Ujiji, a port with historical significance 

Oo-jee-jee! That’s how this historic town Ujiji is pronounced at least by the natives of Kigoma Region. It is the oldest town in western Tanzania.

Ujiji town started from the Arabic era as one of the major slave trade centres started from Congo DRC through Kigoma to Bagamoyo.

The significance of Ujiji Port is as historical as the town itself. While the port is no longer a major gateway to the resource-rich DRC, its role in enabling trade and supporting supply chains domestically has remained crucial.

In the last few years, the government has strengthened port investments in an effort to exploit water-borne trade as part of strategic economic growth initiatives.

Considerable investment in water infrastructure, particularly port expansions and acquisition of ships in the great lakes, are among measures which are being taken by the government, to increase the contribution of the port industry to the national economy.

The construction of the Ujiji Port on Lake Tanganyika in Kigoma Region is among ongoing projects undertaken by the government through the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA).

The Ujiji Port renovation project is progressing well and has so far reached 64 per cent of completion. Its completion is expected to boost trade between the historic town and neighbouring areas.

According to Lake Tanganyika Ports Manager, Mr Edward Mabula, the project which is executed at the cost of 7,963,468,108.11/- is of economic and historic significance to Kigoma dwellers and to the country at large.

The project is lot 2 of the mega 32.5bn/- project to upgrade Kigoma-based ports; the main port of Kigoma, Kibirizi and Ujiji.

While Kigoma and Kibirizi serve both domestic and international markets in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Zambia, Ujiji specially serves domestic market, linking producers and traders in coastal towns along Lake Tanganyika which runs in three regions of Kigoma, Katavi and Rukwa.

“The port is significant to producers, especially farmers and traders in Ujiji and other villages along Lake Tanganyika; it is also an important terminal for local travellers,” says Mr Mabula.

The construction of the port which kicked off in 2019, is taking shape whereby key infrastructure including a passengers’ lounge, cargo shed, guard houses, and vehicles parking lot have been completed.

“Currently the contractor is continuing with the construction of a 134-metre jet and the work is at 28 per cent,” says Mr Mabula. It involves the construction of fenders, mooring dolphins and installation of navigational aids.

According to the Port Manager, the ongoing modernisation of the Ujiji Port is also meant to maintain the area’s historical importance.

History shows that Ujiji town is the place where Richard Burton and John Speke first reached the shore of Lake Tanganyika in 1858. It is also the site of the famous meeting on October 28, 1871, when Henry Stanley found Dr David Livingstone, and reputedly uttered the famous words “Dir. Livingstone, I presume?”

Livingstone, whom many thought dead as no news had been heard of him for several years and who had only arrived back in Ujiji the day before, wrote “When my spirits were at their lowest ebb, the good Samaritan was close at hand, for one morning.”

A monument known as the “Dr Livingstone Memorial” was erected in Ujiji to commemorate the meeting. There is also a modest museum and a former slave route near the Ujiji market.

In 1878, the London Missionary Society established their first missionary post on the shore of Lake Tanganyika at Ujiji.

For over a century there has been substantial formal and informal trade exchange that takes place in Ujiji. Food crops, minerals, forest products and consumer goods are exchanged. Ujiji and Kigoma region as a whole is highly rich and boasts enormous potential to produce higher volumes of agricultural products including food crops such as vegetable oils, maize, rice, cassava, beans, fruits, coffee, tea and other horticultural products as well as fishery products.

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