Uganda Airlines made an inaugural direct flight to Lagos, Nigeria on Thursday, October 19, 2023. The Airline will deploy a 250-seater Airbus A330neo to operate the new route. The launch of the new air route comes 12 days after the national carrier made a similar flight to Mumbai, India. The Airline is to operate three weekly flights: Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays.
The Airline officials are confident the route linking Entebbe to Lagos will boost bilateral trade growth and augment the Tourism sector. The route is also envisaged to improve connectivity between Uganda and Nigeria, changing transit time from about 14 hours to only 4 hours. Current data availed by the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority shows 40,000 passengers annually between Entebbe International Airport and Lagos.
Speaking at the flag-off of the historic flight, Uganda Airlines Chief Executive Officer, Jennifer Bamuturaki said: “The flight creates an airbridge, we are bridging the gap between West Africa and East Africa,”
“Africa is underserved, this is a conversation that we have every time we meet as airlines in our forums. It is difficult to move from one side of East Africa to West or Central, you have to leave the continent sometimes to be able to come back to the continent,” she noted.
She also revealed that cargo services are expected to grow owing to a drop in the rates from a previous USD 18 (about Ushs 66,600) to only USD 2 (about Ushs 7400) per Kilogram.
Bamuturaki further noted that the groundbreaking route to Lagos will help them set up more flights across Africa to enhance efficiency and ease the movement of cargo and passengers across the continent.
The Transport State Minister, Fred Byamukama said the direct flights to the western part of Africa will save travelers time and money and in turn, open a plethora of economic opportunities for the two countries.
“We have a lot of opportunities, when you taste the fruits of Uganda the pineapples, jackfruit and oranges are very nice, we can take them to our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, they also have a lot of good fruits like pepper that we can import into the country,”
Byamukama also revealed that the two countries signed bilateral air service agreements that will promote bilateral trade relations between the trade ministries of the two nations.
The state minister for Trade, Harriet Ntabazi said leveraging the historical ties between the two countries, Uganda will be able to expand its market to a population of over 200 million people and an economy of about USD 504 million.
Ntabazi underscored the importance of Africa uniting together as a leading producer of raw materials to add value to their products before export in order to improve revenue for their independent economies.
“Let us exhaust our opportunities as Africa, and see what we can add value to, what we can trade together, what we can add forces to and negotiate standards together so that we fit in the international market. We are looking at Africa as a whole,” she noted.
The Nigerian High Commissioner to Uganda, H.E Ismail Alatise said the route provides a solution to one of the major barriers that have impeded trade between the two nations for a long time. He furthermore said it is time to translate the “warm and cordial” bilateral relations between the two countries into trade, and investment and foster a “positive impact on our people.”
Aboard this inaugural flight were 40 women sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
UNDP Resident Representative, Elsie Attafuah said the route will bolster trade volumes between the two countries by exploring agricultural exports, minerals, Tourism and investment opportunities.
“Nigeria is the largest economy projected to hit USD 574 billion, in Africa with a very big untapped market. Uganda is one of the most beautiful countries on earth with a lot of tourism potential yet untapped,”
Uganda Airlines has now secured landing rights in 13 destinations including; Nairobi, Mumbai, Dubai, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Mombasa, Kilimanjaro, Juba, Bujumbura, Kinshasha, Mogadishu and Johannesburg. The Airline resumed commercial flights in August 2019 after a 20-year hiatus.