Uganda’s airline passenger traffic has picked up significantly following the reopening of the airport and is on a upward trajectory aiming for pre-COVID pandemic levels.
Last month (October 2021), the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) said traffic for the month of October had hit an all time high of 100,455 passengers going through Entebbe since the airport re-opened after lockdown.
The assuring news is a timely development given the recent re-opening of the expanded section of the departures lounge.
In line with the Uganda Vision 2040, Government developed a 20-year National Civil Aviation Master Plan covering the period up to 2033. The Master Plan covers Entebbe International Airport and other airfields in the country.
The project for the upgrade and expansion of Entebbe International Airport is critical to the development of the air transport industry in light of the growing passenger and cargo traffic figures.While Entebbe International Airport handled 118,000 international passengers in 1991 at Uganda Civil Aviation Authority’s (UCAA) establishment, the Airport handled 1.65 Million passengers in 2017, 1.84 Million passengers in 2018 and 1.98 million passengers in 2019. The passenger traffic growth trend was only halted in 2020 when the figure reduced to 565,541 owing to the effects occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The revival and commencement of flights by the national airline, Uganda Airlines, is expected to further grow this traffic (in subsequent years), and promote the country’s tourism potential. In addition, traffic is also expected to be boosted by the coming on board of new operators like Airlink, which commenced flights to South Africa in September 2021 and Air Arabia, which commenced flights from Entebbe to Sharjah, UAE in October 2021.
In terms of cargo, Entebbe handled 6,600 metric tonnes of cargo in 1991, 64,731 metric tonnes in 2019 and 59,720 metric tonnes in 2020. An average of about 5,000 metric tonnes of cargo is so far being recorded per month in 2021.
Uganda’s major exports, include fresh produce, including fish, flowers, vegetables and fruits, which are consumed by markets in Netherlands, Belgium and the Middle East. On-going construction of a state-of-the-art cargo centre with capacity to handle 100,000 metric tonnes annually is aimed at addressing this demand.
The facility, which is nearing completion is designed in such a way that in case of need, the capacity can be increased to 150,000 tonnes, in future.
• The overall project for upgrade and expansion of Entebbe International is at 75% level of completion and also includes, among others;
• Strengthening of the main runway 17/35 and associated taxiways – complete
• Strengthening and rehabilitation of the alternative Runway 12/30 and the associated taxiways – completed
• Rehabilitation of Aircraft Parking Apron 4 and Reconstruction of Aircraft Parking Apron 2 – completed
• Expansion of the main Aircraft Parking Apron 1 – ongoing
On completion of the new cargo center, UCAA will relocate cargo operations from the current facilities to the new to pave way for construction of a new Terminal building in the area where cargo operations are currently undertaken.
Annual capacity of the current terminal facilities will then increase from 2 million passengers a year to about 3.5 million passengers by the end of 2022.
The current terminal has also been re-modified to create more room for departing passengers. The departure area is already in use, and the departure road has been reinstated. Soon, departing passengers will be dropped off at the entrance to the terminal building.
A Terminal Operations Control Centre has also been erected by Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) to ensure automation of operations as part of a USD 9.5 Million grant by the Government of South Korea. KOICA is the implementing agency of the project on behalf of the Korean government. The project has also delivered the following:
• A Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)
• Airport Operational database (AODB) system
• Implementation of ATS Message Handling System (AMHS)
• Improvement of Flight Procedures efficiency through Air Traffic Management
• Capacity building, including training of Ugandans in Korea.
In the area of legislation, H.E. the President assented to the CAA Amendment Act, 2019 and it was published in the Uganda Gazette as CAA Act No. 7 of 2019. Most of the amendments were aimed at ensuring harmonization of Uganda’s regulations and practices with the universal practice across the globe.
In an effort to expand connectivity, Uganda signed Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) with Israel, Canada and Switzerland. Uganda has so far concluded 47 BASAs of which 25 have already been operationalized. This shows commitment to open new air routes and to attract more operators to Uganda.
