Uganda is a landlocked independent republic with a democratic government which lies between the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) and Kenya and forms part of the East African Region. The capital city is Kampala. Other major towns are Jinja, Mbale, and Masaka.

The official language is English but Swahili is widely spoken. The local currency is the New Uganda shilling. (US$ / USh – current exchange rate).

Uganda is rich in natural resources and has substantial copper and cobalt deposits. Over 80% of the population is employed in the agriculture sector, of which coffee is the main export crop. The country is now one of the largest coffee producers in Africa. The country also has growing tea, horticulture, cotton and maize industries. Uganda experienced severe famine inducing drought in both 1994/95 and 1999. This hampered the growth of the agricultural sector.

Since the late 1980s, the Ugandan government has aimed to stabilise the economy through reduced inflation and promoting export earnings and production. This has been achieved through increasing producer prices and petroleum prices, improving civil wages and implementing currency reforms. The government has also been active in rebuilding infrastructure in the country. The government believes in a privately run economy and the country had the largest gain in the Institutional Investor ratings of 1997. In 1999 the government closed the central bank of Uganda and invited several intentional companies to take over the assets after the bank lost US$7mn in its last year of operation.

The Uganda oil industry is an important sector in the economy of the country since all petroleum products are imported. Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility, Uganda Electricity Board (UEB).

The international time zone for Uganda is Greenwich +1. The international dialling code is +256. The only international airport in Uganda is at Entebbe, 35 km from Kampala, and the principal airline which flies there is Sabena. As at June 1995 all nationals require visas in order to visit Uganda. Visas are valid for one month and may be extended to a maximum of 6 months.

Malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, yellow fever (regional) and schistosomiasis (bilharzia) may be contracted while travelling in Uganda. Travellers should be aware that advance payment for medical services might be required. Prescription medicines should be carried in their original containers together with the prescription. Vaccinations should be obtained before entering Uganda. It is advisable to take syringes and needles when travelling to Uganda. It is difficult to obtain mosquito repellent and contact lens solution in Uganda. Only bottled water is safe for drinking.

Shaun Bakamoso

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