Kampala rethinks plan to build second airport

Saturday February 1 2014

By ISAAC KHISA The EastAfrican

Uganda is applying the brakes on a proposed alternative to Entebbe International Airport, as the debate tilts in favour of expanding it instead.

During a consultative meeting on January 23 that sought stakeholders’ opinion on a new master plan expected to run from 2014 to 2033, the Civil Aviation Authority’s managing director Rama Makuza said the country would instead rely on airports in the region to divert aircraft in case of an emergency at Entebbe.

“We have Nairobi, Kigali and Addis Ababa airports to serve passengers heading to Entebbe in case of an emergency. As such, Uganda should not rush into building a second international airport because current levels of traffic don’t justify the investment,” he said.

Mr Makuza added that the project would also require that other infrastructure like hotels is developed in tandem, to cater for the increased passenger arrivals and departures.

Data from CAA shows that the passenger traffic through Entebbe International Airport grew 9.6 per cent, from 1.25 million in 2012 to 1.37 million last year, helped by increasing business and tourist traffic.

This volume is already past the 1.83 million forecast for 2018, putting pressure on the existing facilities.

Recent oil and gas discoveries as well as a resurgent tourism sector are projected to continue on a positive curve, prompting a fresh look at Uganda’s air transport sector.

Authorities last year retained Spanish aviation consultancy Ineco to chart a new course for the sectors’ development for the next 20 years.

The plan will consider options including upgrades to existing facilities and the development of secondary airports upcountry. It is expected to be executed in three phases, with the first one ending in 2018.

Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda are also revamping their airports. For instance, in December last year, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta unveiled the construction of a $650 million terminal at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, expected to handle 20 million passengers a year.

Tanzania for its part secured $164.3 million from the Netherlands government for the expansion of the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, while Rwanda plans to build a new airport, the Bugasera International Airport, expected to cost over $650 million.