By Francis Mugoga
Whenever I travel outside Uganda, people always ask me three questions; how is President Idi Amin? How is HIV/AIDs infection rate in Uganda? And how is the war in northern Uganda?
This shows how little people know about Uganda and whatever they know in most cases, it is negative information and yet we have foreign missions in some of these countries.
If people still think Uganda’s president is Idi Amin and that there is still war going on in northern Uganda, then there is a big problem. Our missions abroad may be doing less or nothing at all to achieve one of the goals of Ministry of Foreign Affairs; “…enhancing Uganda’s image abroad…”.
Most citizens of countries where Uganda has her foreign missions do not know about Uganda. Guests who plan to visit Uganda are starved of information about the country.
Recently, I researched about our websites for Foreign Missions and it is so sad what we have on these sites. First of all, there is lack of uniformity. A website of Uganda’s Foreign Mission in Germany is totally different from that of Ottawa, Canada.
The official E-mail address of the Ambassador of Uganda to Italy, is at Hotmail dot com (firstname.lastname@example.org ), and that of the Ambassador to Washington DC is dot org (email@example.com)
The domain names are chaotic. While the Embassy in Washington uses dot com (http://www.ugandaembassy.com) for the website the staff E-mails have dot org. The domain name for China is dot org (http://www.ugaembassycn.org/) and that of Germany uses dot de (http://www.uganda.de/).
The High Commission to UK has a totally different domain name; dot co dot uk (http://www.ugandahighcommission.co.uk/). The website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ has no connections to the foreign missions websites whatsoever, because it uses dot go dot ug (http://www.mofa.go.ug). And until recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website had Kenyan colours; green, black and red. One would automatically think, all government ministries and foreign missions should have similar domain names like that of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (dot go dot ug).
The pictures on most of our Foreign Missions’ websites are of animals in the national parks and other touristic sites, that in itself is not bad but it should not flood the websites. We should be creative enough to post variety of pictures showing different activities in Uganda but also in the country where we have the Embassy. Most of the pictures on the Foreign missions are of poor quality and outdated.
To have a website, it means that you keep updating it with current and relevant information for your readers and when posting pictures, use sharp pictures with high resolution. Case in point follow this link http://www.mofa.go.ug/ and look at the picture of Hon. Sam Kutesa and H.E. Vuk Jeremic President of the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. The caption says it was taken on September 25, 2013.
Some of these websites look like sites of a Tour Company because you find a lot of Gorilla pictures, Crested Crane, Buffaloes, waterfalls etc. Now when we talk of marketing Uganda abroad, we do not mean pouring touristic content on the websites, you should balance the content on the website. You should also follow that by organising business meetings in those countries to promote Uganda’s tourism potential, investments, agriculture, and other opportunities in the country.
There is lack of rich content on most of these websites. When you read some of the content, you wonder whom the author had in mind when they were writing. We should have in mind the people in that country and of course our mission in that country is paramount.
I have sampled a few links of some of our missions abroad for the readers to see what I am talking about.
Germany Embassy http://www.uganda.de/ http://www.mofa.go.ug/index.php/diplomaticmissions/europe/berlin
UK High Commission: http://www.ugandahighcommission.co.uk/
Rwanda High Commission: http://ugandaembassy.rw/revtemp/
Saudi Arabia: http://www.mofa.go.ug/index.php/diplomaticmissions/middle-east/riyadh
Mission of Uganda to the UN: http://www.ugandamissionunny.net/
Ottawa, Canada: www.ugandahighcommission.com
Italy E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington E-mails: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Washington, USA: http://www.ugandaembassy.com/
Most of the websites are amaturistc in nature. They do not depict the country represented.
The Government of Uganda and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in particular should urgently, re-design all Foreign Missions’ websites. They should all be similar though different in content of course. But they should all have similar colours for example.
For domain names, I would propose something like: <www. germany.ugandaembassy.gov> <www.italy.ugandaembassy.gov> <www.washingtondc.ugandaembassy.gov> <www.rwanda.ugandaembassy.gov>
Guests and tourists struggle to get rich information about Uganda in their countries where we have Foreign Missions. Remember, this is an information age, and if we cannot keep up, we shall lose out.
Tour operators and the private sector has done an amazing job to try and post updated information on their websites to meet the needs of people inquiring about Uganda.
The writer is the Executive Director, Tourism Institute of East Africa and, Explore Africa Safaris