Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport has NOT been sold to China!

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OLD footage of a news broadcast with the claim that a Ugandan international airport has been sold to China has resurfaced online, particularly on TikTok.

The video, alongside multiple media reports, initially went viral over two years ago. The report was published on various news platforms then archived here, herehere, here and here.

The resurfaced claim was contained in a 115-seconds news footage posted recently by a TikTok user: @beliverug on January 16, 2024.

The video contains a news broadcast by WION, an Indian-English language news channel and it had the inscription that read thus: “Uganda airport sold CC: WION. greed corruption.

In the footage, a news anchor could be seen reading the news before the footage switched from him to a moving airplane in an airport.

The texts translation of the news footage read in part:

“…Meanwhile, Uganda has lost its only international airport that it had to China after it failed to repay it’s loan. Uganda is the latest African nation to fall into China’s debt trap and has had to give up one of it’s key national asset to China because it was not able to repay the installments of the loan.

“In 2015 China’s export import bank had lent Uganda a sum of 207 million dollars . The loan had maturity billing of about 20 years including a seven year grace period but African media outlets had reported that the loan had repayment conditions which allowed the Chinese lender to take possesion of the EntebBe International airport. The Only international airport in Uganda…”

The post has since gone viral with over 13,500 likes, more than 2,700 comments and over 4,000 shares as of January 27, 2024.

The claim has also appeared online here, here and here respectively, including on YouTube earlier as seen here.

 

CLAIM

Ugandan international airport has been sold to China.

 

THE FINDINGS

Findings by The FactCheckHub show that the claim is FALSE!

Screenshot of the news footage. INSERT: False verdict.
Screenshot of the news footage. INSERT: False verdict.

Some local and international media platforms had reported in November 2021 that China had taken over Uganda’s only international airport, the Entebbe International Airport.

For instance, a couple of Nigerian newspapers such as SaharaReporters, The Guardian and the Peoples Gazette had, in 2021, reported the Chinese government’s take over of the Ugandan airport. The Punch also published an opinion piece in December 2021 citing Uganda’s loss of the airport to China.

The reports, which were taken out of context, had generated misinformation about the airport after a Ugandan newspaper, Daily Monitor, published a report stating that the country could lose the Entebbe International Airport to China in an arbitration case with the China EXIM Bank, which is financing the $207 million expansion of the facility.

However, Reuters had, in 2021, reported that China had rejected the allegations of planning to take over the facility if the country defaults on its loan. The report stated that the loan agreement was not made public.

Aerial view of Entebbe International Airport and environs.
Aerial view of Entebbe International Airport and environs.

A Ugandan lawmaker, Joel Ssenyonyi, who chairs the committee that conducted the parliamentary probe, said then that it gives China Exim Bank approval powers over the airport’s annual budgets and that the loan terms allow China to “grab” the airport in case of default.

Ssenyonyi also noted in the report that Uganda is locked out entirely as the contract is one-sided. He also noted that an attempt by Uganda to renegotiate the loan terms had been rebuffed by the China Exim Bank citing disclosures to the committee by the finance minister, Matia Kasaija.
Nigeria’s The Cable newspaper had also on November 29, 2021 published a news report which stated that the Chinese embassy in Uganda and the Ugandan government denied the reported take over of the Entebbe International Airport.
It would be recalled that The FactCheckHub had earlier in December 2021 published an explainer on the issue when it went viral then, spurring misinformation about Chinese loans and projects in Africa.
Further checks revealed that the Entebbe International Airport is currently being managed by the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA), the Ugandan government’s aviation regulatory agency.
The Ugandan international airport was constructed at Entebbe in 1947 and commissioned by the Queen Elizabeth of England in 1951.

THE VERDICT

The claim that the Ugandan international airport has been sold to China is FALSE; the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA), the country’s aviation regulatory agency, currently runs the Entebbe International Airport.

Fact-checker at The FactheckHub | [email protected] | + posts

Seasoned fact-checker and researcher Fatimah Quadri has written numerous fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy pieces for The FactCheckHub in an effort to combat information disorder. She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected].

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