Analysis: Why British Airways quit Uganda


I have been teaching change for some time and now and again you anticipate the change and a times it hits you without knowing.

British airways has announced its flight plans to Entebbe.

Starting October, they will no longer fly a direct flight to Entebbe which have been 3 to 5 times a week.

The company that BA succeeded was the first one to land in Entebbe years back. It is said possibly in 1940s. Today, BA is pulling out of the market it started.

What are the causes of these? BA says the route is not profitable. Of course it is not primarily because there is not much trade anymore between the United Kingdom and Uganda.

The world has changed. The trade is between Asian countries and African countries. It is not surprising therefore that Emirates has a daily flight so has Qatar so has Etihad.

Ethiopian has three flights a day into Entebbe not because of trade but because of it has a marketing gain to link Ugandans to different parts of the world so does Kenya airways.

It too links Ugandans to various countries and various markets. It has four flights into Entebbe everyday.

The change in nature of business has seen industries relocate from Europe to Asia.

Today, china is the world’s factory that is where everything is produced today. Dubai, has been the world’s distributor of goods especially for Africa and the Middle East.

Dubai also launched a tourism strategy that has attracted tourists to it making tourism one of the biggest sources of revenues to Dubai.

Countries like Egypt with traditional tourist sites have not matched Dubai’s strategy despite their centrality in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

That is a result of lack of strategy because Egypt could fly people and goods more easily to the United States, Europe and Asia from Africa than Dubai does.

But it is possible, the strategists in Egypt have not seen this potential. They would be competing favourably with emirates.

British airways flies daily to Nairobi with a bigger capacity plane because there are more Britons in Kenya and there is a lot of British owned businesses in Kenya.

Uganda lost British businesses in 1972 when Amin ordered foreigners out of the country many relocated to Nairobi. It is easier to manufacture from Kenya than in Uganda.

As a result business has never returned to Uganda. It is therefore viable for British airways to fly into Nairobi.

Besides Kenya has a bigger tourist market and therefore BA ferries many Britons to Kenya. It cannot therefore get out of the Kenyan market that easily.

The other reason why BA s leaving Uganda, it is something that possibly looks far-fetched. As a British colony, every Ugandan who wanted to go abroad, preferred Britain.

Indeed the migrants from most African countries many of whom we have seen die in the Mediterranean sea, want to end up in the United Kingdom.

This is because London is a more multi-cultural city than other cities in Europe. However the British economy cannot take up all these migrants and as a result a British visa is not something easy to secure.

Today, if you want a visa from Britain, it is processed either in South Africa or Addis Ababa.

Studying in Britain is also not an easy thing. It costs a fortune over shs.100 a year for a Ugandan to study in the United Kingdom. You can imagine how many people could afford that money.

The Visa restriction has also made people hate to use the British Airways for any trip even to Europe.

Adieu British Airways. Times have changed. I used to be a gold card member of the BA. I have been downgraded to blue because I rarely use their airline.

It is the shortest route to UK and the US but its flights have not been flexible enough.

Flying through Nairobi will make it slightly expensive and the journey will take much longer.

For a customer with many airlines to choose from, those with the British Airlines tradition will continue to fly BA.

Prof Waswa Balunywa, the author, is a Principal of Makerere University Business School (Mubs)

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