Leaders, Businesspeople To Market Entebbe As an Airport City

Mayor Kayanja says the summit is timely because the municipal council recorded a loss of 2 billion shillings in the first four months of the national lockdown and partial shutdown of Entebbe Airport.

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Local leaders and businesspeople have today pledged to market Entebbe as an airport city, by identifying opportunities and helping out small businesses to thrive as the municipality prepares to become a city in 2022.

This was one of the  key messages that emerged at the second Entebbe Business Summit held on Friday.

The summit held by Uganda National Chamber of Commerce Entebbe Branch, Africa Centre for Economic Dialogue and Entebbe Municipal Development Forum (MDF), took place under the theme, "Stimulating Investment and Revitalizing Business in the Airport City".

Vincent DePaul Kayanja, Entebbe municipal mayor, says the summit  has provided a platform to encourage a private sector led development in the municipality which will become a city in 2022.

He adds  that the summit is timely because the municipal council recorded a loss of shillings 2 billion in the first four months of the total lockdown and partial shutdown of Entebbe Airport.

"Entebbe depends heavily on the airport so when it was closed, this place was dead and it affected the economy," Kayanja, "So we need to promote local tourism, identify businesses that benefit from the existence and proximity of the airport."

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He adds that summit will help stakeholders identify ways to make Entebbe a great city and investment destination.

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Entebbe International Airport sits in the municipality which also  hosts  State House, a number of other government entities and security agencies.

Official statistics from the 2014 Census indicate that the municipality has a population of  79,500. But it will  have 450,000 people with the annexing of Busiro South county when it becomes a city.

Some of the businesspeople led by Asha Batenga, the Managing Director Cakely and Cake Shop Uganda, Paul Mugumya, the CEO April Logistics and Martin Kibirige, the CEO Fast Cash say there are several business opportunities in Entebbe as an airport city.

Batenga cited transport and food businesses while Kibirige focused on fintechs and digital  businesses. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Mary Nanyondo, an Assistant Professor, Durham University, UK, says that it will be better to market Entebbe as a lake and airport city because of Lake Victoria and various activities associated with it such as transport, fishing, and other economic activities.

Nanyondo, who presented a research paper on challenges facing SMEs in the airport city and moving forward, noted that apart from the hospitality and tourism sectors,  most businesses (about 4,000)  in the municipality employ less than five people and have an annual turnover and assets of shillings 10 million.

However, the biggest challenge for this group is lack of access to affordable  finance.

"Only a handful of entrepreneurs are aware of the financial products and these are mainly bank loans and overdrafts. So financiers should be in the field to educate micro entrepreneurs on the various products," Nanyondo says.

Dan Lutaaya, the Deputy Town Clerk Entebbe Municipal Council, says the council is conducting a study on the potential for Kigungu, Kitooro and Nakiwogo landing site to become business centres in Entebbe.

Julius Nsubuga, the spokesperson for UNCC Entebbe branch, says the summit aims at bringing together stakeholders and public and private sector players 

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He adds that "Entebbe is Uganda's main entry and exit by air and it is a peninsula and several businesses including tourism, transport can startup and thrive because of the airport and Lake Victoria."

Nsubuga further explains that  Entebbe Business Summit will act as a model to roll out business summits in other cities such as Arua, Jinja, Soroti among others.