25 June 2012

Zambia: Airports Face-Lift Welcome


THERE is no doubt that our airports, whether international ones or those that have no capacity for bigger planes to land are of poor standards compared to others in the region, let alone in neighbouring countries.

The Kenneth Kaunda International airport, (formerly Lusaka International airport) was built in the colonial days and to date, nothing has been done to make it in tune with other similar facilities in the southern African region. It still looks the same as it was in the 1960s.

A check at the Harare International airport just across the border in Zimbabwe will perplex many at how the installation looks and yet Zimbabwe gained its independence from colonial rule much later than Zambia.

There is nothing worth talking about for Ndola's Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International because it is far from being 'a real' international airport.

The story is the same for Livingstone's Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International airport which in recent years has only seen the improvement of the runway, here and there.

But all the above negatives of our airports will soon be a thing of the past because the government, through the National Airports Corporation (NAC) has announced a major breakthrough that will not only see the international airports undergoing extensive expansion and rehabilitation, but the smaller airports like Mfuwe in eastern province would also benefit to make them at least attractive.

The NAC chief executive Robinson Misitala in his presentation on a panel discussion titled AVIATION: SAFE SKIES FOR AFRICA SPACE INTEGRATION that took place in Cincinnati, Ohio at the US-Africa Business Conference, made this important revealation about our airports.

He said the Kenneth Kaunda International airport would be under- going the most extensive expansion that would be phased over the next few years.

A new terminal building at Kenneth Kaunda International designed for International arrivals and departures would replace the current facility at a cost of about US$200 million while aprons and taxiways would also be constructed and a new control tower developed.

Mr Misitala said the expansion programme was based on a $725,000 US funded study by the aviation consultancy group, Leigh Fischer Associates.

According to the study, the Kenneth Kaunda International airport would become a major business and cargo port because of its geographical position in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

We agree with Mr Misitala that great business opportunities in infrastructure development now exist in Zambia like in Livingstone where tourist arrivals are expected to increase, on the Copperbelt where mining has been revamped and in Lusaka where more investors are investing in various businesses.

In recent months, Zambia has seen an increase in international flights to Zambia such as the Emirates, KLM and Precision Air. All these mean that the country should have modern airports big enough to handle traffic especially that Zambia is supposed to be the hub of the SADC region in as far as connecting of flights is concerned.

What Mr Misitala announced brings about a sense of joy to Zambians and of course to the outside world and we can only hope that the projects will take off as soon as possible especially that already, NAC has received 19 bids to do the job.

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