Population 72,931 (2014)
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.
Jinja is a major station on the Uganda Railway and is a port for Lake Victoria ferries. From the early 1900s access to the railway was by ferry to the railhead at Kisumu. It was not until the 1930s that the track was extended into Uganda.
There is a good tarmac road west from Jinja to the capital, Kampala 81 kilometres (50 mi), 90 minutes by car, two hours by bus). The tarmac road to Tororo 100 kilometres (62 mi) to the east of Jinja, was generally in poor condition but has recently been improved with the completion of the Jinja-Bugiri Highway. Buses and minibus locally called taxis provide transport between Jinja and other Ugandan towns. Transport in Jinja is dominated by the motorbike (Boda boda) and small owner-operated cars locally known as "Mycar".
Before 1907, Jinja was a fishing village that benefited from being located on long-distance trade routes. In most of Africa, rivers like the Nile hindered migration. This explains the ethnic boundaries along the Nile as one moves north from the river's source on the northern shores of Lake Victoria.
However the area around Jinja was one place where the river could be breached due to the large rocks near the Ripon Falls. Here, on either bank of the river, were large flat rocks where small boats could be launched to cross the river. These rock formations were also accredited with providing a natural moderator for the water flow out of Lake Victoria. For the original local inhabitants, the location was a crossing point for trade, migration and as a fishing post.
This might explain why, despite this barrier, the two tribes have very similar languages, and the more powerful Baganda had an enormous influence on the Basoga. The area was called the 'Place of Rocks' or 'The Place of Flat Rocks'. The word for stones or rocks in the language of the Baganda is 'Ejjinja'. The British used this reference to name the town they established - "Jinja"
Cotton processing, nearby sugar estates, and railway access all enabled Jinja to grow in size. By 1906 a street pattern had been laid out, and Indian traders started moving in. The Indians were English-speaking Catholics who originated from the former Portuguese colony of Goa.
The town was founded in 1907 by the British as an administrative centre for the region. This was around the time that Lake Victoria's importance in transport rose due to the Uganda Railway linking the lake with Mombasa on the Indian Ocean, 1,400 kilometres away.
In 1954, with the building of the Owen Falls Dam, (later renamed Nalubaale Power Station), the Ripon Falls were submerged. Most of the 'Flat Rocks' that gave the area its name disappeared under water as well.
All Asians were expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin in 1972. Under Idi Amin's bloody rule, it is said that so many bodies were dumped in Lake Victoria that they often blocked the hydroelectric intake channels at the Owen Falls Dam. Much of Jinja's architecture is Indian-influenced, but maintenance of buildings and details such as shop-fronts fell after the Indians left. Management of local industries also suffered after the expulsion.