Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
THE newly established Airports Company of Zimbabwe (ACZ) is working on constructing a new US$13 million tower at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo as part of its immediate mandate to upgrade infrastructure at the country’s airports.
ACZ came into being after Government unbundled the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) into two entities last year to avoid conflict of interest. After unbundling, CAAZ maintains its name and identity, but its mandate will be limited to regulatory functions, while ACZ’s key mandate will be to acquire, establish and manage airports in the country.
In an interview on the sidelines of the launch of the company’s brand in Bulawayo last week, ACZ chief executive officer (CEO) Mr Tawanda Gusha said they were ready to kick-start some of the projects earmarked to gobble $23 million.
“We are working on constructing an air traffic control tower at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo which requires about US$13 million including the equipment that will be installed in the tower, as well as other ancillary facilities at the airport. For the Buffalo Range Airport the remedial works that are taking place at the moment are likely to cost anything around US$10 million. The other projects are at different stages of implementation but mostly at pre-feasibility study which will then tell us the indicative costs of the project,” said Mr Gusha.
In addition to the Robert Mugabe International Airport development project, Mr Gusha said they were in the procurement stages for the refurbishment of infrastructure at Buffalo Range Airport in Chiredzi. He said they wanted to see improvement in the aircraft parking area (airport apron) as well as the run way and taxi ways.
“We have plans to upgrade Charles Prince Airport in Mount Hampden just outside Harare. Meanwhile there is a medium to long-term programme of relocating Kariba Airport from where it currently is to a new site which has already been identified. This will be a green field project.”
He said as a new entity they were mandated to maintain and upgrade airports infrastructure so that they could grow their revenue streams in line with the NDS1 and Vision 2030. Mr Gusha said with infrastructure development they will be contributing to the national economic development through employment creation during the construction period and also the effect of new infrastructure in attracting new traffic that will be coming into the country.
“As ACZ we are contributing to the growth of the national economy through our infrastructure thrust and also through the operating of the airports that are under our purview as well as new airports that are to come. We are focused on ensuring that while we are developing the infrastructure, we also going out there to look for business, airlines and invites airlines to fly into our airports.”
Mr Gusha said when the Victoria Falls International Airport development project was completed in 2016 it brought about traffic from 2017 to 2019 on an upward trend. He said it has also been proven through studies that have been carried out by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that where a country invests in infrastructure, it is likely to experience growth not only in traffic but also in the national GDP.
Mr Gusha said through their collaboration with the tourism sector they were aiming at growing the aviation, while providing downstream positive effects on the tourism industry. Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona said the commissioning of the new brand brought with it stimulating feelings of new birth, creation, innovation and ingenuity. Minister Mhona said the Government led by President Mnangagwa was a leading supporter of airports infrastructure upgradation.
“In line with Vision 2030, and targets set out in the NDS1, he has shown us direction by courting massive investment towards the national flagship project, RGM International Airport Development Project. The estimated project cost is US$153 million funded through a concessionary loan facility extended by the Government of the People’s Republic of China through the China Export Import Bank.”
The minister said if air transport was leveraged by robust airport infrastructures as envisaged at RGM, it has the potential to become the fulcrum of economic growth for the country. He noted that Air Zimbabwe had relaunched its Harare-Johannesburg route and plans were afoot for the airline to acquire a new set of Embraer wings to service its perennial and lucrative routes.
“The ACZ is mandated to ensure reliable, safe and world-class airports infrastructure and services which support tourism, trade and general economic development. Airports have become citadels of growth which must attract lucrative business such as global flagship hotel brands.”