TRYNESS TEMBO, Lusaka
IT IS anticipated that the expansion of the airports in the country will strongly drive the economic growth of Zambia.
It is projected that modernisation of the airports will facilitate an increase in arrivals.
In the past few years, the Zambia Airports Corporation Limited (ZACL) has embarked on major infrastructure development projects to upgrade the four international airports namely, Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA), Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula and Mfuwe.
The infrastructure development projects have been embarked on to accommodate the anticipated increase in traffic, cargo and passenger numbers.
Currently, Government has injected over US$1 billion in the construction of four international airports.
ZACL is mandated to manage the four international airports and the aviation firefighters stationed at the airports to protect the lives of travellers, workers, the infrastructure and the visiting members of the public.
Minister of Transport and Communication Brian Mushimba says 800 direct jobs will be created at KKIA in facility management and operations such as shopping malls, goods handling, hotel services, cargo and inflight cargo.
Mr Mushimba added that over 3,000 indirect jobs for cargo handlers, clearing agents, security, commercial shops, farmers and transporters will be created.
He said about 1,000 jobs will be created for technicians and general workers who have already been part of the project during the construction stage.
Meanwhile, the minister says Government is establishing the national airline in a partnership venture with Ethiopian Airlines as a strategic partner.
In the partnership, Government will hold 55 percent in the national airline while Ethiopian Airlines will hold 45 percent.
Mr Mushimba notes that the equity that Ethiopian Airlines brings to the partnership will primarily be in form of aircraft lease to the national Airline.
“Ethiopian Airlines will therefore lease and meet the costs for aircraft lease for the national airline from year one of operations until the Airline reaches a saturation point in terms of its requirements in line with the growth strategy of the national airline in the short, medium and long term,” he adds.
Mr Mushimba emphasised that the aviation sector is another aspect Government is working on for the purpose of making Zambia open to the outside world.
The national airline will open Zambia’s potential in various sectors of the economy and it is important that the country is air-linked.
Government believes that Zambia’s economy cannot survive with externalisation of resources which is done due to unavailability of a national airline.
The outlook of the aviation sector is positive with the coming of the national airline and expansion of the four international airports.
ZACL acting managing director Maggie Banda observed that works at KKIA are on schedule and expected to be completed by October 2019.
Ms Banda says KKIA will handle six million visitors per year once it is operational.
She also says the existing airport will be upgraded to meet the modern standards.
“The overall completion of KKIA is at 73 percent and the scheduled completion date is October 2019,” said.
In an effort to contribute to the growth of the Zambian aviation sector, the European Union (EU) has started implement the €5.6 million programme aimed at improving Zambia’s safety standards in the industry.
The four-year programme is the continuation from the previous programme, which ended in 2016 and assisted Zambia in improving the aviation sector to meet the international safety standards required by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
EU ambassador Alessandro Mariani believes that the aviation sector has the potential to contribute to the economic growth and job creation.
Mr Mariani notes that the EU recognises the importance of the industry.
“The significant of safety to the aviation industry cannot be over emphasised. In fact, the industry is built on the backbone of its ability to define, implement and assure the highest safety standards,” he adds.
The importance of safety management cannot be overemphasised as it is critical to the development of civil aviation both at global and national levels.
Commenting on the matter, CAA director general Gabriel Lesa believes that the implementation of the project will result in increased safety in the aviation sector and in turn put confidence in visitors to use Zambia’s air transport as it is quicker and safer.
Mr Lesa notes that the project will also result in increased number of investors investing in the sector.
Safety is the bedrock for the development for the aviation industry and for the sector to significantly contribute to the growth of the economy.
And the Zambia Air Services Training Institute (ZASTI) has since pledged its commitment in taking steps in promoting policies and standards to ensure the school remains relevant in attaining reliable and sustainable results of the EU project.
“As ZASTI we remain dedicated to the entire stakeholders’ in advancing the best principles in ensuring that training and capacity building is offered as regulated by CAA,”ZASTI principal Shingalili Billieard said.
For the aviation industry to grow, Government needs to focus on training, skills and safety to have competent staff.
The Zambian aviation sector has the potential to become vibrant and become an economic development and poverty reduction enabler.
TRYNESS TEMBO, Lusaka