Uganda’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Nelson Ocheger, has extended a warm invitation to Nigerian investors, encouraging them to leverage the newly launched Uganda Airlines direct flight to explore the vast investment opportunities in Uganda. Speaking at the Nigeria-Uganda Trade and Business forum in Lagos, Ocheger emphasized that Uganda offers numerous prospects for trade, investment, and industrialization across various sectors.
Diverse Investment Opportunities: Ambassador Ocheger highlighted several key sectors where the Nigerian business community could make strategic investments in Uganda. These sectors include agro-processing, social services, mineral exploration and exploitation (including oil and gas), information and communication technology (ICT), and infrastructure development. Ocheger underlined the remarkable economic growth and socio-economic transformation Uganda has experienced in recent decades, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robust Economic Fundamentals: Ocheger emphasized that Uganda’s economy is characterized by a high degree of liberalization and vibrancy. The country’s monetary and fiscal policies are sound, and the economic fundamentals are robust. With an inflation rate of just 2.9 percent as of September 2023, Uganda boasts the lowest inflation rate in Eastern Africa. The ease of doing business is also noteworthy, making it an attractive destination for foreign investors.
Tourism Rebound: Highlighting the tourism sector’s resilience in the face of the pandemic, Ocheger encouraged Nigerian entrepreneurs to explore Uganda’s national parks. He noted that the tourism industry is on the path to recovery, and Nigeria should take advantage of the appealing business and investment climate and available incentives.
Uganda-Nigeria Air Bridge: Jennifer Bamuturaki, CEO of Uganda Airlines, stressed the importance of the direct flights between the two nations. These flights are not only essential for business and tourism but also foster cultural exchange. The air bridge connects various sectors, including oil and gas, agriculture, textiles, music, and more, opening up opportunities for collaboration.
Boosting Intra-Africa Trade: Fred Byamukama, Uganda’s State Minister for Trade, emphasized that the introduction of direct flights between Entebbe and Nigeria will facilitate increased intra-Africa trade. He cited the low level of intra-Africa trade, accounting for just 14.4 percent of total African exports. Implementing the African Free Continental Trade Area (AfCTA) is expected to boost this figure by about 33 percent and reduce the continent’s trade deficit by half. Byamukama also pointed out the need for improved transport infrastructure, particularly in the form of direct air connections between African countries.
Challenges and Visa Simplification: Some Nigerian business attendees expressed concerns about visa application processes and urged Ugandan authorities to streamline them to promote tourism and trade.
Uganda Airlines’ Expansion: Uganda Airlines is actively expanding its network, with the Entebbe-Lagos route being the 13th destination. This expansion follows the recent launch of a direct flight from Entebbe to Mumbai, India. The direct route to Lagos is scheduled to operate three times a week, offering greater convenience for travelers and businesses.
Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA): The inaugural direct flight between Entebbe and Lagos followed joint efforts by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs in Uganda and Nigeria, as well as the respective Ministries of Works and Aviation. These efforts aimed to review and guide the implementation of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) between the two countries. BASA allows for reciprocal international commercial air transport services, strengthening bilateral trade and investment.
Economic Diplomacy Through Air Connectivity: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in both countries is committed to commercial and economic diplomacy, with a primary goal of enhancing bilateral trade and investment through direct air connectivity. These initiatives are in line with the vision to accelerate economic growth and development.
Trade Statistics and Technical Collaboration: Trade between Uganda and Nigeria was valued at $4.8 million, primarily consisting of agricultural products, machinery, and chemical products. Efforts are underway to promote technical cooperation and collaboration between aviation institutions in both countries, further strengthening the economic ties.
The launch of direct flights between Entebbe and Lagos represents a significant milestone in enhancing economic ties and fostering a stronger partnership between Uganda and Nigeria. The increased air connectivity offers a promising opportunity for businesses and investors from both nations to collaborate and contribute to economic growth and development.