Jinja, Uganda

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This article is about the city of Jinja. For the corresponding district, see Jinja District.
Idindha (Lusoga)
Jinja PICT0177.JPG
Jinja is located in Uganda
Location in Uganda
Coordinates: 0°25′28″N 33°12′15″E / 0.42444°N 33.20417°E / 0.42444; 33.20417
Country  Uganda
Region Eastern
Sub-region Busoga
District Jinja
 • Mayor (Muhammad Kezaala Baswale)
Population (2014 Census)
 • Total 72,931[1]

Jinja is a town in Uganda, the third-largest economy in the East African Community.[2]


Jinja lies in Jinja District, Busoga sub-region, in Eastern Uganda, approximately 81 kilometres (50 mi), by road, east of Kampala, the capital of Uganda, and the largest city in that country.[3] It sits along the northern shores of Lake Victoria, near to the source of the River Nile.[4] The nearby Nalubaale Dam and adjacent Kiira Dam, regulate the flow of the White Nile and generate electricity. According to the 2014 national population census data, Jinja is the largest metropolitan area in Jinja District, and is the 14th-largest town in the country.[1]

Nearby towns and villages include Njeru (1.9 nmi or 3.5 km or 2.2 mi), Buwenda (2.8 nmi or 5.2 km or 3.2 mi), Kimaka (2.8 nmi or 5.2 km or 3.2 mi), Mpumudde (2.6 nmi or 4.8 km or 3.0 mi), Masese (2.3 nmi or 4.3 km or 2.6 mi), Walukuba (2.4 nmi or 4.4 km or 2.8 mi), Bugungu and Bugembe(4 km)(1.5 nmi or 2.8 km or 1.7 mi)


Before 1907, 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.”[5]

Cotton processing, 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, 1,400 kilometres (870 mi) away. British-American Tobacco Uganda (BATU) established a tobacco processing factory in Jinja in 1928.

Growth patterns[edit]

The town remained the capital of Busoga 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 below the source of River Nile, 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 Nalubaale Power Station. 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, and 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 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[edit]

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 supposedly "enjoyed" by Europeans. The discriminatory oppression of the colonial rulers was very apparent in housing patterns.

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.

Some children used to study 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[edit]

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[edit]

The national census of 2002 estimated Jinja's population to be 71,213 of which 36,325 are males and 34,888 are females. In 2010, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics(UBOS), estimated the population of the town at 82,800. In 2011 UBOS estimated the population of Jinja at 89,700.[6] In 2014, the national population census put Jinja's population at 72,931[1]

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.[2] The Mayor of Jinja is Hon. Muhammad Kezaala Baswale. Jinja has been twinned with Finchley, London, England since 1963.


Agriculture thrives on the fertile soils, abundant water sources, and reliable rainfall. Other industries are metal processing, leather and paper processing, grain milling, sugar manufacturing, some organic food and coffee growing for export, and brewing for local sale. There is some local and export fishing on Lake Victoria. A brand new modern market for fresh produce was completed in the fourth quarter of 2014. The facility, which can accommodate up to 4,500 vendors cost US$13.7 million to construct, with a loan from the African Development Bank, over a three-year period from 2011 until 2014.[7]

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 50 MW of electricity for internal use and sale to the national grid.[8]

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 capital Kampala, which is only 81 kilometres (50 mi) west of Jinja. However, as of 2010, the economy of Jinja had picked up steadily and many investors were setting up shop.

In the past, factories chose Jinja as their base due to the proximity of the electric power station at the Owen Falls Dam.[9] 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.[10] Hared Petroleum, a petroleum products distribution company, has also contributed to the growth of Jinja. It has a fuel depot and several fuel stations in the city. Excel Construction Company, a subsidiary of the Madhvani Group, and Salini Construrori are also based in Jinja. These are some of the largest construction companies in Uganda. Salini Construrori is constructed the US$900 million Bujagali Hydroelectric Power Station, between 2007 and 2012.

Other industries in or near Jinja include the following:

  • Nile Agro Industries
  • Mayuge Sugar Industries
  • G.M. Sugar Industries
  • Pramukh Steel
  • Pramukh Polybag
  • Royal Techno Projects
  • Nile Surgicot
  • Nile Aluminium
  • Nile Derivatives
  • Nile Plywood
  • White Nile Dairy
  • Nile Agroprocessors
  • Engano Grain Millers
  • Kengrow Industries
  • Sky Fat Limited
  • Jinja Leather Tannery
  • Alam Steel Rolling Mills[11]
  • Alam Sugar Industries
  • Alam Thermal Power Station
  • Azania Water


Jinja has a main post office and several other smaller branches, a town hall, Jinja Regional Referral 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 center 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.


The following financial institutions maintain branches in Jinja:


The city also has several educational establishments including the following:

There are many primary schools in Jinja, many of them participating in Uganda's Universal Primary School Education (UPE). 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.


