Uganda’s aviation industry maintained its growth trend last year, posting a 14.1 per cent increase in passenger traffic, driven by an increase in tourist arrivals.
Data from Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) shows that Entebbe airport registered 1.23 million international arrivals compared with 1.08 million passengers in 2011.
The year also saw a 15 per cent increase in cargo volumes, with 55,908 tonnes handled last year compared with 48,636 tonnes registered in 2011.
CAA spokesperson Ignie Igunduura said the increase in passenger and cargo traffic at Entebbe was the result of improved economic performance, political stability and the discovery of oil and gas in the country.
“We are likely to see an increase in passenger and cargo traffic at the port in coming years as more people seek business opportunities in the country due to macro economic stability,” said Mr Igunduura.
Uganda’s average annual inflation rate for the 2012 calendar year slowed down to 14 per cent compared with 18.7 per cent in 2011, according to the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics.
Similarly, passenger traffic for domestic passengers increased from 9,508 in 2011 to 13,780 in 2012, representing a 42.7 per cent growth due to trade opportunities especially in Arua and Hoima districts located northwest of Kampala city, and served by Arua and Kasio airstrips, respectively.
The Arua airstrip acts as a business hub for three African states: Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, while the Hoima airstrip is a centre for oil and gas exploration.
Since 2000, Uganda’s aviation industry has been affected by terrorism threats and the global financial crisis leading to an unprecedented decline in passenger traffic.
For instance in 2000 and 2001, Uganda registered a decline in passenger traffic by 0.2 per cent. Mr Igunduura attributed this drop to insecurity and the 9/11 bombings in the US.
Uganda’s aviation industry was again hit by the effects of the global financial crisis in 2009, resulting in a 0.8 per cent decline in passenger traffic.
Uganda registered 936,184 passenger traffic in 2008 and 781,428 in 2007.
The effects of the global financial crisis led to the cancellation of many flights destined into the country and other parts of the world to meet the rising cost of living.
CAA deputy managing director David Mpango told The EastAfrican that they plan to expand the airport as it projects an increase in passenger traffic in coming years.
Mr Mpango said the authority has acquired 66 hectares of land near the airport and come up with a five-year strategic plan for construction.
The port expansion is expected to include remodelling the car parking lot to a multi-levelled one, a cargo centre, and an aircraft maintenance centre at a cost of about Ush60billion ($22.2million).
This, however, will depend on the priority needs of the international airport as the passenger traffic swells.
Currently over 20 airlines are recorded to be landing at Entebbe, Uganda’s International Airport.