The Minister for Works and Transport, Gen. Dr. Edward Katumba Wamala, has challenged management of Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) to up its game and aim for global excellence in the aviation industry.
The minister noted that though Uganda Civil Aviation Authority scored 72.17% in the just concluded Universal Safety Oversight Audit program-continuous monitoring Approach (USOAP-CMA) conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), there is need for all aviation industry stakeholders not to rest on their successes but work harder in preparation for the next audit.
“While it’s an uphill task ahead, management should be able to draw inspirations from the 2017 international security audit in which Uganda scored an excellent 81.8%. Therefore, you have the capacity to excel.”
“A lot more is needed to be done and go beyond the global region. Our national airline can grow if tourism flourishes in the country. I pity those who say the airline is not making profits but I would like to inform them that it’s not for making money but it’s just an infrastructure.
Gen. Dr. Katumba, who officiated the Aviation week stakeholders’ engagement breakfast meeting held in Kampala on Tuesday 5th December, 2023, noted that his ministry attaches a lot of importance to the aviation sub sector on grounds that it guarantees the country direct international access thereby promoting tourism, trade and socio-economic development.
“Given the great value my ministry attaches to the aviation sector, the ministry has undertaken several steps by signing a Bilateral or more Bilateral Air services Agreement with other countries so as to develop an air transport that will connect Uganda to other major cities in the world. The most recently signed Bilateral Air services agreement was signed between Uganda and Saudi Arabia on November 10,203 in Riyadh on the sidelines of the Saudi -Africa summit to facilitate scheduled air services for airlines from both countries.
‘’The ministry I head is also working hand in hand with management of Uganda Civil Aviation Authority in liaison with other stakeholders in tourism and trade to work out a mechanism for establishment of a trade hub at Entebbe International Airport,” said Gen. Katumba.
Gen. Katumba also revealed that his Ministry is overseeing the development of a second international Airport -Kabalega International Airport in Hoima district to support the oil and gas sector.
“We also plan to improve and upgrade facilities of five out of the 13 upcountry aerodromes managed by UCAA to international status in order to support the development of the tourism industry in the country. The aerodromes include Kidepo, Arua, Gulu, Pakuba and Kasese. ‘
Gen. Katumba implored management of Uganda Civil Aviation Authority to play its part in arrangements to ensure smooth passenger experience for the expected 5,000 delegates who will come to Uganda through Entebbe International Airport to attend the Non-Aligned movement (NAM) and G77 + China summit slated to take place next year from January 15th to 23rd January 2024.
The chairperson Board of Directors UCAA, Dr. Steven Kavuma also the ex- Deputy Chief Justice, revealed that the International Aviation week was first celebrated in 1994 on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Chicago convention, which led to the establishment of ICAO and since then, the day and entire week has been celebrated annually.
“It’s worth celebrating Aviation week because we have implemented a number of innovations in the aviation sector. We also have the will and commitment to do better. There is no reason why Uganda should lag behind in the region hence we should wake up or else we are destined to lose it all, “Dr. Kavuma warned UCAA management.
The Director General UCAA, Fred Bamwesigye, informed stakeholders on the increased number of commercial passengers from 1.4 m to 1.5m passengers between 2019-2023.
‘The aviation industry recovered sooner than expected following the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. We look forward for sustainable recovery. Overflights increased by 145.7%. In October alone this year, we recorded 171,978. Eight airline operators were awarded licenses this year including Badr airlines.
“Progress work for expansion and upgrade of Entebbe International Airport is at 88% . Currently our passengers’ capacity is at 2million every year but we intend to enhance it to 3.5m passengers by July 2024.”
Bamwesigye further revealed that this year UCCA posted a number of milestones including winning the crisis management award where UCAA emerged winners at an awards ceremony held last month at Nile resort hotel in Jinja. He however said despite attaining these milestones, the authority is grappling with some challenges including unpaid debt of Shs 108.4 billion, difficulty in attraction and retention of technical staff and inadequate funding for upcountry aerodromes.
On the other hand, Dr. Barry Kashambo, an aviation specialist and consultant, said the capacity of Entebbe International Airport is still wanting as opposed to other international airports in the East African region.
“A lot of effort is required. The government should enhance aviation security and facilitation in a sustainable manner. Management of UCAA should ensure to meet and comply with the International Civil Aviation Organization annex 17 and annex 9. Increase investment and prioritize aviation as a stimulant and catalyst to National and economic development. In terms of Aircraft accident investigations Uganda is at 3%.
Dr. Kashambo however says for Uganda Civil Aviation Authority to enhance its efficacy, there is need to intensify capacity building programs for its staff, separate the regulator from the airport, think outside the box to grow the tourism sector, enhance salaries of its staff, clear the debt to zero balance in addition to improving aircraft accident investigations among other solutions.