Lincoln Towindo, Harare Bureau
EXPANSION of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare will begin anytime with construction equipment now en route to the site as Government last week gave legal backing to a US$153 million loan secured from China recently.
The loan facility from Export-Import Bank of China was secured during President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent State visit to China. Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa made the announcement of the approval of the loan by Harare through a Government Gazette published on Friday.
During the high-level visit to the Asian country, Government secured several multimillion-dollar deals including immediate funding for Hwange Thermal Power Station’s Units 7 and 8 and NetOne’s Phase 3 expansion. Harare is also set to receive the first tranche of the US$1 billion Hwange deal any time for the project which will be implemented over three-and-a-half years.
Already US$10 million of the US$71 for NetOne’s expansion has been released with the remainder set to be disbursed progressively. The country also received a US$20 million package to help ease liquidity challenges.
Since the visit, several delegations from the Oriental state have travelled to Harare to follow up and concretise some of the agreed deals. Minister Chinamasa signed the airport expansion deal on behalf of the Government.
Reads the latest notice: “It is hereby notified, in terms of Section 300(3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) of 2013, that Zimbabwe, represented by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, concluded a loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China, dated 4th April, 2018, on the following terms:
“(a) the loan is the amount of (RMB 1 045 139 500,00 approximately US$153 million) one billion and forty-five million one hundred and thirty-nine thousand and five hundred yuan only approximately one hundred and thirty-three million United States dollars;
“(b) the period of the loan is twenty (20) years with a grace period of seven (7) years at an interest rate of two percent (2 percent) per annum, and commitment fees of zero two five percent (0,25 percent) per annum once off payment;
“(c) the loan will be utilised for the purpose of the development and upgrading of the Robert Mugabe International Airport.”
The expansion project will be undertaken by Chinese engineering firm, China Jiangsu, the same company behind the successful upgrading of Victoria Falls International Airport. Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo said all was set for the airport expansion project.
The expansion of Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport will increase the facility’s capacity from handling just over two million travellers to about six million annually. Our Harare Bureau understands that the extensive facelift will include modernisation of facilities at the airport, with the car park set to be transformed into a multi-storey facility that can handle hundreds of vehicles. Modern airport bridges will also be installed at new gates while the runway will also be expanded further to allow for multiple landings at the same time. Currently, only one airplane can land at any given time. Technology will also be upgraded with a new radar system being deployed. Moving walkways, a slow-moving conveyor mechanism that transports passengers across a horizontal or inclined plane over a short to medium distance, will also be installed.
The development comes amid increasing interest by major international airlines to fly to Zimbabwe.
Already, Ethiopian Airlines has introduced flights to Victoria Falls, while Lufthansa and Rwanda Air are engaging the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe in pursuit of operating permits. The upgrade of the Victoria Falls International Airport has seen an increase in the number of direct flights to the resort town. Zimbabwe expects to attract an increasing number of tourists, especially from non-traditional markets. The rehabilitation of the transit facilities is intended to facilitate the movement of tourists.