Located in eastern Uganda, Jinja ranks next to the Ugandan capital city of Kampala in terms of commercial activity. Its shop facades speak of the rich Indian heritage of Jinja. Trading plays a large part of Jinja’s economy. With the improvement of roads and infrastructure in the 1990s, however, much of the trading that was conducted in Jinja was diverted to Kampala. Despite this, you can find a number of manufacturing industries in Jinja. One of East Africa’s largest sugar factories, Kakira Sugar Works, is in fact located in Jinja. Other industries that have chosen to locate in Jinja include metal and paper processing, grain milling, coffee growing, and brewing. The Nile Breweries headquarters is one of the local tourist attractions in Jinja. The brewery is situated right at the Source of the Nile. It is notable to point out that it is from the Source of the Nile where the brewery has drawn its water supply for the past fifty years.
Agriculture thrives on the fertile soils, abundant water sources, and reliable rainfall. Other industries are metal processing, leather and paper processing, grain milling, sugar, some organic fruits, and coffee growing for export, and brewing for local sale. There is some local and export fishing on Lake Victoria. British-American Tobacco Uganda (BATU) closed its Jinja tobacco-processing factory in 2005, due to high taxes. The biggest local employer is currently the Kakira Sugar Works, a member of the Madhvani Group of companies. Kakira Sugar Works is one of the largest sugar factories in East Africa, employing over 75,000. The factory burns biogases byproducts from sugar manufacturing to generate 20 MW of electricity for internal use. The excess electricity is sold to the national grid.
The headquarters of Nile Breweries can also be found in Njeru, a suburb of Jinja, near the Source of the Nile, from which the brewery has been drawing its water for the past fifty years. Building of the brewery commenced in 1952 but was only completed four years later. Bottles of Nile Beer (now Nile Special Lager and still the company’s flagship brand) were first enjoyed by consumers back in 1956. In 2001, Nile Breweries Limited was fully acquired by South African Breweries Ltd. (SAB). A year later, in May 2002, SAB acquired Miller Brewing Company in the United States, thus forming SABMiller Plc.
In recent years, Nile Breweries’ investment in its people, brands and physical assets have given rich reward, both in performance and recognition. Volume growth and profitability have steadily risen, along with significant debt reduction that threatened the company’s ability to trade during the early part of the decade. This has encouraged further capital project investment.
Compared to other urban areas, Jinja’s economic recovery has been rather sluggish. Uganda’s economic boom that started in 1990s saw rapid expansion in Uganda’s capital Kampala, which is only 87 kilometers (54 mi) west of Jinja. However, recently 2010, the economy of Jinja has picked up steadily and many investors are now setting shop
In the past, factories chose Jinja as their base due to the proximity of the electric power station at the Owen Falls Dam. However, in recent years, it has become more convenient to locate businesses in Kampala due to the latter’s more vibrant economy. Furthermore, a significant number of the Busoga ‘elite’ have moved to Kampala to benefit from the social and economic advantages it has over Jinja. Another controversial reason is the improvement of the road infrastructure between Kampala and the coast at Mombasa in Kenya which is Uganda’s only route to the Indian Ocean and the country’s main trade route. The poor maintenance of this route during the 1970s and 1980s meant that most trucks carrying goods to and from the coast were diverted into the heart of Jinja on their way to and from Kampala. This supported a significant part of Jinja’s economy. Once the main road was repaired, these trucks started to by-pass Jinja.
The International oil refining company called Bidco maintains an oil refinery factory in the city. The palm oil fruits come from Bidco’s 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres) plantation on Bugala Island in the Ssese Islands Archipelago, Kalangala District, in Lake Victoria. The factory in the islands crushes the fruit and the crude palm oil is transported to Jinja for refining into edible oil and other products.
Hared Petroleum a petroleum company has also contributed to the growth of Jinja. It has a fuel depot and several fuel stations in the city. Excel Construction Company and Salini Construrori are also based in Jinja. These are some of the largest construction companies in Uganda. Salini Construrori is currently constructing the multi-billion dollar Bujagali Hydroelectric Power Dam project in Jinja on Bujagali fall