Uganda will soon have three international airports, as the Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) leads the connectivity axis of the country’s development agenda. With the second, Kabaale International Airport in Hoima, nearing completion, the feasibility study has been launched for the upgrade of Arua Airfield in West Nile. This is in addition to the rehabilitation and improvement of other aerodromes like Kisoro, Kidepo and Kasese, to serve some of Uganda’s major tourism areas. All these come as the expansion, refurbishment and upgrade work on Entebbe International Airport is at 90 percent completion point, according to UCAA Managing Director, Fred Bamwesigye, who is clearly in overdrive mode.

The Ministry of Works and Transport has confirmed that Arua Airport is to be developed into an International Airport under the Build, Operate and Transfer Model. A Memorandum of Understanding signed with M/S East of Eden for the study, according to the ministry. The project has garnered the support of the local leaders including area MPs and City council.

Fred Bamwesigye (Director General UCAA)

“I visited Arua Airstrip to discuss the concerns of the Project Affected Persons with local leaders, over the development of Arua Airstrip into an International Airport which will serve as an alternative to Entebbe,” Bamwesigye said.  The officials also inspected the land CAA acquired for the Development of Arua Airport into an International Airport. Under a Public/Private Partnership framework, the government has signed a memorandum of understanding to conduct feasibility studies and related assessments. This followed the directive by president Yoweri Museveni to upgrade the facilities in 2022, and Minister Byabakama says this will be fast-tracked. Last week, Fred Byamukama, the State Minister for Transport directed CAA to expedite the process of settling the PAPs to pave way for the development of the Airstrip into an International Airport.

 It is aimed majorly to handle traffic from Uganda, DRC and South Sudan owing to its strategic location in the administrative capital of West Nile. The aviation authority views Arua as advantaged because it is “strategically located in the tri-state boarder of Uganda, DRC and Sudan. It serves as a hub for passengers from Southern Sudan and DRC to connecting flights through Entebbe International Airport.”

This is poised to increase the number of people traveling into and through Uganda, as well as enabling more Ugandans to fly. Fortunately, Entebbe is underground significant improvements and will soon meet the changing international demands. Bamwesigye said that on the upgrade and expansion of EIA the major remaining project is the completion of a new 20,000 square meter terminal building, which is connecting to the existing terminal building. This is already helping the facility cope with the rapidly growing passenger numbers. The Airport handled a total of 171,990 international passengers, (both arriving and departing), an average of 5,548 per day in March, 2024. This is on average 2,009 more passengers than was handled per day in March 2023.

Completed works under the airport’s improvement programme include the car park, re-surfacing of runways 17/35 and 12/30 and their respective taxiways and the new 100,000 capacity building. Works on the new terminal building is expected to increase the capacity to 3.5 million from the current 2 million per year. On another front, Entebbe has been named among the 10 “best international airports in Africa” by Skytraks, an international aviation monitoring and assessment firm. Skytraks assesses the passenger experience of the airport, seamless travel and ambience. The location of Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria and just on the equator, gives it more appeal, according to the firm. Others in the top 10 were Durban King Shaka in South Africa, Rabat and Marrakech in Morocco, Rwanda’s Kigali, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and East London of South Africa, Antananarivo in Madagascar and Luanda of Angola.

In February, Uganda National Oil Company, which hosts Kabaale (Kabalega) International Airport said, construction was at 95 percent, but that it was ready to receive landing aircraft.