The Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) is pushing for Uganda Airlines to allow direct flights to key cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to facilitate trade and the movement of goods.
said PSFU Board Director Sarah Kagingo SoftPower News that one of the pending issues is Uganda Airlines direct flights to Lubumbashi, Goma and Kisangani.
“Uganda Airlines, our valued partners, have already established flights to Kinshasa. Civil Aviation (UCAA) is now seeking permits to fly to Lubumbashi and Goma, and the State Department, particularly the Department of Regional Cooperation, has been very helpful. Representatives from UCAA met their counterparts in Kinshasa,” Kagingo said on the sidelines of the Uganda-DRCongo Business Summit post-event held Thursday at the Serena Hotel in Kampala.
This is one of the key issues in terms of next steps following the Business Summit held in Kinshasa and Goma last month.
According to Kagingo, this will be followed by a summit meeting of the Fédération des Entreprises du Congo (FEC) and its partners in Kampala.
Ambassador Katureebe Tayebwa, head of regional economic cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority has been tasked to deal with some issues on the matter.
“On Uganda Airlines flights to Lubumbashi, Goma and Kisangani, they (UCAA) have responded. We will have gone to Goma and Lubumbashi by the end of this year,” Amb Katureebe told journalists.
Kagingo praised the government’s efforts to develop road infrastructure in eastern DRC, saying it would facilitate the movement of business people and products.
Odrek Rwabwogo, the President’s Advisor on Special Tasks, in his speech at the same press conference, commended Uganda for “taking the lead in building roads” to improve infrastructure between the two states.
Last December, Uganda’s plan to build 223km of roads in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo to improve trade between the two countries went into effect.
The $330 million Regional Connectivity Roads Project is being carried out by a Ugandan construction company called Dott Services.
The aim is to build three roads to improve communication between Uganda and the cities of Beni, Goma and Butembo in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The priorities will be an 80 km highway between Mpondwe in Uganda and Beni, an 89 km stretch between Bunagana and Goma and a 54 km road between Beni and Butembo.
“80% of our business in the Democratic Republic of the Congo consists of goods traffic. Road and air (transportation) is a bit expensive. We have a plan for a railway line,” Ambassador Katureebe said when asked about plans to build a railway line from Uganda to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He cited the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP) Framework and the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Protocol.
“In 2013, NCIP and SGR planned to build rail infrastructure from Mombasa to the interior. The project included; Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It should go all the way from Mombasa to Juba to Kisangani and to Kigali,” he noted.
He said the government is still working on both standard gauge and single gauge railways.
This protocol stipulates that the four partner countries follow the same standards and specifications that enable the development of a seamless rail transport system across the region.
The Northern Corridor is the transport corridor connecting the EAC landlocked countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan to the Port of Mombasa in Kenya. The corridor also serves northern Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia.
The Northern Corridor Integration Projects have 16 clusters focused on infrastructure development, energy, information technology and socio-economic development.
Apart from road, air and rail transport, the region also has potential for water transport, according to Ambassador Katureebe.
“The region is also examining other modes of transport. The Congo is one of the largest in the region and very navigable,” he said.
“Once the railroad reaches Kisangani, it will be easy to transport goods to Kinshasa by water. Lake Albert (which you call Mwitanzige) can also be used to transport goods between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The plan and the will are there,” he concluded.