Arusha's Ngurdoto Lodge rises again as it hosts EAC summit

What you need to know:

  • The 300-room lodge, opened 20 years ago, used to host high profile regional conferences until 2016 when its fortunes dimmed.

Arusha. Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge is set to bounce back on the radar as it prepares to host the East African Community (EAC) summit this week.

The 300-room lodge, opened 20 years ago, used to host high profile regional conferences until 2016 when its fortunes dimmed.

Until then, it hosted at least five summits of the regional heads of state, competing with the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) which hosted at least seven.

The lodge was not only the favourite venue of the EAC meetings but other high profile international conferences that Arusha hosted during those days.

The EAC Heads of State met there in August 2007, April 2009, December 2010, April 2013 and March 2016, the latter being their last meeting at the venue.

The other regional summits that took place in Arusha were reserved for the AICC in the heart of the city but this time around it will be back to the lodge.

Part of the lodge, owned by the late business tycoon in Arusha Meleo Mrema, was at one time temporarily converted into a students’ hostel.

Besides 300 sleeping rooms, Ngurdoto Lodge which is located some 27 km north east of Arusha city, has several huge conference halls for hosting meetings.

Officials of the EAC secretariat confirmed yesterday that the two-day summit would, indeed, take place at the lodge located some 27 kilometres from Arusha City.

Sources told The Citizen that for a couple of weeks the lodge has been spruced up in readiness for the leaders’ meeting which draws many delegates.

This year’s summit will include a high level forum on food security, climate change and environmental sustainability which will take place at the hospitality outfit on Thursday.

The summit proper will take place on Friday and will be attended by the Heads of State from the seven partner states or their representatives.

The current EAC chair president President Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi is expected to hand over the mantle to South Sudan leader President Salvar Kiir.

The rest of the pre-summit meetings will take place at the EAC headquarters which started to be a hive of activity from early yesterday as delegates from different countries streamed in.

The ministerial segment will take place tomorrow under the EAC Council of Ministers, a powerful policy making organ answerable only to the summit.

Recently, Tanzania outlined strategies to increase its share in Africa’s conference business and become a top hub for international events in the next five years.

Tanzania currently ranks fifth in promoting conference tourism, trailing South Africa, Morocco, Rwanda, and Egypt, and accounts for 10 percent of the continent’s market share in the events industry.

This is an improvement, as it was previously ranked 10th with a five percent market share.

According to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) data for 2022, South Africa was the leader in terms of the number of international conferences in Africa, accounting for 32 percent of the market, followed by Morocco (17 percent), Rwanda (13 percent), Egypt (12 percent), and Tanzania (10 percent).

But highlighting Tanzania’s success in promoting the conference tourism business and its future plans, Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) managing director, Mr Ephraim Mafuru, told editors in Dar es salaam in September this year that in 2022 alone, the country hosted 18 conferences at both the Arusha-based AICC and the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre (JNICC) in Dar es Salaam.

The conferences earned the government entity Sh18 billion in revenues for the financial year ending June 2023, he said.

Meanwhile, food security will top the agenda of the Heads of State Summit this time around amid the challenges of climate change.

The meeting will take place at a time when the seven-nation bloc is grappling with the violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The crisis has seen four of the seven member countries deploying troops to North Kivu where the country’s troops have been battling with M23 insurgents.

The EAC, on its part, has also deployed its own East African Regional Force (EARF) to restore peace and order in the restive region.

This will be the first time for a South Sudan leader to take over as new Chair of the EAC since his country joined the bloc in 2016.