President Paul Kagame has said that the envisioned Bugesera International Airport will not only support Rwanda's socio-economic transformation but also facilitate economic integration of the East African Community and boost intra-Africa trade.
The President was speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of Bugesera International Airport in Rilima of Bugesera District, Eastern Province.
Construction works for the first phase of the airport are set to take about 27 months and end by December 2019 at a cost of about $400m.
Following completion, the facility is expected to take about three months to acquire necessary licenses before becoming operational.
Kagame said that the undertaking is important for the country's development strategy and would have impact across various sectors, including tourism, trade, aviation finance and ICT, sector among others.
"The Kigali International Airport continues to improve in terms of infrastructure, services and efficiency. However this new airport will be better suited to our national vision," Kagame said.
"The Bugesera International Airport is an important part for Rwanda's strategy for socio-economic transformation, it is key to our ambitions to grow tourism and trade, aviation, finance and ICT sector," he said.
Beyond its local impact, Kagame said that the proposed facility will also an important component in boosting intra-Africa trade which currently stands at around 15 per cent, as well as strengthen economic integration in the EAC region.
"We also see this facility as an important component in strengthening economic integration of our region and boosting intra-Africa trade, investment and business," the Head of State said.
The airport will have some of the latest features such as modern cargo handling facilities, capacity to handle about 1.8m passengers annually, 22 check-in counters, six boarding bridges, multiple commercial spaces, among others.
The President added that the facility will serve to complement the growth of the national carrier RwandAir as well as improve access to the country by people from across the world.
He promised Rwandans that the project would be delivered as promised and that it would meet the highest standards to ensure that it competes favourably with other airports across the world.
"It is also a logical complement to our national carrier RwandAir as well as our efforts to facilitate visas for Africans and visitors. Rwandans to whom we are accountable are used to having high expectations and they trust us to deliver on this promise.
"This means ensuring that Bugesera International Airport is constructed to the highest standards, completed in good time and offering quality services that compete favourably with the rest of the world," he said.
The government will also set up an airport city serving the airport which is further expected to boost economic activity in the region.
To undertake the project, the government, through Aviation Travel and Logistics Holding Limited, has set up a joint venture with the contractor, Mota Engil Africa, dubbed Bugesera Airport Company.
Mota Engil Africa has a majority stake in Bugesera Airport Company with 75 per cent while the government has 25 per cent stake.
Bugesera Airport Company will build, own and operate the facility for 25 years before transferring it to the government.
Kagame assured Mota Engil Africa of Government's support in undertaking the project saying that all services and utilities required will be availed in good time.
"I wish to assure you of our government commitment, support and partnership to see this airport completed and operational. You can count on the Government to ensure that all the services and utilities required for the airport required are ready in good time," he said.
Speaking to The New Times on the sidelines of the launch, Antonio Mota, the chairman of Mota Engil Group, said that the firm has experience in infrastructure development in over 20 countries across Africa, Europe and Latin America.
In Africa, the firm has developed all of Angola's airports, among other projects.
He said that, for them, it is important to not only deliver quality results but also complete the project within the agreed time.
"We do not believe in being the biggest firm, but we always want to be the best," he said.
He said that finances will not be a challenge, adding that they have already secured the necessary funds to undertake the project.
The Minister for Infrastructure, James Musoni, told The New Times that the project is also expected to have several impacts including job creation, business opportunities and utilities rollout.
The project is expected to create about 6,000 jobs as well as present multiple business opportunities.
"Already, in the process of clearing up the ground for the construction of the airport, a number of local contractors have had access to opportunities," Musoni said.
In addition to this, Musoni noted that, in the course of 2018, the airport site and the surrounding region will have access to utilities such as water, electricity and high speed internet connectivity.