The trials and Victories of Amos Masaba Wekesa, East Africa’s Tourism Pioneer.

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Credit: safari-uganda.com
Credit: safari-uganda.com

Amos Wekesa couldn’t have preferred it anywhere else. Uganda is his base and pride.

A nation bound in splendor, and exquisitely composed of great natural delights- lakes, valleys, rivers, mountains and semi-arid lands. From the flora to the fauna, to the breath taking sights and amiable faces.

Amos Wekesa’s achievement in the tourism industry has set him atop the list of East Africa’s tour operators. The self-made millionaire oversees Great Lakes Safaris, one of the largest tour operators in Uganda.

His delight is in introducing his clients to the grandeur of his country, giving them an opportunity to have a taste of Uganda’s rich cultural heritage exoticisms; whether taking them on elephant treks around Queen Elizabeth National Park, or giving them a chance to say hello to the tree climbing Lions or study the mannerisms of the local chimps at Murchison Falls.

“Personally I’ve traveled the whole world, and I think one of the things I am advantaged with is having seen my own country as a tour guide, and seen how the tourists were shocked about the beauty of this area,” he says.

But things were not always on such sure footing for Amos,

Born in April 22, 1974 in a little border town of Lwakhakha, in the Mbale region which is in the East of Uganda. Amos tasted poverty first hand.

Growing up, he didn’t have the push to dream big or even dream at all; the only prospect he had was to become a full time cross boarder smuggler, as that was the only viable vocation for him at the time.

Amos: www.cnn.com
Amos: www.cnn.com

“Compared to rest of the village we were indeed the poorest. It was indeed a challenging time, by the age of 5 I was involved in cross border smuggling in order to help my family survive.” He recalls of his challenging childhood.

Education was far from it, he never imagined it or even spoke about it. But soon, his salvation came; marking a major turning point in his life.

“I grew up in an extremely poor family. When people from the Salvation Army Home for less privileged children came to our village looking for the top two poorest families to get two boys to sponsor, I was among them. At this time I was adopted by the Salvation Army in Tororo town, which too is in Eastern Uganda. While with the Salvation Army, I was able to attain primary and secondary education.”

But that didn’t promise an automatic end to the young man’s travail; he still had to fight for survival. After school, he worked sweeping floors, just to earn $10 a month.

“I was living, to be honest, on half a dollar a week,” he tells CNN African Startup

Credit: www.edirisa.org
Credit: www.edirisa.org

After completing his A level’s, he could not further his education in spite of passing, due to lack of school fees. The odds were terribly against him, but he was determined not to be broken by it. He would fight till he wins.

He got an opportunity to pursue a nine month diploma course in airways, tours, and travel and he embraced it. For him, that was a huge leap, as it presented him an opportunity to visit the capital city, Kampala, which for him at the time seemed like ascending to the moon and back. Soon, another tragedy hit him. As he was ending his diploma, his dear guardian passed away. Just at the point he felt things were beginning to look better.

It felt as though his world was gradually wrapping up, leaving him very few options. It just had to be one of two things; to return to the village to seek employment or remain in Kampala and fight it out with life. In determination, he opted for the latter and that was the decision that turned his life around.

He soon got a job as an office messenger at Bellex Tours and Travels and then Nile Safaris, before moving to Habari Tours where he worked as a tour Guide. Eventhough the job was terribly tasking, Amos kept at it and in fact gave it his all; knowing that in a few years, the experience will be worth it.

“I remember very well my first trip. We had three tourists and we went around for 15 days. We were doing camping, we had to put up tents, had to cook breakfast for the guys, and stir the campfire until the last person finished smoking, maybe 3 am. It was a draining job,” he recalls.

In 2001, with very little support, he launched out in business. His office at the time was his worn briefcase. He was always seen moving about with an invoice and receipt book and would sometimes hire cars to provide services to his small customers.

“People would say, ‘you were born in a poor family, we told you, you can’t do business,'” he tells CNN African Startup “I mean 99% of the people that surrounded were telling me ‘You can’t succeed. You don’t have a background of business.’ But I knew in my heart that you know what, I think God has given me this opportunity and tried me out, and I’m going to make sure I succeed in this thing.”

Credit: safariuganda.com
Credit: safariuganda.com

Indeed, the following year proved tough for the young entrepreneur, business stalled greatly and he considered folding up. But there, at the end of his tunnel, was a light so intense and almost blinding; his salvation had come again.

He received a phone call from one Tom Carter, who worked as an editor with the Washington Times at the time. He had written an article about the great tourism opportunities in Uganda and its beauty and also included Wekesa’s contact details. That marked the beginning of Great Lakes journey to success.

Today, Wekesa has become a millionaire and one of the most influential Ugandan tour guides. His company, Great Lake Safari currently provides more than180 jobs to the local economy.

“The company has grown to be one of the top three safari companies in the country. But I think one of things I like about this is having been the first Ugandan to build accommodation inside a national park. (It inspired) so many Ugandans to start building. Now we are seeing a lot of Ugandans saying, ‘you know what ‘If Amos can do it, I can do it.'”

Through his trials, achievements and victories, Uganda’s Amos Wekesa has given many Africans hope, to dream, start and finish.
”My passion is tourism. Shakespeare once said “Every player has a part to play”, it has become abundantly clear that through the various experiences, challenges and blessings, my destiny lies in tourism. The tourism of Uganda where I hail from has yet to be fully realized. As an advocate and tourism lobbyist, I invite you to what Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to as “The Pearl of Africa”.{culled from SafariUganda.com}

Credit: safariuganda.com
Credit: safariuganda.com

 Amos currently lives with his beautiful family in Uganda.

© 2014 – 2017, Lovelyn Okafor. All rights reserved.

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