Uganda’s parliament signs off on loans for Entebbe airport expansion


(Posted 06th December 2013)

Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority, presently still regulator as well as airport manager, a dual function which will in due course be split it is understood from usually reliable sources, has made a major advance towards commencing the long awaited expansion work at Entebbe International Airport.

Members of Parliament serving on the committee overseeing infrastructure developments, have sanctioned a trillion Uganda Shilling loan package, some 176 million US Dollars will go to the modernization and upgrading of upcountry airfields like Gulu, Arua and in particular Kasese.

The balance of the fund though will be spent to improve logistics and working conditions for airline personnel and to create an improved passenger experience, which has in recent years suffered greatly as a result of plainly gone bonkers security measures, which irk airlines and passengers to no end. At present there are only 4 departure lounges but two each have to share a final security check point often leading to unacceptably long queues. At peak departure times does the check in area too resemble a free for all, as passengers are crowding the hall, and the queues outside to get into the terminal building are long as often only one scanner is staffed and working. With check in counters and gates, as well as outside parking, reaching saturation point it is now of growing importance, considering that the entire region is upgrading and modernizing their aviation facilities and main airports, that Uganda plays catch up before the country’s main aviation entry and exit gateway soils the reputation of the entire destination beyond repair.

We have developed expansion plans as you know for some years. For the Commonwealth Summit in 2007 we were able to spend a considerably amount of money to increase gate capacity, install two air bridges and expand the arrivals hall. But you are right, we should not have waited another 6 years to go into the next phase.

The cargo section will very likely move but only when the new cargo village has taken shape and that will be a PPP undertaking [Private Public
Partnership]. For the passenger terminal we probably need to triple capacity to have space for future expansion and one area which can be used is the present cargo shed. Even on the opposite side of the terminal there is room for expansion. Airlines need more offices, we may even get another handling company to enhance competition and keep the rates for services down and most important, it should again be a good experience for passengers, arriving and departing, to feel comfortable and welcome. As you point out every so often, right now it is far from desirable and when it rains it is a recipe for some very angry travelers who get wet before they reach the terminal. We are listening but there is a lot of process involved and those security guys need to understand better what aviation is all about and not just shut down every suggestion made to improve things. Everyone wants security but again, as you often write, there are ways and then there are ways and we are not doing very well in passenger ratings’ said a regular source close to the CAA administration in Entebbe when asked to comment on parliament’s decision.

Members of parliament were also told by the CAA’s Chief Executive Dr. Rama Makuza, that the UN operations in and out of the airport – Entebbe is THE African aviation base for the UN operations in Congo, South Sudan and beyond – have accumulated to the tune of 38 billion Uganda Shillings, a sad indictment for the United Nations who apparently take the Ugandan CAA, and the taxpayers, for granted. Watch this space.

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