“Mama Koshie Mills is very particular about her image, so none of you is expected to take photos of her,” a handler from Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) told a group of journalists who had gathered at the Pakuba Airstrip, in Murchison Falls National Park, Nwoya District on Wednesday.
“You will have to wait until she gives you a go ahead.”
But none of the journos present would have any of that, immediately snapping away as soon as the chattered AeroLink plane touched down at the airstrip following a one hour flight from Entebbe Airport.
As it turned out, Koshie, a Ghana-born, London-bred and ‘Los Angeles-curated’ international media strategist was media friendly, openly cracking jokes with everyone that came her way.
The mother of three was the country to launch a UTB initiative termed ‘Back to the Source Initiative’ which kicked off with a boat cruise along the Victoria Nile to the Murchison Falls and an evening game drive through the national park.
According to the UTB Public Relations Officer Sandra Natukunda, the initiative ‘seeks promote Uganda as a destination to the diaspora through cultural and heritage tourism.’
This will be achieved through creating tours and cultural programmes dedicated to diaspora tourism as well as offering educational and cultural exchange programs in partnership with leading universities and institutions of higher learning.
Also, the initiative will seek to develop a strong online presence through digital marketing to reignite the need to visit Ancestral Africa, besides finally, collaborating with African American movements to promote back to Africa tourism excursions.
In June, American Actor of Ugandan Descent – Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine was appointed Goodwill Cultural Ambassador to further position the Pearl of Africa favorably in the core North American market.
“We are privileged to have Koshie Mills in our initiative. In her work, she has created the Diaspora Dialogues movement and platform to mend the gaps between Africans from the continent and African descendants within the Diaspora which comes at a time she is looking to create new destinations for African Americans to travel and find a connection to their roots and identity. As UTB we think this platform to help us promote tourism,” she said.
According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Uganda received 1.8 million tourists in 2018, up from 1.4 million in 2017.
In 2017, the 1.4 million arrivals injected about $1.4billion into the economy.
On Wednesday evening, over a glass of wine, Koshie, who for over two decades has managed the careers of her three actor sons – Kwame Boateng (Everybody Hates Chris, The Plug), Kofi Siriboe (Girls Trip, Queen Sugar) Kwesi Boakye (Colony, Claws), could not stop gushing about the beauty and immense opportunities Uganda had to offer.
“I had not known much about Uganda until I saw its beauty and I am like ‘why don’t we know about this?’”, she asked, admitting that the drive through the national park was her first ever Safari.
“Uganda is really the Pearl of Africa,” she said, echoing Sir Winston Churchill’s famous “For magnificence, for variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life — bird, insect, reptile, beast — for vast scale — Uganda is truly “the Pearl of Africa,” quote.
Koshie is the first of the six Afro Americans in line with this project expected to arrive starting December 2.
The next day, the team was driven to Baker’s Fort Patiko. Built in 1872 as a base to stop slave trade by Sir Samuel Baker, Fort Patiko, located in Aswa, Gulu District was gazetted by government as a national historic monument in 1972.
Here, almost everyone was moved to near tears as our guide, Ronald Okello, narrated the dark history of the fort.
“Once you entered through that gate,” Okello said, pointing towards a structure that has since been named ‘Gate of No Return’, “You would never return. You would either be killed or make the long treacherous journey through to Sudan and Egypt as a slave. ”
Those killed were the weak, disabled or ugly. Or a combination of the three.
In fact, Okello, who was very passionate about the Fort Patiko and Acholi cultural stories, showed the group marks left by the executioner’s axe on the ‘Execution Slab’. Other key features here include granaries, an armoury, a kitchen as well as holding points for slaves.
“This is the story of my people,” Koshie said before boarding the tourist van to Kidepo Valley National Park.
“The kind that should never happen again.”
In Kidepo, Koshie, who also runs K3PR, a firm which provides media relations, branding, strategic support and talent management, was treated to a Karimojong cultural experience and game drive, before flying back to Entebbe on Saturday afternoon.
At a press conference on Sunday, Koshie reiterated her desire to market ‘Uganda, ‘paradise that feels like home.’
“I will look for every opportunity and space to ‘shout out loud about the beauty of Uganda,” she told the press.
As she flies back to the USA, Uganda will welcome Ntare, Brenden Durell and Shannon Amos later this month, in another move that will see the country try to hit the four million tourist arrivals by 2020.
Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org