secondary School
  • Jinja Senior Secondary School
  • St. James Senior Secondary School
  • Masese Girls School
  • Holy Cross Schools
  • Mpavo University
  • Riverside Primary School
  • Arya School
  • Kiira Kids International School
  • Mwiri Primary School
  • Kakira Secondary School
  • Lords Meade School
  • Riverside Academy
  • Nakanyonyi Girls School
  • St. Nicholas Primary School
  • International School of Health Sciences
  • Busoga University (Jinja Campus)
  • Kampala University (Jinja Campus)
  • Kiira High School
  • Busoga Light Academy
  • Jinja School of Midwifery
  • Kensely High School
  • Jinja High School


Jinja is the location of Qaddafi Barracks, an institution of the Uganda People's Defence Force. The town is also the location of the Uganda Senior Command and Staff College, another UPDF institution, located at Kimaka, a neighbourhood situated about 2.8 miles (4.5 km) north of the central business district of 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 and Mpumudde Primary School among others. The schools operate a British- style system of education. The literacy rate is currently around 60 percent.

In 1993, construction began on a second power station, at the source of the White Nile; an extension of the original Nalubaale Power Station. The new extension, completed in 2003, was named Kiyira Power Station, and is capable of producing 200MW of hydroelectric power at maximum utilization.


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, Kampala 87 kilometres (54 mi), 90 minutes by car, two hours by bus). The tarmac road to Tororo 100 kilometres (62 mi) to the east of Jinja, was generally in poor condition but has recently been improved with the completion of the Jinja-Bugiri Highway. Buses and minibus locally called 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 Jinja, and there are thousands of owner operators in the town and the surrounding areas.

Jinja Airport, a small civilian and military airport, is located at Kimaka, about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi), north of Jinja's central business district.

A new bridge, known as the New Jinja Bridge, is planned across the Nile, connecting the town of Njeru to Jinja. Construction is expected to start in 2012 and be completed in 2016.

Local attractions

Local attractions include white-water rafting, the "Source of the Nile", and a large brewery. About 5 miles (8.0 km) north of Jinja is the site where the Bujagali Power Station is under construction, as of May 2009. When completed in 2011, the hydroelectric facility will provide 250 MW of electric power.

There is a private sailing Club on the shores of Lake Victoria. There is an animal sanctuary at Buwenge, 30 kilometres (19 mi) north of Jinja on the highway to Kamuli. Buwenge is also the location of the headquarters of Jinja District, in which the city of Jinja is located.

The 9 hole (18 tee) golf course was originally laid out in the mid-1920s; 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 Hindu temple near Jinja, which has a bronze bust of Gandhi. There is also a Buddhist temple.

About 25 kilometres (16 mi) south, in Lake Victoria, is Buvuma Island whose forests sometimes attract intrepid bird-watchers.

The town has several restaurants, cafes and hotels open to diners.

Plans are underway for the construction of a Zoo around the source of the Nile in Jinja. The Zoo will be the second in Uganda after the Uganda Wild Life Education Centre in Entebbe, about 100 km away.

Activities in Jinja include horseback riding, bungee jumping, water skiing, boat cruises, rafting, camping and quad cycling.

Jinja nightlife

Jinja boasts of a vibrant and robust nightlife. With dozens of bars including Bebes, Leo, Spot six, night clubs like Sombreros and Mayfair, casinos, including the Nile View Casino, one can be spoilt for choice while in Jinja

Other landmarks

Jinja is the location of the headquarters of the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO), a subsidiary of the East African Community. Jinja is also the location of the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jinja, headed by a Catholic bishop, currently, the Rt. Reverend Bishop Charles Martin Wamika.

Geographic data

Humanitarian Organization in Jinja. Jinja Municipality also hosts the Regional offices of Uganda Red cross Society a humanitarian organization on plot 29 Oboja Road.The current Manager responsible for this office is Mr. Male William Kayiwa.This office is also charged with mobilizing blood in Busoga regionand there is a Blood collection centre in place.

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