UCAA launches strategic plan review


(Posted 23rd October 2013)

A regular source close to the UCAA has confirmed that a full scale review and update of the Civil Aviation Authority’s 20 year strategic plan has been launched by the Uganda Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala. With traffic last year rising to over 1.4 million passengers has the country’s main airport, Entebbe International, been reaching capacity limits during peak periods, often giving a less than favourable impression on departing passengers, made worse by the arguably worst security set up in the entire region which compels passengers to carry their luggage from the distant parking area to the entrance of the departure gate. While assisted at the staircase – NO elevator or escalator is in place to assist travellers with physical challenges – where porters are on duty to schlep the bags upstairs, the main strain however remains on the passengers, exposed to either the hot sun or as the weather may play, to pouring rain, while the goons who invented this ‘precaution’ sit in their posh airconditioned offices and could not care less for the comfort of visitors to the Pearl of Africa’. However, the security apparatus has been largely unmoved by regular complaints filed by airlines, the CAA themselves and travellers in their social media comments, one reason that Entebbe has moved from a once preferred airport in the region of short un-crowded ways to an often nightmare experience today, especially when it rains.

Dr. Rama Makuza, CEO of the UCAA, announced the launch of the strategic plan review, due to be completed within about half a year, following which the CAA will decide which elements to implement first.

Aviation observers already poked fun at suggestions of a city airport to be built, so that people ‘can fly to Jinja without first going to Entebbe’ with one airline executive asking to provide figures of how many passengers in fact fly from Entebbe to Jinja and what traffic potential there is, considering plans that government intends to build a dual carriage highway to Jinja, where the construction of a new bridge across the Nile is also commencing shortly.

It shows the level of disconnect between some planners and reality on the ground. There is a fully functional airfield in Kajjansi and they talk of spending hundreds of millions of US Dollars they do not even have for a white elephant city airport. Instead they should engage with MAF who own the Kajjansi field to expand the strip, perhaps pave it and hey presto, you got your city airport at a fraction of the cost they are floating. But then we all know, that would prevent eating big’.

Continued suggestions to relaunch a national airline too have come under sustained fire by industry experts blaming the promoters of the idea on ulterior motives, as the option to buy into Air Uganda, currently the country’s quasi national carrier, is for all purposes still on the table but again, that would – according to another source – again prevent eating big. ‘Let government buy into U7 and get 20 or 25 percent. The owners have long said that when the circumstances are right they will float shares for the Ugandan public to buy into the airline and if government is on board already, that can only be a winning combination. Let us not waste time on the white elephants which in the past cost taxpayers very dearly. Let me remind your readers how Uganda Airlines was gutted when the only profitable division, ground handling, was cheaply ‘privatized’, condemning them to slow financial death, before messing up the privatization exercise in the process by scaring off investors. You think there has been any change since then? Think again!’ ranted the source, one with a life time in Ugandan aviation and therefore a true expert and not just a one off pundit.

Overall though has the CAA’s plan to finally engage in a complete review of their strategic plan been warmly welcomed, on condition of direct stakeholder input in the exercise and a joint public review with the country’s aviation industry stakeholders. Another regular contributor also insisted that airport management should be separated from the main UCAA activities by forming a Uganda Airport Authority, which would allow the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority to concentrate on their regulatory function and not mix this crucial element with managing airports and aerodromes, where one arm of the CAA would have to regulate the other.

This would be of particular significance considering that Uganda has a number of upcountry airports and aerodromes, including airstrips in national parks like Murchisons Falls and Kidepo Valley, which are owned and operated by the CAA, besides more such locations like Soroti – also location of the East African Flying School – Gulu, Arua, Kasese or Kisoro. Watch this space for more information as this process now unfolds, as and when updates become available.

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