The long awaited upgrade and expansion of the Entebbe International Airport to meet the growing air traffic will kick-off on Saturday.
Civil works for the development of Entebbe will be undertaken in three phases, the first one financed with a concessional loan worth $200m (about sh700b) from the Chinese government extended to Uganda through EXIM Bank.
In January 2015, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) unveiled a plan to upgrade and expand the airport between 2016 and 20133.
According to the Chinese Ambassador to Uganda, Zhao Yali, the groundbreaking ceremony for the upgrade and expansion of Entebbe is scheduled for Saturday.
Yali revealed that EXIM Bank had granted Uganda a loan repayment period of 20 years and a five-year grace period.
Addressing a gathering of Ugandan students at the Chinese Embassy in Kololo, Kampala, on Sunday, Yali said the contract for the expansion of Uganda’s biggest airport has been awarded to China Communication Construction Company, the firm currently building the Kampala–Entebbe Expressway.
He said it would take about three years for the first phase of the upgrade and expansion of Entebbe International Airport which sits on the shores of Lake Victoria to be completed.
Phase one of the works involves the construction of a new passenger terminal, cargo terminal and a multi-storey car park.
Other areas will include the widening of the existing runway, building of aprons and improvement of the navigation aids.
“Uganda’s tourism sector is growing and a lot of foreigners are visiting the country. The airport at the current status cannot meet this overwhelming demand. Since we have a cordial and mutual relationship with Uganda, we are glad to support the country’s transformation,” said Yali.
Asked if China would equally finance the second phase of the upgrade and expansion of Entebbe, Yali said they hadn’t delved into that aspect of the works with the Uganda government.
When Parliament recently approved borrowing of $200m for the first phase of Entebbe works, the Minister of State for Finance, David Bahati, said $125 million would be required for the subsequent phase.
The Entebbe International Airport master plan, CAA will also need $67.4m between 2019 and 2023 for further upgrade, as well as an additional $160.5m for the same purpose from 2024 to 2033.
On the day Parliament approved the loan, the Chairperson of the Committee on National Economy, Xavier Kyooma said the upgrade and expansion of Entebbe would promote excellent service at the airport through provision of competitive infrastructure and facilities.
The upgrade and expansion of Entebbe is meant to prepare the airport for a projected surge in traffic.
CAA managing director, Rama Makuza recently said they expected passenger traffic to increase by about 7.5 % annually for the next five years facilitated by a spike in business travels.
Passenger traffic at Entebbe has grown gradually to 1.3m last year, 300,000 up from about one million in 2010.
Cargo handled at the airport increased to about 52,000 metric tonnes from 49,000 tonnes in the same period.
China has financed several massive infrastructure projects in Uganda including the Entebbe Expressway, the Isimba dam, Mandela National Stadium Namboole, Karuma dam, and standard gauge railway.