All you need to know about Mbarara City
According to recent UBOS statistics Mbarara City is Uganda’s fastest growing town outside the Kampala Metropolitan Area (Kampala, Mukono and Wakiso). The city has grown by leaps and bounds to emerge as the second largest city by economy among the 10 newly created cities.
Western Uganda’s economic hub of Mbarara has the best infrastructure in terms of roads and buildings among the 10 new cities. In fact, the city is only let down from the top spot by the few industries in place as compared to Jinja. Whereas Jinja has well over 100 industries, Mbarara has less than 20 industries. Mbarara City is located 290 kilometers approximately 180 miles by road from the capital Kampala City in the Southwest of Uganda.
According to a USAID funded report by Frederick Pardee of the Center for International Studies, Mbarara City has a GDP of Shs 2.03 trillion ($540.1million). The largest districts by GDP are Kampala – Shs 17.6 trillion ($ 4,695.5 million), Wakiso – Shs 16.3 trillion ($4,335.3 million), Mukono – Shs 4.165 trillion ($1,106.3 million) and Jinja Shs 2.5 trillion ($669 million).
Mbarara benefits immensely from being an important transport hub due to its strategic location with access routes to Southwestern Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, far western and DR Congo. In fact, the largest Bus company on the route, the Global Bus Company is reported to ply an average of nearly 25 buses daily between Kampala and Mbarara.
Mbarara is also one stop shopping center with the largest malls, arcades, and plazas outside the KMA. Malls include Easy View, Western Arcade, Vision Empire, Amazon, La Grande among others. Mbarara Central Market is the largest market in Western Uganda.
Mbarara is host to several Industries including Century Bottling Company (Coca Cola plant), Nile Breweries, Roofings Ltd, Kazire Industries, Mbarara Steel, Pearl Diaries, GBK Diaries, among others. In fact, Mbarara is the largest producer of dairy products.
Mbarara has the third-largest beer and soft drinks market, third-largest dairy products market, third-largest television and radio market, and the fourth-largest newspaper market.
Mbarara, the main town of Ankole District became a township in 1957. Following the Coup of 1972, the name Ankole District was changed to Mbarara District, and the township was transformed into a municipality in 1974.
In 1973, Bushenyi District was created out of Mbarara. In 1995 Ntungamo District was created and in 2002, the sub-county of Itojo, formerly part of Mbarara, was added to Ntungamo District. In 2005, the boundary was significantly reduced, and the district was further split into three other district Local Governments namely, Isingiro (comprised of Bukanga and Isingiro counties), Kiruhura (comprised of Nyabushozi and Kazo counties) and Ibanda (comprised of Ibanda County).
The sub-division left the current Mbarara with two counties of Kashari North and South after creation of Mbarara City and Rwampara District, Rwampara District was created on 1st July 2019 and Mbarara City on 1st July 2020.The district was named after its municipal center, the city of Mbarara, where the district headquarters is located.
Mbarara is surrounded by the districts of Sheema, Ntungamo, Ibanda, Kiruhira, Buhweju and Isingiro. Other close districts include Bushenyi, Mitooma and Rubirizi. Mbarara is still the largest metropolitan area in the region despite losing part of it to other newly formed districts. Mbarara gets its name from a mispronunciation of one of the local Ankore words by the colonial administrators of the time. The word “Emburara” refers to a tall type of green grass that is a favorite of the long horned Ankole cattle. The word was twisted by the Colonialists and chosen as a name for the district.
Mbarara has four universities, these include Uganda’s most prestigious science University, the Mbarara University of Science and Technology founded in the year of 1989, Bishop Stuart University, University of Saint Joseph, and MUBS Mbarara Campus. It also hosts Western Regions Law Development Center and Uganda Management Institute.
Major Mbarara schools include Ntare School, Mbarara High School, Mary Hill School, Eden International, Mbarara Secondary, Nyamitanga Hill, etc. Mbarara schools prominently feature among the top performing PLE, UCE and UACE schools, going head-to-head with Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono schools.
Mbarara also a large concentration of hotels owing to its proximity to key tourism sites like Lake Mburo National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and its strategic location on a key access route to Rwanda, Tanzania and DRC. Mbarara has countless accommodation facilities within and outside town. These include Agip Motel, Rwizi Hotel, Igongo Cultural Center, Hotel Triangle, Pinnacle Hotel, Oxford Inn and Lakeview Resort Hotel among many others.
Mbarara has an enviable night life only comparable to Kampala. This is majorly due to the university and the night buses.
Mbarara City has an estimated population of over 350,000. The Banyankole are the main tribe in the city. However, there is also a big number of Bakiga, Baganda, Batooro, Banyoro, Congolese, Rwandese, Langi and Basoga, among others. The main economic activity of the Ankole is cattle keeping and agriculture. They grow crops and rare domestic animals mostly on a subsistence level. Historically, the Banyankole and Mbarara has been known as cattle rearing zone. Some of the largest cattle farms in Uganda are in Ankole region. The main cattle breed is the long horned Ankole cattle. In more recent times, the luck of grazing land in the region has forced many of the herdsmen to migrate to other parts of the country with their cattle. Others have moved away from cattle keeping entirely and started growing cash crops or fruits in smaller gardens.
Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital is the largest hospital in Mbarara and the whole of Western Uganda. Other major hospitals include Mbarara Community Hospital, Mayanja Memorial Hospital, Holy Innocents Children’s Hospital, Ruharo Mission Hospital etc.
The Abagabe tombs. This is where the royal families of the Ankole kingdom are buried. The last king of Ankole is buried at the Nkonkonjeru tombs in Kakika. It is also where King (Omugabe) Gasyonga, Omugabe Kahaya II and other member of the royal family are buried.
Other key attractions include; Eijukiro Museum, Eitaramiro Cultural Village, The Igongo Cultural Center- This Centre showcases the cultural heritage of the Bahima (a subset of the Ankole tribe)., Biharwe Eclipse Monument, Bahima Villages and honey farms, Sanga Cultural Village and Lake Mburo National Park.
Kakyeka Stadium is the largest stadium in Mbarara. The city has also featured a team in the top flight league of Uganda Mbarara City FC, though it was recently relegated to the second tier.
The growth of Mbarara reflects contemporary Uganda, growth without development or planning. The main streets are poorly planned resemble Luwum Street and William Street in Kampala, and most other streets resemble the Nateete-Ndeeba area of Kampala.
Mbarara city has a rapidly expanding population and hence the current water that was got from the nearby River Rwizi is becoming insufficient to meet future needs of the population. Uganda government has borrowed €120 million to source water from the Kagera river, purify it and then be pumped to Mbarara, Masaka, and also to Isingiro district.
Most of the old, well-planned colonial residential area at Boma has fallen into disrepair.
Sources : USAID UGANDA DISTRICT GDP, WIKIPEDIA, JINJA CITY MEDIA, LAKE MBURO NATIONAL PARK WEBSITE#AmityLandDeals