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ANDREW BESI: Why Mr. Joel Ssenyonyi and his kind are wrong about Uganda Airlines and Ms. Bamuturaki!

Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Gen Jeje Odongo. Somalia President used flew into the country using Uganda Airlines (PHOTO /Courtesy)

KAMPALA — This week, Ms. Jennifer Bamuturaki, Chief Executive at our revived Uganda Airlines is the talk of town. It seems some individuals for purely selfish reasons are decided in their narcissistic attempt to destroy what has so far been a sterling career.

Their focus has been on Mr. Joel Ssenyonyi’s, Chairperson of our August House’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises – COSASE, insistence that as a holder of a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Works and Social Administration from Makerere University’s Faculty of Social Sciences, Ms. Bamuturaki is not qualified to head Uganda Airlines.

In all statements made in support of Mr. Ssenyonyi’s outburst, we have not been told what, in their view, “qualifications” are desirable for one to be Chief Executive of Uganda Airlines!

In a recent WhatsApp group debate I had with a senior individual from Bank of Uganda, the issue of the profitability of Uganda Airlines came up. In his view, the old Uganda Airlines ceased operations in May 2001 because it was making a loss of “USD 1 million a month!”

Our 2016 – 2021 Manifesto was titled “Steady Progress: Taking Uganda to Modernity through Job Creation and Inclusive Development.” At its launch president Museveni remarked:
We want to make Uganda Africa’s gateway. Our manifesto sets out priority areas of focus, which include Strengthening Security, Good Governance and Democracy, Consolidating Growth, Employment, and Macro-economic stability; Agriculture, Industry, Tourism, Human Capital Development; Health, Infrastructure Development for Competitiveness, Trade, Sustainable harnessing of Natural Resources, Public and Private Sector Institutional Development, and International and Regional Cooperation.

I have purposefully highlighted Agriculture, Industry, Tourism, and Trade as the basis on which we must view Uganda Airlines and therefore, as the yardstick on which we must measure Ms. Bamuturaki’s ascension to the post as its Chief Executive.

In my view, Uganda Airlines was revived as a strategic investment to leverage Uganda as a premier tourist, conference, and business destination. This was informed by the growth numbers at Entebbe airport which before our March 2020 Covid19 lockdown, had grown from about 300,000 people in 2001 to 1,980,000 in 2019. It had over the same period witnessed an increase in Cargo handled to 64,731 metric tonnes of Cargo. These numbers are only part of the story.

Here is the other part! As you are aware, the NRM has continuously worked towards “building an independent, integrated, and self-sustaining economy” achievable through steadily realising the economic and political integration of East Africa and then Africa. As H.E. President Museveni pointed out in his 2019 address to the African Union Heads Of State Summit in Addis Ababa: “There are two issues that are crucial for our future. These are the political and economic integration of Africa. Our view is that African Integration means three things; Prosperity, Security, and Fraternity.”

Uganda Airlines (IATA: UR, ICAO: UGD) is the flag carrier of Uganda. The company is a revival of the older Uganda Airlines which operated from 1977 until 2001. The current carrier began flying in August 2019.

Uganda Airlines (IATA: UR, ICAO: UGD) is the flag carrier of Uganda. The company is a revival of the older Uganda Airlines which operated from 1977 until 2001. The current carrier began flying in August 2019.

Today, Jumuiya encompasses the 7 countries of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. It stretches from Kenya’s Indian Port city of Mombasa all the way to the DRC’s Port of Banana – near Matadi and serves a population of nearly 320 million people.

This means that our farmers produce and our industrial class’s products have guaranteed markets on top of easier access to either the Indian Ocean and or the Atlantic ergo Agriculture, Industry and Trade

By setting up a National Carrier – Uganda is further opening up our entrepreneurial class’s access to the further areas of Jumuiya as well as to the world.

But it also means that the ever increasing number of tourists to our region find it easier to connect to any corner of this Jumuiya. In other words, our carrier is an enabler of business in almost the same manner as the purchase of military hardware.

I am against Ugandans wasting precious hard currency flying to Guangzhou or Istanbul to purchase aluminium cladding and artificial hair. But at least now, they do so on their own carrier. Crucially, they get to use this carrier to ferry back their cargo.
I pray that on these sojourns, they do encourage the Chinese, Turks & others to use UA as preferred carrier when they opt to visit and invest in Uganda.

Therefore, we can only judge the “profitability” of Uganda Airlines not in the typical sense BUT against the number of African and non African trade routes opened up for our entrepreneurial class as well as the number of tourists using it to connect to Uganda.

Ofcourse, with time, our EAC might look to form a Regional Carrier for best results. I am confident that at that time, Uganda can say to our partners that we come with X number of planes, Y number of routes and have a skilled workforce including pilots, aeronautical engineers and the facilities to offer.

This is what makes Ms. Bamuturaki an ideal candidate. She knows this is the only yardstick that matters.

I see no reason for the attack on Ms. Bamuturaki and Uganda Airlines. None!!

The writer is a student of #Musevenomics, a member of Campfire Ideological Study Group

On Twitter @BesiAndrew

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