From : Daily-mail.co.zm
19 October 2012
By CHARLES CHISALA
SOUTHERN Province permanent secretary Chileshe Mulenga could not help but smile at the sight of the construction works currently underway at Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport recently.
Dr Mulenga was on a tour of the Department of Meteorology’s provincial offices and facilities within the airport premises.
“From what I have seen and what you have told me this will no doubt be one of the best airports in the region,” Dr Mulenga said after a briefing by airport manager Joseph Mumbi.
Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport has become a major gateway to Zambia’s bourgeoning tourism industry following President Sata’s declaration of Livingstone as the country’s tourist capital last year.
Those who visited or travelled through the facility a year ago will agree that it desperately needed a makeover if it had to justify Livingstone’s new status as the citadel of Zambia’s tourism. Luckily, the government was not blind to that need.
No country can expect to reap tangible benefits from tourism if it does not have decent airports with internationally acceptable standards. And it is with this reality in mind that Government embarked on an ambitious expansion programme aimed at upgrading the country’s airport infrastructure.
The expansion project at Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport forms the flagship of this expansion programme, and was showcased when Zambia and other African countries met at the Zambezi Sun Hotel in Livingstone from August 27 to 29, 2012 to discuss the development of the continent’s ageing airport infrastructure.
The three-day 21st Airports Council International-Africa regional conference was held under the theme ‘Overcoming the Challenges of Airports Development in Africa’ in the comforts of the serene Zambezi Sun International Hotel in the Mosi-O-Tunya National Park.
National Airports Corporation Limited (NACL) managing director Robinson Misitala, whose company ably hosted the conference, had every reason to brag. He seized the opportunity to show off Zambia’s ambitious multitrillion kwacha airport expansion programme.
It could not have come at a better time. Africa has recorded a steady growth in air passenger traffic in the last decade. For example Zambia’s Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport, which was built in 1952, registered an increase from 8,963 international passengers in 2000 to an impressive 203,803 in 2011, according to NACL.
The ACI-Africa office gives credence to his optimism with some encouraging statistics on its website.
“In 2009, airports worldwide welcomed 4.8 billion arriving and departing passengers and handled 79.8 million metric tonnes of cargo and 74.1 million movements. ACI regular members represent over 96 per cent of the world’s passenger traffic ….,” the organisation says.
But these gains are being threatened by incapacity resulting from obsolete infrastructure, understaffing and inadequate investment. Minister of Transport, Works, Supply and Communication Christopher Yaluma put this reality check in perspective when he officially opened the conference.
“Investment in Africa has gone up to 15 percent in the last five years. This is according to the United Nations Development Programme,” he said.
He then put ice on this encouraging statistic by noting that although the growth in the industry seems remarkable, placing Africa among the fastest growing continents, there is need to hasten infrastructure development to remain afloat and keep pace with global developments.
Fortunately, Zambia has refused to sit on its laurels. Government has responded to this challenge with the multitrillion kwacha expansion programme.
The new international terminal building and an annex to serve as the domestic terminal are under construction at Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport in Livingstone as already stated.
“We are in a hurry to improve infrastructure at all the four international airports,” Mr Yaluma declared.
Mr Mumbi gave weight to the minister’s assertion when he assured the Livingstone Tourism Investment Forum at Chrismar Hotel that the whole project is expected to be completed by the end of June next year in readiness for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly billed for August next year.
The assurance drew a smile and a nod from Minister of Tourism and Arts Sylvia Masebo who has publicly declared that Zambia has no choice but to co-host the general assembly successfully because it has all it takes to pull such a feat.
NACL public relations manager Geoffrey Chipolyonga reeled out some figures to give Ms Masebo further assurance.
“The US$12 million facility is to be built in three phases. Phase one of the project should be completed by December 2012. Under phase one the concourse, administration wing, departure lounge and all commercial areas will have been built,” Mr Chipolyonga said.
The arrivals hall, drop-off zone and walkways will come under phase two at a cost of US$5.13 million. If the artist’s impression of the new airport is anything to go by, it will surely stand among the best and biggest in the region once completed as Dr Mulenga mused.
The Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, Mr Yaluma announced, will also undergo the most extensive expansion to be phased over the next few years at a cost of about US$500 million while Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe in Ndola, which is earmarked for relocation, and Mfuwe will also receive massive facelifts at a cost of about US$1.3 billion.
These projects will not only bring a boost to the economy but also help reduce poverty through the creation of hundreds of direct and indirect jobs.
The UNWTO general assembly is expected to trigger an unprecedented increase in air passenger traffic into and out of Lusaka and Livingstone. Hundreds of local and foreign delegates are expected to descend on the cosmopolitan city via Harry Mwaanga Nkumula International Airport.
The tourist capital has already become quite busy in recent months, especially between 11:00 hours and 16:00 hours, as groups of tourists fly in and out of the city.
Mr Mumbi excited delegates to the Livingstone Investment Forum when he declared that by December or early January the main concourse will have been completed. “We are confident that the whole project will have been completed by June next year,” he said.
The airport, which was built mainly for the domestic market, lies five kilometres from the tourist capital and 15 kilometres from the awesome Victoria Falls, a world heritage site and a magnet for both local and foreign tourists throughout the year.
On September 12, 2012 Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda unveiled a K32.2 trillion national budget for 2013 out of which K32.2 billion will be spent on tourism marketing and promotion. This resourcing will raise marketing to unprecedented levels and attract more local and foreign tourists into the country, particularly Livingstone.
The announcement of the bounty comes barely weeks after the Ministry of Finance announced that Government has released K180 billion to rehabilitate roads in Livingstone to prepare the city to co-host the UNWTO general assembly.
All these developments are indications that Zambia must assure the tourists from all the four corners of the globe that it is a destination worth coming to and that it has the capacity to successfully co-host the UNWTO general assembly.
Upgrading Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport will be one way of communicating that assurance to the expectant tourism world.