EXPANSION work on the Victoria Falls International Airport is progressing well and expected to be complete by mid- next year, the Financial Gazette’s Companies & Markets (C&M) has established. The US$150 million project entails the construction of a new four kilometer runway, a new international terminal building, new fire station, new control tower and installation of state-of-the art aviation specialist equipment.
Financed by a loan from the Export-Import Bank of China, the project is being carried out by a Chinese construction company, Jiangsu International Economic and Technical Cooperation Group. The project is aimed at raising the airport’s passenger capacity from the current 500 000 up to about 1,5 million annually, with the ability to accommodate long-haul aircrafts from abroad. The new facilities are expected to increase efficiency in Zimbabwe’s tourism hub as well as improve its image.
Speaking to C&M on the sidelines of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) annual congress held at the end of June, Deputy Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Developments, Petronella Kagonye, said the new runway was about 50 percent complete while the new terminal building was about 30 percent complete. “We are delighted that the project is going on very well,” said Kagonye.
“The whole idea is to expand it to accommodate bigger aircrafts and we are expecting completion to be done by mid next year.” She added: “And in terms of the actual airport, they are now about 30 percent to completion. They are still on track and we are also expecting them to be done by mid next year.”
The old terminal building has also been rehabilitated and tourists no longer queue outside. The tourism sector has registered significant growth in recent years, resulting in some of the world’s major carriers, among them Dubai-based Emirates, launch services to Zimbabwe. The country, through the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ), which is wholly owned by government, has been upgrading its airports infrastructure to support the country’s resurgent tourism industry.
Apart from the Victoria Falls, CAAZ which is responsible for regulating and managing Zimbabwe’s airspace and airports upgraded Bulawayo’s Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport to increase its capacity as well as enabling it to provide modern facilities and services. The airport has been under construction for close to 10 years with the aviation authority understood to have spent more than US$25 million in upgrading the facility.
It invested more than US$30 million in refurbishing the Harare International Airport runway and taxiway. CAAZ also requires more than US$400 million to invest in other airports facilities to keep them in line with international standards. Zimbabwe has eight airports which have not been upgraded in the past decade due to the unavailability of funds to implement projects covering airports, airspace and human capital development. Smaller airports such as Buffalo Range and others require attention including the establishment of airspace navigation infrastructure.