RG Mugabe Airport upgrade begins

China Jiangsu International, the firm that won the bid to modernise the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport under a US$153 million concessional loan facility from the China Eximbank, has moved on site to begin works.

The Chinese State-owned firm, which has prominent global presence, started works last week by levelling the VVIP side, where two aero bridges will be erected.

The modernisation of the RG Mugabe International is in line with Government’s aspirations to rehabilitate aviation infrastructure across the country, as it seeks to attract more international airlines and passengers.

The upgrade of the RG Mugabe International Airport will conclude in 36 months.

Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo confirmed the development last week, saying it is remarkable that almost a month after the ground-breaking ceremony held on July 23, China Jiangsu has started works.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa was the guest of honour at the ground-breaking ceremony.

Said Dr Gumbo: “Very interesting work is taking place at the airport since the ground breaking ceremony that took place on July 23.

“This was a quick response on the implementation of the project by the company, China Jiangsu. I can confirm that they swiftly moved on site to start work to indicate that they are interested in the project.”

The modernisation of the airport will start from the VVIP section and will move to the rest of the airport, to ensure that flights are not affected.

On completion of the rehabilitation of the RG Mugabe International Airport, the country is expected to gain a competitive edge over its neighbours, who are continuously upgrading their main gateways.

The US$153 million airport facelift will bring in new technologies and efficiency in the facilitation of passengers, aircraft and cargo.

Three additional aero bridges, a new satellite fire station, a modern terminal building and a new VVIP pavilion are some of the key features to be added to the RG Mugabe International Airport.

Passenger handling capacity will also rise to six million per annum from the current 2,5 million.

The car park will be transformed into a multi-storey facility with capacity to handle hundreds of vehicles.

Said Dr Gumbo: “They have started by levelling the VVIP side. That side (the VVIP) will have two bridges for passengers and this means there will be no disturbances when travellers come in.

“So after finishing the VVIP side, they then move to the other side. A lot of work that is taking place there. We will also improve the car park.

“I was there on Tuesday last week to witness the implementation of the key project. We will also renovate the runway.”

The runway will be expanded to allow for concurrent multiple landings, as opposed to the current situation whereby planes land one at a time.

Given that RG Mugabe International Airport is the gateway into country, the modernisation project is targeted at ensuring that the airport reflects the hospitality of Zimbabwe, and the beginning of a memorable experience for visitors.

Government believes renovating the RG Mugabe International Airport plays a stimulus role in growing both passenger and aircraft movement.

The US$153 million loan agreement for the airport upgrade was signed on April 4 this year and in May, Parliament approved the modernisation of the airport after Finance and Economic Planning Minister Patrick Chinamasa had moved the motion seeking ratification of the major expansion project.

The concessional loan facility has a seven-year grace period, an annual 2 percent interest rate, 0,25 percent commission fees and management fees pegged at the same rate.

It has a tenure of 20 years inclusive of the seven-year grace period.

China Eximbank also provided the US$150 million loan used to upgrade the Victoria Falls International Airport, which has since recorded a surge in passenger arrivals.

Equally, China Jiangsu was the contractor for the Victoria Falls International Airport rehabilitation.

The Victoria Falls International Airport was commissioned on November 18, 2016 and has been recording a monthly average growth rate of 20 percent in passenger movement.

A number of airlines are now landing in Victoria Falls while others have increased seat numbers to meet demand.

The renovation of the RG Mugabe International Airport is in tandem with overall efforts to give a facelift to all airports and eventually construct new ones, especially in Beitbridge and Mutare.

Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) director of airports Mr Tawanda Gusha recently said Government is committed to improving the aviation sector.

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