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How idd amin dada created the airfreight export niche for uganda

Discussion in 'Biashara, Uchumi na Ujasiriamali' started by ByaseL, Jul 26, 2010.

  1. B

    ByaseL JF-Expert Member

    Jul 26, 2010
    Joined: Nov 22, 2007
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    Whether we like or loathe politics our destiny is generally influenced by its dynamics. As East Africans, for example, we are basically the same people but our socio-economic mindset or traits may differ because, by and large, we are a byproduct of our historical and political background.

    Take for instance, Field Mashall Idd Amin Dada (RIP), the former President of Uganda and the influence he had on his country. Idd Amin is one person whose politics during his tenure (1971-1979) changed the socio-economic and the political landscape of Uganda very profoundly. In this discussion I would like to examine, from an aviation perspective, how Amin's political actions shaped the demographic setup in that country, which a few years down the line influenced the socio-economic dynamics in Uganda.

    During the 1990s I was employed by Alliance Air (now defunct) based in Kampala, Uganda as Manager Market Planning and I also used to double as a Cargo Manager. Alliance Air (Y2) was flying a Boeing 747 Special Performance (SP) with a seating capacity of 248 seats and 25 tonnes of cargo space.

    Because of the symbiotic relationship with South African Airways (SAA) the technical and operational base of Y2 was in Johannesburg, South Africa. The airline had two weekly flights from Tanzania and Uganda to London Heathrow Airport. However, due to operational and bilateral requirements the flight originated from Johannesburg operating as SAA up to Dar Es Salaam and vice versa and then fly Dar Es Salaam-Entebbe-London and vice versa as Alliance Air.

    The flight Johannesburg-Dar Es Salaam and vice versa used to carry plenty of cargo but the sector Dar ES Salaam-Entebbe was virtually empty! However, the sector Entebbe-London was active in the sense that the northbound flights were almost full and my preoccupation as the Cargo Manager was to market, control capacity and interact with cargo shippers.

    I learnt that although there is a diversity of shippers in Uganda, Alliance Air's clients were from the fish industry, but mostly from the organic food exporters and very little from the horticultural export sector.

    The parking list of the organic foodstuff included pineapples, passion fruits, ginger (tangawizi), yams, ocra (bamia), green beans, sweet bananas, green bananas (matoke), peas, red and yellow pepper (Zaire species), cabbages and some other foodstuffs which my memory cannot recollect at the moment. I wondered why all this stuff was being exported only from Uganda and not from my mother country, Tanzania which also boasts of the same as well and in plenty.
    I also found out that although the horticultural industry is booming in Uganda, the mainstream scheduled airlines were missing out on this business because horticultural shippers preferred cargo charters to scheduled airlines. Firstly, because of limited space on scheduled airlines. Secondly and more importantly, it is not recommended to mix organic food (especially fruits) with flowers because the former generate carbon dioxide which affects the quality of the latter.

    The question was- why should Uganda export organic food to the United Kingdom (UK) and not Tanzania? There are two reasons for this and all have to do with Idd Amin's political aftermath. President Amin ruled Uganda with an iron fist. The first victims of Amin's misadventures were "Ugandans" of Asian descent. One morning the President woke up and announced to a bewildered world that he had a vision directing him that all Asians residents in Uganda holding U.K and other foreign citizenship must leave Uganda. And this must happen within 90 days! In the event, Asians left en-masse with very little property. The majority went and settled in the U.K, some went to Canada and Australia while very few Asians with Ugandan citizenship stayed behind. Over the years the "expelled Asians" have produced and prospered very well abroad but most of them didn't forget their roots especially eating habits.

    The second casualties of the Field Marshall's misrule were indigenous Ugandans. As the internal and external resistance against Amin's reign intensified, the regime started seeing a snake in every shrub and turned its terror machine against its own people. Many of Amin's friends and foes alike were forced to flee into exile to neighbouring countries like Tanzania but some particularly the professionals went overseas. Because of the void left by the expelled Asian businesspeople, the Ugandan economy soon started crumbling forcing even ordinary Ugandans to look for greener pastures elsewhere especially in the U.K, USA and Canada. In essence, these become economic refugees. Like the Asians, indigenous Ugandans have over the period produced and multiplied thus creating a large community of Ugandan Diaspora. In this regard, to-date remittances from the Ugandan Diaspora is one of the leading sources of foreign exchange for that country.

    As a result of these two "exoduses" (Asians and Ugandans) especially to the U.K, there has been a growing demand for organic food and naturally the obvious source of supply is Uganda. And because this kind of food is highly perishable the quickest means of transportation to reach the target markets is by airfreight.

    I also came to learn two important things in this supply chain. First, while the suppliers of these foodstuffs are Ugandans based in Uganda, the Asians in the U.K are the importers and distributors in this supply equation. Alliance Air was a preferred carrier of choice by shippers because the flight used to depart from Entebbe close to midnight and arrive at Heathrow AirportWestern Europe by trucking. at 6:00 am in the morning. This was the perfect time for traders to receive their goods for onward distribution to other parts of U.K and some parts in

    Secondly, because there are very few Asians in Uganda, the importers (Asians) in the U.K teamed up with local suppliers (Ugandans) to cultivate their own farms in Uganda for producing the foodstuff for export. However, there are also out-growers who supply to the shippers. Usually Asian importers raise the capital and use the Ugandan suppliers as proxies to buy land and to administer the farms on their behalf. In this way Asian importers are able to circumvent local barriers regarding land ownership and because of past experience avoid being targets of land grabbing or confiscation through political shenanigans.

    Through this win-win arrangement both the local suppliers and importers benefit immensely and this has created some wealthy Ugandan individuals and benefitted the country at large. Foreign carriers are also beneficiaries of this business through carriage of airfreight. When I left Kampala some shippers were venturing into exporting organic food to Canada and Boston, USA where a large community of Ugandans is also well entrenched.

    There is no doubt that Idd Amin's draconian rule and invidious deeds devastated the socio-economic fabric of the Ugandan people and this is quite regrettable. Nevertheless, through this misfortune an opportunity emerged which both Ugandans and "Ex-Ugandans" are capitalizing on to create wealth, employment and contribute towards the development of Uganda. It is also through this rather dark and unfortunate political epoch that the airfreight export niche gradually evolved which to-date is still vibrant with the foreign airlines laughing all the way to the bank!

    Byase Luteke
  2. Bongolander

    Bongolander JF-Expert Member

    Jul 26, 2010
    Joined: Jul 10, 2007
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    The Question why not TAnzania, the answer is no one in TAnzania cares. If you ask any official from minisrty of agriculture the answer will be "we are looking into that" which means we are not doing anything. Kama waziri angekuwa mkulima mwenyewe then it is very likely that we would be doing the same.

    It is good though that Idi Amin kicked those people (ingawa si wote walikuwa wezi), the Brits are feeling the heat of having them in UK, good thing is that they left with fraud, not much fraud and curruption is left in Uganda.