Inside Uganda’s Quest to Expand and Upgrade Entebbe International Airport

Government of Uganda, through the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority has since 2016 been engulfed in a process that has seen a facelift on Uganda’s Gateway, the Entebbe International Airport.

The facelift, whose main contractor is China Communication Construction Company was meant to improve and expand the Cargo Center, Passenger Terminal, Run ways 17/35 and 12/30 including their associated Taxi ways and parking Aprons.

The facelift also required to improve design of Entebbe International Airport, it’s fuel reserves, domestic water and fire fight equipment and all Access road in and around the Ugandan main gateway.

The Ugx 1.1 trillion projects in the first phase, expected to end in May 2022; despite suffering some funding setbacks are currently on a 79.02% completion.

Parliament also approved Ugx 149.6 billion for the financial year 2020/2021 as counterpart funding for the project.

Update on the projects

Currently, the strengthening of Apron 1 stands at 85% completion while the completion of similar projects on Apron 2 stands at 99.8%. Apron 4 completion stands at 99.3%.

The construction of the state of art Cargo complex is also almost complete. The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority estimates completion at 97% completion, with the land side and Air side access road completion at 96%.

With the overall completion of the Domestic water and firefighting construction standing at 85%, the Aviation body believes even with Coordination difficulties, the country’s main entry and exit point is destined to handle its clients in a much better and appropriate way.

UCAA engineer Herbert Ngobi says, some of the setbacks that derailed early completion of the works were a result of the Covid 19 pandemic and the later declared lock down that saw Major Chinese engineers who were handling the projects travel back to the Asian continent, with less hope of an early return.

“This out on halt some of the projects that needed their immediate attention,” He told a MPs on the committee on Physical Infrastructure on their oversight visit at the airport.

As the passenger terminal is close to completion, the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority now looks at clearance from Parliament and Government of Uganda to start Phase II of the Airport expansion and upgrade.

The second phase will see the institution of the obsolete run way lights, AGL installation on both the 12/30 and 17/35 run ways, the purchase of the Air Navigation Aids, further expansion of the Cargo complex and the passenger terminals, the construction of a Multi storage car park, among other projects.

“As you can realize, even with the first phase, the airport cannot run without runway lights and Navigation aids. We therefore request parliament to fast track the construction works in the phase two ensure aviation services move smoothly,” Fred Bamwesigye, the Ag Director General of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority says.

Other Projects

Currently, the UCAA is also handling other projects which include the modification of the open lounges in the passenger terminal building.

The project handled by the China Naijing company at a cost of Ugx 2.6 billion will ensure Ugandans are safe enough, with social distancing, preventing Covid 19 spread.

A fuel farm that would keep up to 22 million liters of Aviation fuel is also being constructed close to the Cargo center and the Entebbe za Mugula sites towards the Victoria.

The fuel farm will improve and increase the amount of fuel in storage at the airport. The current location of the fuel farm is said to be close to the central operating area leaving Aviation services susceptible to harm.

Currently, the Aviation body is earmarking resources to ensure that the new fuel farm is secure from any eventuality.

However, the Aviation body which was supposed to complete the first phase of the expansion and upgrade suffered setbacks, arising from the Covid 19 pandemic, weather challenges, among others.

It is upon that background that Authorities requested for an additional 361 days in which UCAA projects completion of the projects.

Value for money

The chairperson of the Parliamentary committee on physical infrastructure and Nakifuma County MP engineer Kafeero Ssekitoleko believed that the current improvement, the Aviation body had to the best of his knowledge exhibited hard work and shown value for money.

“We request that other government Physical Infrastructure programs also exhibit value for money to serve Ugandans with the rightful purpose to pay taxes,” Kafeero Ssekitoleko indicated.

On the peripherals, Bunyole West County MP James Waluswaka asked that there is need for Uganda Civil Aviation body to improve lavatory services in the female washrooms to serve Ugandans better.

Why the expansion and upgrade

The upgrade and expansion of Entebbe International Airport was premised on the ever increasing number of travelers using the airport. By March 2020, before the introduction of the mandatory Covid lock down, the airport had close to 2 million travelers, away from the 100,000 travelers that used it in 1990.

By February 2021, even with the Covid restrictions, the airport served up to 26,921 arriving passengers and 31,084 departing clients five months after reopening from the Covid 19 lock down.

Since January, the airport received an average of 48 aircraft movements a day, almost half the average number (89) it received in 2019.

The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority suggests that to further increase the number of travelers just after the lock down, a combination of travel and business partners including the tourism and hospitality groups ought to work together to improve the service.

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