Zeah Mathan is a Kenyan who schooled in Uganda for her A – Level and university studies. “In the process of struggling to raise school fees,” Mathan says “my eyes were opened to several opportunities that were unexploited by having an opportunity to travel between the two countries.”
She started buying some handkerchiefs with her pocket money which she sold in Kenya. “I was encouraged by the acceptance the Ugandan handkerchief received even though I sold them at a higher profit than I anticipated,” she narrates.
On her way to Uganda she carried electronic gadgets such as mobile phones which she sold to her Ugandan friends. Over time this became a business as friends turned out to be customers. The network grew and her parents were willing to put in some capital for her to complete school.
The rest, as they say, is water under the bridge. But in Mathan’s case the bridge of buying and selling between the countries has been fortified, even though she is now an accountant working in Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi.
The Air Uganda announcement to commence its direct, non-stop service from Mombasa to Entebbe will come in handy for Mathan. She will not be worried about travelling between the two countries every weekend, she says. The flight between the two destinations will begin on 3rd July 2011.
The Country Manager of Air Uganda, Njeri Wachira said “this service is the only direct connection from Mombasa Airport to Entebbe Airport and will provide a more seamless and faster connection for passengers.”
Wachira explained that the flight from Mombasa to Entebbe will be an important direct bridge between Mombasa and Uganda and will grow many new trade and tourism opportunities for both countries.
This will go a long way to enhancing transportation, which was identified as one of the problems hampering the people of the East African Community customs union from reaping the full benefits of integration with other countries.
A 2009 report made in conjunction with the EAC Secretariat entitled Benefits Experienced by Ordinary Citizens from the East Africa Community Regional Integration, said: “A small percentage of business owners stated that they needed to use alternative illegal routes between countries in order to carry out business” – owing to high taxes and requests for bribes on many routes.
In the same report 53 percent of Kenyans who were interviewed said finding access to Uganda offers them an opportunity for cheap goods and 26 percent of Ugandans have the same view. With Mombasa port being a key entry point for goods within the East Africa region, Air Uganda is poised to open up market opportunities for Kenyan and Ugandan entrepreneurs.
Key industry players in the manufacturing, construction, petroleum and the tourism sector will also greatly benefit from this direct service from Mombasa to Entebbe. Passengers on this flight will also earn air miles on Celestair’s frequent flyer program.
In its fourth year of operation, Air Uganda now flies three times daily from Nairobi to Entebbe. The airline continues to increase its footprint in the greater East African region with daily flights from its hub in Entebbe to Juba and Kigali, six flights weekly to Dar Es Salam and twice weekly to Zanzibar.
Air Uganda is a company affiliated to the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development. Together with Air Burkina and Air Mali they form the Group Celestair.
Read the full 2009 report: Benefits Experienced by Ordinary Citizens from the East Africa Community Regional Integration, by visiting: