Uganda and Nigeria have committed to improving bilateral relations as part of their efforts to spur trade anchored on the Principles of Pan-Africanism and shared values.
Amb. Nelson Ocheger, Uganda’s High Commissioner said Uganda-Nigeria trade has been on the rise in the past years citing the launch of Uganda Airlines’ maiden flight to Lagos as part of their efforts to spur bilateral trade.
However, he observed that more needs to be done to unlock the underlying potential.
He expressed joy over the inaugural flight of Uganda Airlines to Lagos, saying the approval by the Nigerian government would open a vista of business opportunities to both nations.
He further stated that the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) exists on reciprocity, adding that his country was awaiting when Nigerian carriers would commence services to Uganda.
He said: “The importance of air transport underscores the promotion of trade and investment and it gives Africa the opportunity to leverage on all AU agenda. We thank the Nigerian government for the necessary approval needed to do this operation.”
He further reiterated that the Business Forum was convened with the sole purpose of bolstering bilateral trade between Uganda and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Amb. Ocherger, emphasized the importance of Nigerian entrepreneurs investing in areas of value addition in Uganda is key for strategic partnerships between Nigerian and Ugandan businesses.
He highlighted key sector areas for investment including agribusiness focusing on value addition, fisheries, manufacturing, and forestry oil and gas, and service sectors.
Ocheger reiterated that Uganda is committed to improving the business environment has taken a strategic direction to embrace the liberal trade policy and continues to drive the economy in different spheres.
He told the forum that Uganda is one of the leading exporters on the Continent of consumer goods, highlighting that the tourism industry is fast recovering from the interruption of COVID-19 and extending an invitation to entrepreneurs and business persons in Nigeria.
Statistics from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives indicate that at the EAC level exports increased from $1.22b in 2016 to $1.8b by 2020 while the intra-EAC imports increased from $1.43b recorded in 2016 to above $2b by the end of 2020.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy with a GDP of 440 billion dollars and a population of almost 250 million, presenting enormous investment opportunities in Uganda.
Over 250 trade and investment, policymakers, Members of the business communities, Trade support institutions, and regional and multilateral organizations from Uganda and Nigeria attended the forum.
On his part, the Nigerian minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yusuf Tuggar, said the Ugandan Airline’s operation was an opportunity to bridge West Africa and East Africa air transport hiccups.
Ambassador Tugar, who was represented by the director of Airport Protocol in the Ministry, Ambassador Oludare Folowosele, lamented air connectivity as a major challenge in Africa, wondering why Africans would travel to Europe first before connecting to another African city.
He rued wastage of man hours of over 12 hours on three to four hours flights because of connectivity hiccups, saying: “It is ridiculous to go to Europe before connecting two African neighbouring countries. What we are doing today would lead to wealth creation, shortening travel time from one country to another rather than depend on Europe all the time for flight connections.”
“The journey for Uganda Airlines to commence flight services to Nigeria it would be recalled started on 9th October 2002 in Kampala, Uganda when the two respective Ministers of both countries responsible for Civil Aviation initiated an Air Services Agreement (ASA) with the ultimate desire of bringing about a direct flight from Entebbe, Uganda to Lagos.
“This was further reviewed on January 21st, 2005 with certain provisions. It was a matter of concern that the ASA was never operationalised until October 19th, 2023 with Uganda utilising the designated airline from her side to commence the flight operations,” he explained.
With this, Uganda Airlines, which began three weekly flights into Nigeria on Thursday, would now have access to additional two entries in the country.
Over the years, Uganda has signed 47 Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA). The Ministry and Uganda’s Missions Abroad have been taking a lead role in the following key areas of Shuttle diplomacy to revive and operationalize the respective BASAs – leading bilateral negotiations to designate Uganda Airlines to the respective routes worldwide.
Bagiire Vincent Waiswa, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the on going interventions to operationalize the respective Bilateral Air Service Agreements between Uganda and other countries for Uganda Airlines to fly to various other destinations worldwide continue to be undertaken by the Political and technical strategic leadership of Ministry under the Permanent Secretary, Uganda’s Ambassadors / Heads of Missions in various countries worldwide as well as the line Departments of the Ministry of the Regional Economic Cooperation and International Law & Social Affairs.
Nairobi, Mombasa, Kinshasa, Dar-es-Salaam, Zanzibar, Johannesburg, Mogadishu, Juba, Bujumbura, Dubai, Mumbai and most recently Lagos.
The planned routes include; Abuja London, Guangzhou, Jeddah, Riyadh, Lusaka, Harare, Khartoum, Accra, Goma, Lumumbashi, and Cape Town.
It is estimated that Ugandans spend over 400 million USD annually on air travel. Now that these routes have been opened, a lot of Trade and investment opportunities for Ugandans are abound.
Enhanced Business and commercial connectivity
Also speaking, Jenifer Bamuturaki, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Uganda Airlines, expressed delight with the commencement of the flight.
Bamuturaki, explained that the direct non-stop flight would further reduce the flying time within Africa, especially between Nigeria and Uganda.
She regretted that in some cases, travellers from the continent connect Africa through Europe, a situation which she said added to the cost of flying.
She added that Nigeria being the biggest economy on the continent needed an airline like Uganda Airline for further easy exploration and seamless connectivity of passengers.
According to her, for a start, the airline would operate three weekly frequencies from its base in Entebbe; Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays to Nigeria, while the outward flight would be the same day.