Jinja is the location of Qaddafi Barracks, an institution of the Uganda People's Defence Force. The barracks are the location of the Uganda Junior Staff College,[13] one of the dozen or so military schools in Uganda.[14] The town is also the location of the Uganda Senior Command and Staff College, another UPDF institution, located at Kimaka, a neighborhood situated about 2.8 miles (4.5 km) north of the central business district of Jinja.[15]

Electricity generation[edit]

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 Kiira Power Station, and is capable of producing 200MW of hydroelectric power at maximum utilization.[16]


Jinja station with a Uganda Railways diesel locomotive.

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 81 kilometres (50 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 owner-operated cars locally known as "Mycar".

Jinja Airport, a small civilian and military airport,[17] 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 started in 2013 and is expected to be completed in 2016.[18]

Local attractions[edit]

A Hindu temple in Jinnja

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 located. The hydroelectric facility is providing 250 MW of electric power.[19]

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.[20]

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. The town has several restaurants, cafes and hotels open to diners. 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. 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 boasts of a vibrant and robust nightlife.

Other landmarks[edit]

Jinja is the location of the headquarters of the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO), a subsidiary of the East African Community.[21] Jinja is also the location of the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jinja, headed by a Catholic Bishop, currently, the Right Reverend Bishop Charles Martin Wamika.[22]

Geographic data[edit]

Jinja also hosts the Regional offices of the 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 region and there is a blood collection centre in place.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Great African Travellers, From Mungo Park to Livingstone and Stanley, The Project Gutenberg EBook of Great African Travellers, by W.H.G. Kingston (2007) (https://www.gutenberg.org/files/21391/21391-h/21391-h.htm).


  1. ^ a b c UBOS, . (27 August 2014). "The Population of The Regions of the Republic of Uganda And All Cities And Towns of More Than 15,000 Inhabitants". Citypopulation.de Quoting Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS). Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  2. ^ a b VUC, . (2000). "Visiting Uganda: Jinja". Visiting-Uganda.com (VUC). 
  3. ^ "Road Distance Between Kampala And Jinja With Map". Globefeed.com. Retrieved 23 February 2014. 
  4. ^ The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, . "Profile of Lake Victoria, East Africa". Britinnica.com. Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  5. ^ Kingston, W.H.G. (2007). "Great African Travellers, From Mungo Park to Livingstone and Stanley, The Project Gutenberg EBook of Great African Travellers". Gutenberg.org. Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  6. ^ UBOS, . (2011). "Estimated Population of Jinja In 2002, 2010 & 2011" (PDF). Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS). Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  7. ^ Nabwiiso, Samuel (10 August 2014). "$13 Million Jinja Market Close to Completion". East African Business Week (Kampala). Retrieved 24 February 2015. 
  8. ^ KSW, . (2010). "About Kakira Sugar Works: Kakira Sugar Works Employs Over 7,500 People". Kakira Sugar Works (KSW). Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  9. ^ Kasita, Ibrahim (3 February 2012). "Owen Falls Dam: Powering Uganda For Five Decades". New Vision (Kampala). Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  10. ^ IFAD, . (2005). "A Successful Public/Private Partnership: Vegetable Oil Production In Uganda". Ruralpovertyportal.org. Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  11. ^ Khisa, Isaac (13 October 2012). "Alam Group’s $50 Million Steel Mill ‘Won’t Lower Prices’". The EastAfrican (Nairobi). Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  12. ^ BOU, . (2012). "Contact Details for Jinja Currency Center". Bank of Uganda (BOU). Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  13. ^ Kiirya, Donald (14 July 2010). "Uganda: Army Can't Stay Out of Politics - Defence Minister". New Vision (Kampala). Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  14. ^ "List of Military Schools in Uganda". Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  15. ^ Musingo, Doreen (29 November 2009). "Jeje Odongo Cautions Kimaka Graduands Against HIV". New Vision (Kampala). Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  16. ^ Ojambo, Fred (11 April 2014). "Eskom Seeks To More Than Double Ugandan Power Plants It Runs". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  17. ^ Tajuba, Paul (30 January 2015). "CAA Unveils Master Plan to Create Four New International Airports". Daily Monitor (Kampala). Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  18. ^ Kagolo, Francis (2013). "Construction of New Jinja Bridge Commences December". New Vision (Kampala). Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  19. ^ "Bujagali: Powering Uganda From The Nile" (PDF). International Water Power & Dam Construction. March 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  20. ^ Musingo, Doreen (27 August 2009). "Jinja Municipality To Gain City Status: Jinja District Headquarters to Relocate to Buwenge". New Vision (Kampala). Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  21. ^ Mukyala, Esther (7 March 2010). "Farm Fish To Increase Stocks". New Vision (Kampala). Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  22. ^ "Overview of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jinja". Catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 23 February 2015. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 0°25′28″N 33°12′15″E / 0.42444°N 33.20417°E / 0.42444; 33.20417