Kampala. Uganda’s trade and tourism ties with South Africa have been the largest contributors to the 15-year stay of South African Airways (SAA) in Uganda.
According to SAA, the growing business and tourism interests between the two countries have seen demand for air travel services rise.
At a dinner marking their 15-year existence in the Ugandan market on Tuesday, SAA Uganda country manager Yogi Biriggwa said they control the largest market share on the Uganda - South African route, partly as a result of tourism and trade ties.
“We are pleased to contribute to the growth in bilateral trade and tourism between Uganda and the 56 destinations we serve, especially South Africa,” Ms Birigwa said.
Trade statistics from Bank of Uganda indicate that trade between South Africa and Uganda as of 2014 was valued at $253m (Shs836b), up from $233m (Shs770b) in 2013. The trade, however, remains largely one sided as Uganda imported goods worth $244m (Shs806b) in 2014 up from $226m (Shs747b) in 2013.
However, Uganda only exported goods worth $9m (Shs30b) in 2014, up from $7.3m (Shs24b) in 2013.
Uganda remains a net importer from South Africa as the presence of companies from that country has been growing stronger. Apples, oranges, wines, spirits, electronics, construction equipment and labour are some of the imports into Uganda.
Shoprite, Game and Eskom among others, are net importers of South African products. MTN Uganda and Stanbic Bank Uganda are both South African-owned businesses, which dominate Uganda’s banking and telecom sectors. “South Africa is one of the fastest growing sources of direct foreign investment for Uganda. From telecom, entertainment, finance, infrastructure, insurance and industry,” Ms Biriggwa said in a separate interview with Daily Monitor.
According to The Uganda Association of Travel Agents chairperson Pearl Hoarea, South Africa, as a tourist destination has so much to offer, from the winelands to the heritage, tourism and Nelson Mandela as an icon.”
The visa rules
The Uganda Association of Travel Agents raised concern about South Africa’s Visa rules that had placed several restrictions on entry into South Africa. The new rules affect travellers to South Africa.
However, the South African High Commission had earlier announced that frequent travellers to South Africa would get multiple visa entries of up to three years.
There were also concerns around the transit visa that Ugandans are expected to pay if they want to visit South Africa’s neighbouring countries.
“As I conclude, I request that you do away with the transit visas in order to allow more connections for passengers from Uganda,” said Works and Transport minister John Byabagambi.