President Yoweri Museveni has directed Chinese firms involved in big infrastructure projects to use locally produced materials largely to support domestic companies and the country’s economy.
Chinese firms have won multibillion contracts for local major projects that include the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), hydropower dams at Isimba and Karuma and the expansion of Entebbe international airport.
“These projects should be as much as possible connected to local inputs. The contractor should try to use local materials such as cement, steel and other products,” Museveni stated on Saturday.
The president was launching a $200 million (Shs 726 billion) project to upgrade Entebbe International airport. The works are undertaken by China Communication and Construction Company (CCCC), which is also building the Kampala terminal, which will also get a facelift.
Officials say the new terminal will boost the airport capacity to handle three million passengers annually – up from 1,337, 261 recorded in 2014 . Before improvements for the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of State Summit that Uganda hosted, Entebbe’s traffic stood at 785,000.
Sitting on 10, 000 square metres, the new cargo centre will be equipped with cooling storage facilities for fresh fruits, fish and flowers for export. Transport minister John Byabagambi said they had agreed with the contractor to begin with the cargo centre and complete in the first year to respond to the urgent need for boosting Uganda’s horticulture exports.
The centre will also include offices for customs, police and airport security. The building will have large parking space for trucks bringing and picking up goods at the cargo centre. The airport’s existing runway will also be improved through the project.
On Saturday, President Museveni complained about dust and bushes near the runway. A proud cattle farmer, Museveni joked that the grass around the runway should be good for animals on his farm, and not at an international airport.
The government, through the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), secured a 20-year soft loan from the Export and Import Bank of China (EXIM) to finance the project.
The project is part of the National Civil Aviation Master Plan (CAMP) launched last year to address inefficiencies and growing international traffic flights at the airport. According to this plan, continuous upgrades through phases will equip Entebbe international airport with facilities to handle Airbus 380 flights by 2034.