African aviation experts discuss airports expansion

[CAVIE/ACCI] Several experts in the aviation sector from different African countries are meeting in Kigali for the fifth annual Africa Airport Expansion Summit. The two-day summit has brought together government officials, investors, civil aviation authorities and airport management groups, as well as consultants, architects, construction companies, equipment providers and service groups.

Africa Airport Expansion Summit

Organisers indicated that the majority of airports in Africa are undergoing expansion in a bid to cater for rapidly growing passenger and cargo traffic volumes.

“It is expected that by 2020, African passengers and traffic will double, so the airports need to adapt to this growing need and growing demand. This is why there’s a lot of expansion plans going on into the existing airports, but also ambitious plans to build green field airports,” said Alexander Herring one of the organisers.

During the opening on Monday, Clare Akamanzi, the CEO of Rwanda Development Board highlighted Rwanda's plans to contribute to the growing expansion of African airports, and commended the organisers for choosing Rwanda as the host of such a big summit.

"The 5th Annual Africa Airport Expansion Summit is timely, building the momentum of Rwanda's aviation sub sector growth rate. Rwanda has prioritized the aviation industry setting a zero tax levy for companies with regional headquarters in Rwanda," she remarked.

Experts showed that booming tourism and renewed interest in investing in Africa by foreign companies has left many countries struggling to boost the capacity of their airports, and as a result airport development projects are mushrooming across Africa.

Herring mentioned that countries also need to adopt technologies in order to improve expansion plans, but also build synergies. He argued that expansion of transport facilities is critical to the economy.

“We have realised that the doubling in passengers will go with the doubling of the economy. 33 per cent of the population is middle class, and it is expected to be 63 per cent in the next 20 to 22 years. This means these are the people who will want to travel more and more, and therefore the air transport is becoming more important,” he explained.

Rwanda’s airport expansion plans

Prudence Tuyishimire, the head of planning and development at Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA) said that Rwanda is currently expanding the existing airports, but also constructing new airport.

“This is because the aviation industry is growing very fast. There’s a need to make sure that the ground infrastructures are able to accommodate the traffic growth,” he said.

He said that Mota-Engil, a company contracted for construction of new airport project, will establish Bugesera into a fully-fledged international airport, tailored to market demand and main home base of RwandAir, the national carrier.

Last year, ForwardKeys– a company that predicts future travel patterns by crunching and analyzing booking transactions placed Kigali international airport in 3rd position, the fastest growing in Africa.

Once Rwanda’s on-going Bugesera airport construction activities are complete, Herring said, the airport will be the one of the green field airports in Africa, and he believes this will be a showcase for the other African countries.

Tuyishimire believes Rwanda benefits a lot from this summit, specifically in terms of strengthening the expertise of the local aviation industry players.
“Our aviation industry is young, and with this summit, our players get an opportunity to share experiences with other professionals who are having more expertise in this industry,” he noted.

Julius Bizimungu