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New Rwanda airport ready for take-off

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The new Busegera airport, located 25 kilometres southeast of Kigali, is expected to complement Kigali International Airport (pictured). Photo/FILE

The new Busegera airport, located 25 kilometres southeast of Kigali, is expected to complement Kigali International Airport (pictured). Photo/FILE 

By IGNATIUS SSUUNA Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, April 13   2013 at  15:57

In Summary

  • The government is finalising negotiations with China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC). The firm won the deal expected to cost over $650 million.
  • Authorities say the government will work with CSCEC to raise funding from Exim Bank.
  • Rwanda is becoming the focus a global and regional airlines because it has been under-served, and has potential for further growth.
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Rwanda is finalising talks with a Chinese firm to construct the Bugesera International Airport, as it seeks to address pressing capacity constraints at Kigali International Airport.

Silas Lwakabamba, the Minister of Infrastructure confirmed that the government was finalising negotiations with China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC). The firm won the deal expected to cost over $650 million. This is the largest investment in Rwanda’s history.

Authorities say the government will work with CSCEC to raise funding from Exim Bank.

Exim funds are usually concessionary loans that attract low interest rates and whose repayment is spread over a long period of about 20 years. The success of CSCEC in outbidding its competitors highlights the growing onslaught by Chinese firms looking for lucrative infrastructure deals in countries in the region.

The new airport, located 25 kilometres southeast of Kigali, is expected to complement Kigali International Airport, which is operating beyond its capacity of 300,000 passengers a year.

Data from Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority shows that passenger traffic through Kigali International Airport grew by 30 per cent to 488,903 last year, up from 377,327 in 2011.

With 300 flights every week, the current airport is operating 10 times above its capacity. The airport is currently being expanded as a short-term measure.

The new airport is expected to handle three million passengers annually.

The first phase of the construction begins this year, and is expected to end in 2017, at an estimated cost of $600 million. The construction includes a 4.2 kilometre-runway and cargo and passenger terminals capable of handling 1.8 million passengers annually.

This is expected to divert some traffic from Kigali International Airport.

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Rwanda joins other East African countries seeking to upgrade their airline infrastructure to rival Africa’s key hubs like Ethiopia and South Africa.

Analysts said that with most East African governments strapped for cash, they are likely to increase airport fees as they look for financing, a factor that would reduce the competitiveness of regional carriers by making their fares expensive, especially as they do not enjoy low fuel costs like their peers in the Middle East.

Since November last year, Kenya has been mulling over building a temporary terminal at its main airport as it awaits construction of the planned Ksh55 billion ($647 million) Greenfield facility — a project national carrier Kenya Airways is banking on to expand its operations and stem losses.

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