KAMPALA. Ms Jessica Nabongo, a Ugandan born and raised in Detroit, USA, will have visited every single country if she completes her globe-trotting campaign in the next seven months.
Ms Nabongo, a dual citizen, is using her Ugandan passport to show that African passport holders also travel as tourists to dispel what she calls misconception that Africans only move when they are running away from problems back home.
But Ms Nabongo also uses her American passport whenever the need arises to globe trot before her self-set deadline of May 15, 2019, which also marks her 35th birthday. She embarked on her safari last year.
“So far, I have reached 125 countries. I have 70 countries left. While I travel, I use both American and Ugandan passports. As a Ugandan passport holder, I have free-visa access to 63 countries. I want these countries to get used to seeing African passport holders travelling purely for tourism,” she says in a video she posted on Facebook page on July 26.
Ms Nabongo will visit 195 UN-recognised countries, plus Palestine that is recognised by 135 countries.
She says whenever Africans are mentioned, especially in Europe and America, they are immediately perceived as immigrants and migrants.
“So many of them when they think of an African, they think of an immigrant, they think of a migrant, they think of people who are unfortunately stranded in the Mediterranean [sea] because they are seeking a better life,” she says.
“Those definitely are part of the African story, but also there are many African passport holders who can afford to travel around the world and I want to give them a gift of visibility,” she adds.
Ms Nabongo’s campaign has attracted the attention of many people in America.
According to Huffington Post, an American news website, Ms Nabongo has taken a step back from her full-time job as the founder of Global Jet Black, a boutique travel agency.
Of her company, Huffington Post says the company is still running, but that Ms Nabongo is not able to be involved in the day-to-day operations. Ms Nabongo funds her campaign.
By April this year, Ms Nabongo says she would have spent $133,500 (about Shs450m) to visit 89 countries that were remaining at that time.
She also posted a video on a boat cruise on River Nile.
She talks about the problems she has encountered, especially racism, during her campaign.
She says she has been pulled aside for extra screening when entering some countries.
She also cites an incident when she flew First Class upgrade in the US but was told to shift because the passengers earlier booked First Class had boarded.
Ms Nabongo encourages black people to share their stories of discrimination while travelling.
“I think it’s very important so that we can sort of normalise ourselves. It’s crazy that we have to go through that process of normalising our own existence, but that’s what we have to do,” she says.
To visit countries experiencing civil wars as Syria, Yemen and Libya, Ms Nabongo is using contacts she built while working with the United Nations and the London School of Economics where she did her graduate degree.