UCAA and Entebbe International Airport were also awarded with the prestigious ISO 9001: 2015 Quality Management Systems (QMS) Certificate in 2016 following compliance with stringent requirements for the internationally recognized certification by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). Other aerodromes operated and managed by UCAA in Gulu, Arua, Soroti, Mbarara, Tororo, Kisoro, Pakuba, Kasese, Jinja and Kideop were also awarded ISO 9001:2015 QMS Certification for a period of three years up to 2024.
Other major achievements recently accomplished by the Authority include the following:-
Implementation of the new Electronic Government Procurement System (eGP) which went live IN November 2020. UCAA was one of the ten pilot entities.
Instrumental in the process for inclusion of the Uganda Airlines Airbus A330-800 neo aircraft fleet on the airline’s Air Operator Certificate.
Attraction of new air operators to Uganda’s airspace; the most recent being Airlink, which commenced flights to South Africa on September 19, 2021 and Air Arabia, which commenced flights to Sharjah on October 10, 2021. Badr Aviation is also planning to commence direct flights to Khartoum.
Approval of additional Aviation Training Organizations (ATOS), including Bar Aviation Academy, Kubis Aviation Academy and additional training programmes by Morea. The number of Approved ATOs is now 8.
Renewal of Uganda Air Cargo’s Air Operator Certificate and re-activation of the Air Service License (ASL), which permits them to undertake commercial air cargo business.
Uganda was able to compile and submit 100% of the Universal Security Audit Programme Continuous Monitoring Approach (USAP-CMA) Corrective Action Plan to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in November 2020 and ICAO acknowledged with appreciation in February 2021. This is expected to have a positive impact on Uganda’s compliance level.
Provision of necessary support to the Ministry of Works and Transport in the establishment of an Accident and Incident Investigation unit.
One of UCAA’s strategic objectives is to promote the development of an Air Navigation System aligned to the Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP). It is in line with providing airspace users with improved capacity and efficiency. In this respect, the Air Traffic Management system has undergone various system improvements and upgrades as follows;
• Air Traffic Management (ATM) has made a transition from conventional navigation using ground aids to the use of satellite based navigation. Since 2020, arrival and departure procedures in Entebbe are based on the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), which has improved the safety, efficiency and capacity of the Ugandan airspace.
Due to the ATM improvements above, UCAA has been able to implement free routing airspace within the Entebbe Flight Information Region (on request from IATA). Using this technology, a pilot can safely fly from point to point within the Ugandan airspace without following the published routes.
In relation to upgrade and improvement of Navigation Aids infrastructure and systems,
UCAA adopted a phased approach, which has involved;
• Installation of High Frequency (HF) Radio system for the Rescue Coordination Centre at Entebbe International Airport was completed. This facilitates the provision of Search and Rescue Services to aircraft in need of the services within the Flight Information Region (FIR).
• The Non Directional Beacon (NDB) at Port Bell, Luzira, has been installed and there is an on-going project to replace the Distance Measuring Equipment at Entebbe.
• Upgrade of the Automatic weather observation system is ongoing.
• Implementation of the electronic terrain and obstacle data (eTOD) for the area covering the entire territory of Uganda, in line with the requirements of ICAO. This involves collection of terrain and obstacle data for the entire country. This data is used in various air navigation applications.
The projects for upgrade and expansion of Entebbe International Airport (undertaken by China Communications Construction Company) are currently at the following levels of implementation
Overall Physical Progress 75.11%.
Specific Work Progress
Description Of Work Physical Progress
New Cargo Center Complex 97.43%
Additional Works On Cargo building and Changes 32.5%
New Passenger Terminal Complex Work on it is yet to start
Strengthening of Runway 17/35 And Its Associated Taxiways 100%
Strengthening and Expansion Of Aircraft Parking Apron 1 84.7%
Rehabilitation of Aircraft Parking Apron 2 100%
Rehabilitation of Aircraft Parking Apron 4 100%
Strengthening of Runway 12/30 and Its Associated Taxiways 100%
Domestic Water Tank & Fire Water Tank and Associated Facilities 86.9%