This flight marked the first international route for the national carrier since the airline was revamped in 2018.The inaugural flight to Dubai had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.Uganda President, HE Yoweri T. Kaguta Museveni, was among the heads of state present to launch the Uganda pavilion at Expo Dubai 2020.
The 289 capacity Airbus Neo A 300-800 series took to the skies at approximately 12:18 pm with 76 passengers on board including the Minister of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities, Honorable Tom Butime, marking the first international route for the national carrier since the airline was revamped in 2018. The flight was flagged off by the Minister of State for Works and Transport, Honorable Fred Byamukama, who acknowledged that the inaugural flight to Dubai had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On touchdown at Dubai International Airport, Dubai Airports Deputy CEO, Jamal Al Hai, welcomed the Uganda delegation including Honorable Tom Butime; Uganda Airlines Acting CEO, Jennifer Bamuturaki; Abdalla Hassan Al Shamsi, Ambassador of the UAE in Uganda; and Zaake Wanume Kibedi, Ambassador of Uganda to UAE.
Uganda’s President, HE Yoweri T. Kaguta Museveni, was among the heads of state present to launch the Uganda pavilion. While officiating at the opening ceremony of the Uganda National Day during his message to the world, was that Uganda is ripe for investment, ready for profit-driven business, and the time is right now. Meeting Ugandans living in the UAE, the President pledged that the Government of Uganda will make a considerable financial investment in them through their SACCO (Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization) to assist them in accessing loans or Ugandans in distress. There are 40,000 Ugandans living in the UAE engaged in trade in agro-based products including avocado, pineapples, coffee, cocoa, dairy products, tea, and precious metals increasing from US$300 million in 2009 to US$1.85 billion in 2020. There are also several Ugandans in employment in hospitality, security, skilled, and house help labor.
Reaffirming the President’s message, the Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Investment Authority, Bob Mukiza, said: “Today we surpassed our expectations. We came to Dubai Expo 2020 to show that Uganda is ready for business, to come to Uganda as an investor, and we hand hold you through that process. We have signed over 600 million worth of deals, and we intend to sign over 4 billion worth of deals. What this means for Uganda is that it is not jobs per se that provides the minimum wage, but we have to provide skills for the industrialists who are coming to hit the ground running.”
On the tourism fold, Lilly Ajarova was ramping up business at the Uganda pavilion met with Mr. Fahim Jalali, the Chief Business Officer of Jet Class, a Dubai based aviation company, and the Vice President of Emirates Holidays, the tour operator arm of Emirates Airlines, among other appointments. Also representing the tourism and hospitality sector were Susan Muhwezi, Chair of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association (UHOA); Lydia Nandudu from Nkuringo Safaris; and from Uganda Tourism Board, Sandra Natukunda PRO, Daniel Irunga, and Herman Olimi who were managing the tourism stand.
Uganda Export Promotion Boards CEO, Elly Twineyo Kamugisha, was on hand to showcase an interactive touchscreen display of birds, apes, and primates of Uganda at the Uganda pavilion.
On the sidelines of Expo Dubai 2020 was the Tourism, Trade and Investment Forum held on October 5 that featured business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) networking and a panel of eminent women including among others Uganda’s Veterinary Dr. Gladys Kalema Zikusooka, Director CTPH (Conservation Through Public Health), and Gorilla Coffee Brand lending their voices to the climate change session on October 4 themed “Mother Nature’s First Defenders: Women Leading the Fight to Save our Planet.”
Representing Uganda Airlines at the expo, Acting CEO Jennifer Bamuturaki said, “…the flight is a step in the right direction for trade between the two countries.” She added that the Crane (as the aircraft is named) that flies to Dubai today is a three class with Business, Premium economy, and Economy class.
The airline will start with 3 weekly flights to Dubai, with days and times carefully selected to match travelers’ convenience and connectivity. This route presents cheaper Dubai flights for Ugandans and also puts Uganda Airlines in direct competition with other airlines including FlyDubai, Emirates, and Ethiopian Airways. Dubai routing is the latest addition to Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Mogadishu, Bujumbura, and Juba out of Entebbe.
UAE is also a popular destination for Ugandan middle-class couples, incentive groups, the business community, and families who wish to enjoy the splendor of man-made attractions, like Ferrari World, shopping, the Burj Khalifa cruises, Atlantis, Palm islands, and Formula One with less visa hassle compared to destinations offering similar attractions within only 4 hours by direct flight.