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Jinja is the source of the mighty River Nile, the world’s longest river, which winds its way from here through Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean. Jinja is the second largest city and second busiest commercial centre in Uganda. Jinja was established in 1907. Dubbed The ‘Adventure Capital of East Africa’, Jinja never disappoints. 


Eastern Region

Distance from Kampala 80 km
Culture Soga
Population 491,000
Major Hospital Jinja Referral Hospital
Major Economic Activities Tourism, Farming, Fishing

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 Basogadialect 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 theSource 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.

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 Limited 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 capitalKampala, 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 inKenya 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 Agro Industries Ltd.
  • Mayuge Sugar Ind Ltd.
  • G.M. Sugar Ind Ltd.
  • Pramukh Steel Ltd.
  • Pramukh Polybag Ltd.
  • Royal Techno Projects Ltd.
  • Nile Surgicot Ltd.
  • Nile Aluminium Ltd.
  • Nile Derivatives Ltd.
  • 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 is the “The Adventure Capital” of East Africa and has lived up to that description.

Attractions in in Jinja

The source of the Nile

The Nile river is the second longest river in the World. It has been marketed as one of the first European explorers.

Bujagali Lake (former Bujagali Falls)

Within the proximity of 10 kilometers, from Jinja municipality, Bujagali Lake is best known for  both excursions and international tourism. The Lake also offers opportunity for bird watching, sunset cruises, canoeing and more.


bujagali-fallsItanda falls

The falls are found on the Nile, about 18 kilometers North- West of Jinja town. They offer you great opportunity for bird watching especially the weaver bird, camping and picnic outings. The falls are located about 8 kilometers from Jinja. There is great potential of bird watching and Ethno botany.

Lake Victoria Beaches

These beaches have been partially exploited for the location of tourism developments, especially hotels. These beaches include the sites at sailing Club, Tilapia club and Masese. Besides the scenery, the lake can be exploited for water sports, which would attract the domestic, foreign resident and foreign non resident tourists.

Islands in Lake Victoria

Several Islands are found in Lake Victoria including Samuka, Lwabitookel, Ndaiga and Lwabitooke.There are several potential tourism activities including boat riding, racing, sport fishing, over-night camping, day excursions and various water sports.


Numerous industries found in Jinja attract excursionists, especially school tours including textile, beer, Sugar, steel rolling, grain milling and fish industries. There are several agro based industries such as sugar and tea processing establishments which have potential to attract foreign resident and non- resident tourist.


Tea and Sugar estates are currently exploited as a tourist attractions. Agro based industries have tourism potential as an attraction for tourists coming from countries where semi-finished product of sugar and tea are exported.


There are outstanding sport facilities, especially the out-standing Jinja golf pitch and the Bugembe Stadium, offer opportunity for attracting international and national tournaments, whose participants are over- night visitors.


White Water Rafting in Jinja

From mild to wild – white water rafting at its best in Jinja on the White Nile – you might get wet, but you will never forget the experience of rafting on the Nile at Jinja in Uganda. You can take it a bit easy with a family float for you and children.

Jet Boat up the Rapids of the Nile

Jet boat up the River Nile Rapids at incredible speeds and enjoy the wild of the River Nile without being immersed in it except a bit of spray. Simply a most awesome experience.

Kayaking the River Nile

Tandem Kayaking with a most knowledgeable guide to take you down the rapids of the River Nile. You can also try River Surfing, another option at Jinja along the River Nile.

Sunset Cruise

Take a Sunset Cruise with dinner and drink at Jinja – simply a most enjoyable experience while at Jinja on the White River Nile.

Horseback Riding Safaris along the Nile

Horseback riding safari along the Nile and there is even an overnight horseback riding safari of two days – another way to enjoy the Nile, visit Villages and hamlets along the journey and take in the culture and sights.

All Terrain Quad Bike Safari along the Nile 


All Terrain Vehicle Quad Biking along the River Nile taking in the sights and the local cultures as you ride through various villages. Visitors to Jinja find this an exhilarating experience.

Mountain Biking along the Nile

Bicycling along the Nile at Jinja is a most enjoyable experience for visitors to the Nile area, there are lot of places where you can ride a bike including along the Nile though various villages and hamlets.

Bungee Jumping into the Historic River Nile

Bungee Jumping, not for the faint of heart, however many simply enjoy the experience of diving into the Nile River below. It is an unforgettable experience for most.

And so many more.