President Yoweri Museveni has made a call to East African countries to merge their Airlines into one regional airline, pledging to push this as a way for to consolidate gains in the community.
Mr Museveni was speaking at Entebbe Airport were officially received the new Uganda Airlines Bombardier CRJ900 aircrafts on Tuesday, April 23, 2019.
“There is no need for unnecessary competition because regional airlines can amalgamate their efforts and have one consolidated regional airline,” Mr Museveni said.
The arrival of two aircraft marked the official revival of the national airline which was shut down in 2001. Uganda as such becomes the third country in the 5-member community with an official national airline.
Kenya currently has the largest running airline in the region, Kenya Airways, the flag carrier airline run by Kenya Airways Ltd. The Nairobi-based company was founded in 1977, after the dissolution of East African Airways. It currently operates a fleet of 40 aircraft, flying to 53 destinations across the world.
The more recently launched RwandAir is the flag carrier airline of Rwanda. It operates domestic and international services to 23 destinations in East Africa, Central Africa, West Africa, Southern Africa, Europe the Middle East and Asia, from its main base at Kigali International Airport in Kigali. It currently operates 12 aircraft.
President Museveni is a major proponent of the integration of East Africa. His latest call, however, comes on the backdrop of a major fallout between his government and neighbouring Rwanda who accuse Uganda of a number of things including economic sabotage.
The fallout has affected relations between the countries especially economically, with many pundits questioning the survival of the East Africa Community, currently chaired by Rwanda’s Paul Kagame.
President Museveni on Tuesday assured Ugandans that the new Uganda Airline will be a successful undertaking because of the big Ugandan diaspora, the very many Uganda business people that travel and the many tourists coming to visit the country.
“When you are mingling millet, you must wait for the right temperature of the water to put in the flour. If too early, it will be spoilt and if too late, it will be spoilt. The old Ugandan Airline died and in Africa when you die you are buried. But when old people die, new ones are born; so this is the new baby. I was among the undertakers of the funeral of the old airlines. Here I am among the midwifery delivering the new baby,” he said.
The 76-seater planes each are slated to commence regional commercial flights in July 2019. The Government of Uganda has committed to procuring 6 Bombardier planes from their Canadian manufacturers and will be receiving two more Bombardiers in July and September this year, while two Airbus planes which will ply international routes are expected early next year.
Mr. Museveni noted that the revival of Uganda Airline would reduce the foreign expenditure since Ugandans would now be spending their travel money on their own air carrier.
The revival of the national airline is expected to boost competitiveness for Uganda as a tourism destination. The country has lately received international accolades as a leading travel destination.
By PETER SSENTI