The East African country of Uganda is undertaking a major programme to upgrade and expand its civil aviation sector in all respects, including the recreation of a national airline. This was highlighted by Ugandan Minister of State for Transport Aggrey Henry Bagiire at the recent 27th African Aviation Summit (Air Finance Africa), in Sandton, Johannesburg.
“Uganda is not a coastal country, therefore, as a government, we attach much importance to the aviation sector,” he explained. “We’ve been on a very long journey to get aligned with international standards. We have formulated a civil aviation strategy.” The country was seeking to become a regional hub for air transport. It was, for example, about four hours’ flying time from both Johannesburg and Cairo.
The country has also been revamping various civil aviation institutions and agencies, including the East African Aviation Academy. “We are, of course, reviving our national carrier. We are revamping our international airports.”
As part of this programme, Entebbe International Airport was being upgraded. This would take place in three phases, the current (first) phase costing $325-million. But the country was also starting the construction of new international airports and upgrading its other international airports. The intent was to increase the number of Uganda’s international air access points. “Uganda is one of the countries blessed by nature. Therefore, we are putting up international airports in tourist areas. . . . Emphasis must also be put on cargo transportation.
“Uganda is taking strides to revive the [national] airline,” he highlighted. “We’re thinking of it as an enabler. That’s why we’ve made the decision to put in a little bit of money – [a few million dollars].” It is like building a road to promote trade, he suggested. But setting up an airline is cheaper than building an international road. “I think it’s worth investing in. We’re not thinking of [doing] business. We’re thinking of the airline and airports as the enablers of business.” However, the Uganda government did not want the revived national carrier to make a loss.
“One of the challenges that lie in the aviation industry is management,” affirmed Bagiire. State-owned airlines have suffered from abuses of power by politicians and officials and from corruption. “These are issues we must mention. Let’s get tough! Let’s be tough! But let’s take the right decisions. Let’s punish, without fear or favour, the managers, the political decision-makers. I’ve sacked many, and I’m going to continue sacking. My head of State has given me the authority to set the sector right!”