Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Coward International Airport, Entebbe

Advertising is big business and it shows because all over the city, billboards have sprung up en-mass and in the newspapers on television and radio, adverts are posted daily though on radio and television, the adverts run every five minutes or so.
The thing about adverts is what do we make of them? Are the people who are advertising looking at us as fools, as people who don’t know what we want and hence the need for them to tell us that they exist, sell so and so product and are forced to advertise?
Would we necessarily go out and buy a product simply because it has been advertised on Bukedde television or on Urban television? The people who advertise so think so and that is why they plunge a good proportion of their budgets into advertising.
Let’s pause there a while. The Entebbe airport of old and by old, I mean the Idi Amin, Military Commission and Obote II era, the airport was a far cry from what it is today.
To be honest, the airport was a ‘morgue’ but though a morgue, it did have its advantages. Then, if somebody was travelling, it was possible to walk to the check in counter with them. And at immigration if you slipped Immigration Officer kitu kidogo (something small) he would let you into the departure lounge and sit with your friend until their flight was boarding.
It was also possible to park your car right outside departures unlike today, where you park in the car park and have struggle with your luggage up the narrow stairways to the departure lounge.
And then I might also add, is that didn’t have to pay a parking fee. And how many of you knew that we used to be allowed on to the airport roof because there is a viewing gallery up there? I bet that one caught you out!
Okay so the airport was bland and morgue like. All the shops on the departure level were not there and once you had past immigration, again there was not a single duty free shop in sight save for one restaurant – if it could be called a restaurant because, it sold – well nothing. You were lucky to find the odd Pepsi or a samosa that had been rejected by previous travellers.   
And in its bland state one thing that was noticeable is that it was totally devoid of any commercial branding. There was not a single billboard in sight.
Today, all has changed because the airport has undergone a transformation in that somebody woke up and discovered that it has the potential to be a huge cash cow. Advertisers are fighting over the airport for space and the principal players are MTN, Orange, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) amongst others. And CAA, which, I presume owns and manages the airport, is only too happy to let the players tussle it out and in the process fill their coffers.
Looking at the airport from the apron, at the top of the building where it says ‘Entebbe International Airport’, those words are hardly visible because they have been obliterated by UWA and Orange signage. That is where the battle starts.
At immigration, MTN have snapped up the immigration booths while Stanbic Bank, United Bank of Africa and Cti battle it out on the peripherals for any space that CAA will give them.
But CAA, are not content. They want more, they want more money in their bank account and as long as there is space to sell, they are seemingly not contented with just selling off the immigration booths or the airports windows and walls. They have gone a step further and sold off the floor to the late comers like Protea Hotel and URA.
The Entebbe of old, though it looked bland, it also looked a far lot neater then than it does today because it now looks like a clowns outfit. And seeing it is all about money, there is no doubt that MTN and UWA who already have signage on either side of ‘Entebbe International Airport’ sign are probably in a protracted discussion to find out if they can prefix their names to the sign so it reads ‘MTN Entebbe International Airport’ or ‘UWA Entebbe International Airport’.
My fingers are crossed for perhaps Robert Kabushenga, Vision Group CEO might also decide to buy space and have a huge banner that reads: "The Coward International Airport, Entebbe.” If that happens, then CAA’s lunacy might also descend into selling advertising space on the runway too!  

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