Journey Around Uganda

Major Regions in Uganda

4. Jinja District

Spatial location of Jinja District in Uganda. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Jinja is probably the best example of a predominantly industrial district to be found in East Africa. It is situated next to where River Niles leaves Lake Victoria which, in 1953, became the site the first large power project (Owen Falls) to be built in any of the three countries. Jinja is situated in the Lakeshore Region of Uganda. It occupies a headland that is almost surrounded by water; the south and south-east sides face the lake, the west is bordered by the River Nile, and two rivers situated not far to the north and north-east. The height of the land on which Jinja District stands varies from about 3,700 feet (1,130 meters) to just over 3,900 feet (1,190 meters). The lakeshore to the south and east of Jinja is interesting because the land slopes only very gently down to the lake.  This flat land has been put to good use because it is the site of some Jinja’s factories and railway depots. The northern side of Jinja Town is bordered by a river valley. Although the river is small its valley is very important. The site of Jinja can be summed up in this way: Jinja lies on a hilly peninsula, largely surrounded by water, and is situated on the east bank of the River Nile at the point where it leaves Lake Victoria. In even more general terms the physical geography of this part of Uganda can be described as a dissected plateau – between the high points of the plateau are the river-eroded valleys. Such a landscape, with hill-tops of similar heights separated by valleys, is known as a dissected plateau. The climate of Jinja District is typical of an equatorial climate that been only slightly modified by altitude. Usually altitude has its greatest gross effect on temperature but the average temperatures of Jinja are still high in relation, say, the Nairobi area, where altitude has noticeably reduced temperature. At Jinja they average 21 to 24 degrees C., with a very small annual range of temperature.

Jinja has many functions of which the following are the most important; it is a route center, a market town, a port, a collecting center and an industrial town. As a route center, Jinja Town is situated at the point where the main Uganda-Kenya road and railway cross the River Nile and many other roads and railways converge on the town. Although Jinja District is connected to Kasese, Kampala, Pakwach, Soroti and Tororo, it is only in the last three decades or so that these connections have become important. As an industrial centre, Jinja serves the surrounding areas as a market center. Not only are many goods bought and sold there, but Jinja also serves the district in terms of schools, hotels, hospitals, churches, police and prison facilities, and so on. As a port, the facilities at Jinja are important because they connect many townships and undoubtedly help to increase lake trade. As a collecting center, it benefits from importance as a route center. Products from all over Uganda are collected here for processing; for example coffee, tea, cotton, tobacco, groundnuts and copper. When they have been processed they are distributed throughout East Africa and a great deal are forwarded to Mombasa for transport to countries outside East Africa. Although the population of Jinja is much smaller in comparison to many of the larger districts in Uganda, its importance is far greater than its size would suggest.  It contains one of the two main urban areas in Uganda, and it is a very important communication center. Because of its power source and good road and rail network, Jinja has developed as the leading industrial town; it is also the major center for the agriculturally valuable regions of eastern Buganda and much of Busoga. Since it is also a lake port it is one of Uganda’s main connections with other East African countries. East of Jinja District is another industrial area around Tororo and Mbale, which also produces major goods for use in Uganda.

Source of the Nile in Uganda. Image courtesy of Wiki Commons
Source of the Nile in Uganda. Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

The Owen Falls Scheme

Although we now know that Jinja is surrounded by an agriculturally prosperous area, it is still foremost an industrial town.  All industry depends on power and the industry of Jinja depends mainly on the hydro-electric power derived from the River Nile by the power station associated with Owen Falls Dam. Despite having many rivers and streams draining into the 68,800 km2 Lake Victoria – Africa’s largest – there is only one channel out for all this water, at Jinja. Owen Falls Dam was begun in 1949 and completed in 1954; it also started to produce electricity in the latter year. The power station is on the western bank of the Nile. This dam is very important because it provided Uganda with its first large source of power and enabled it to begin growing industrially. Owen Falls Dam is not straight but bulges upstream and is 831 meters in length and 26 meters tall.

The New Jinja Bridge, Uganda. Published by Ultracon Group