THE business community in Kagera Region will be looking for 2020 with increased optimism to grow their businesses after Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) announced plans to extend cargo flights to the Lake Zone region.
ATCL is expected to take advantage of the proximity of Kagera Region to the three East African Community (EAC) states - Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda to tap into business opportunities in unexplored markets in East Africa, the fastest growing region in Africa.
East Africa is the fastest growing region in Africa for the fifth straight year, according to the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Economic Outlook for 2019. According to the AfDB, the region grew by 5.7 per cent in 2018 and is projected to grow by 5.9 per cent in 2019 and 6.1 per cent in 2020.
ATCL Managing Director, Ladislaus Matindi announced the plans to expand cargo services to the region last week when he paid a courtesy call on the Regional Commissioner, Brig Gen Marco Gaguti.
“There is conducive business climate and ATCL is keen to utilize the opportunity to increase its business volume,” said the Managing Director of the national carrier. “We have plans to extend cargo services not only for Kagera but other Lake Zone regions-Mwanza, Kigoma, Simiyu, Mara, Shinyanga and Geita.”
Cargo flights to the region will boost trade and services and provide fertile grounds to grow inter-regional trade that will stimulate growth and development in the region. These spell boon to the business community in the region. Brig Gen Gaguti said plans were underway to expand the Bukoba Airport to allow big aircraft to land.
Rehabilitation and expansion of the airport will pave the way for more efficient cross-border trade and transportation between Tanzania and its East African neighbours, he said. The number of passengers using ATCL at Bukoba Airport is increasing with average of about 2400 passengers being recorded each month.
Expansion of the current runway will enable larger aircraft to land at Bukoba Airport and more passengers including foreign tourists will be using the airport. About 93,731 passengers are recorded to have passed through the Bukoba Airport within the past three years, an annual average of 31,243 ‘transits’ over the period under review.
Bukoba Airport Manager, Ms Doris Uhagire revealed that some 28,693 passengers were recorded during 2014, with the numbers slightly increasing to 31,914 and 33,124 passengers over the following two years (2015-16).
“There are indications that more passengers were now using the Bukoba Airport…… and we’re confident that when the extension of the current runway is completed more passengers including foreign tourists will be using the airport,” she said.
On November 6, last year President Magufuli shelved the envisaged construction of Omukajunguti Airport in Missenyi district and instead ordered that the 9bn/- compensation budget be used to extend the Bukoba Airport runway. He said the government was keen in extending the airport from the current 1.5 to two kilometres.
“The extension will enable larger aircraft to land at the Bukoba Airport…..so spending the 9bn/- on another airport at Omukajunguti isn’t viable,” he said. He thanked the World Bank (WB) for a credit facility that will facilitate the rehabilitation of Bukoba Airport, appealing for more funds to finance its extension works.
The Bretton Woods institution had since doled out 57.5 million US dollars, with the government injecting another 11.7 million US dollars for the project. The works included the airport’s rehabilitation by extending the runway to 1.5 kilometres and relocating Tumaini Primary School, once located within the runway, to Mafumbo area.
In efforts to avert possible risks to the pupils, 31.95bn/- went into rehabilitation works, with 2.6bn/- spent on the school relocation. Mr Amir Hamza, a Bukoba- based business tycoon appealed to ATCL to reduce cargo rates and to ensure that there is Tanzanian coffee brand at landing terminals.
“This will promote Tanzanian products,” he said. He also appealed to ATCL to arrange regular flights from Bukoba to Dodoma, the capital city. Since the government embarked into plan to revive the national carrier the number of passengers has increased to 62,000 per month in 2019 compared to 4,000 passengers recorded in 2016.
The region has two fish processing plants but some business people are forced to use an airport in a neighbouring country to export fish products.
This is a golden opportunity for ATCL cargo services for agricultural products such as coffee, tea, bananas, avocados, beans, cassava and groundnuts which are in high demand in several foreign markets including Indonesia and China.
The Minister for Works, Transport and Communication, Isack Kamwele, challenged Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) to improve its operation system and run the company commercially. He stressed that strengthening the financial systems, efficient procurement, internal audit and effective human resource management were vital for the growth of the company.
According to the minister, if the company improves its operation system, it will help the airline boost its profit and enable it provide the government with substantial amount of dividend. He said the government was committed to rehabilitate and expand several airports including Bukoba Airport and building a new ship along Lake Victoria.
The government was keen to improve the infrastructure like roads and bridges especially along border regions including Kagera Region, he said.