$253m for airports upgrade
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) is working on plans to splash millions of dollars on airport development and refurbishment as it seeks to spur economic activities such as tourism and trade.
This comes as African continent aspires to create a unified air transport market through the establishment of a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
The African Union launched SAATM last week, a project that is expected to promote trade and cross-border investments, resulting in the creation of an additional 300 000 direct and two million indirect jobs.
Last week, Caaz announced that it has embarked on a global drive to lure back airlines to Zimbabwe and is developing and refurbishing airports infrastructure to meet current demands and standards.
Less than 20 international airlines are currently flying into the country, down from 34 which plied the route between 1999 and 2003.
Caaz public relations and communications manager, Mrs Anna Julia Hungwe said the aviation authority has budgeted approximately US$253 million for the development and refurbishment of airports infrastructure to meet current demands and standards.
"A budget of US$253 million has been budgeted for the airports upgrading, excluding Victoria Falls which was upgraded at a cost of US$150 million," said Mrs Hungwe.
Victoria Falls International Airport got a major facelift and can now handle wide-bodied aircraft and 1,5 million passengers per year.
The 2016 expansion and refurbishment resulted in the resort town's arrivals rising as international airlines started plying the route.
Eight airlines now fly into Victoria Falls. Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and South Africa's Airlink joined British Airways, Air Zimbabwe, South African Airways, Fastjet and Air Namibia.
Caaz expects to see similar benefits when it upgrades the other airports and has since engaged a consultant as it seeks to lure airlines to Zimbabwe.
Last year, Government secured a US$153 million loan from China the Export and Import Bank; this will be used to upgrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
Mrs Hungwe said Caaz plans to upgrade all small airports in the country.
Some of the airports under Caaz include the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport, Charles Prince, Masvingo, Hwange, Buffalo Range and Kariba airports.
Caaz is looking at funding the smaller airports using the Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs) model.
Said Mrs Hungwe: "While the R.G Mugabe International Airport upgrading is funded by Government through Caaz, the other domestic airports will be done using the PPPs model." Mrs Hungwe could not give timelines on when the program will commence but reiterated that plans are in place and that timelines will be availed in due course.
A modern and well run airport is seen as a key enabler for other economic activities such as tourism and trade.
According to experts, aviation is a vital tool for development globally and has the potential to improve economic and social benefits across the world.