Information is emerging from Addis Ababa that at the sidelines of the Airport Infrastructure and MRO conference last week, Ethiopia’s Minister for Transport, Gebeyehu, announced that ground will be broken soon for a new mega airport close to the capital.
The new airport will, when complete, be able to handle up to 120 million passengers a year and become the new home for fast-growing Ethiopian Airlines, presently the largest and most profitable African airline with a network spanning across all continents.
Gebeyehu was quoted to have said that the airport project would be similar to the great Renaissance Dam in terms of investment value, and allow Ethiopia to position herself as Africa’s number one aviation hub. After working for some time on identifying a suitable site, the Ethiopian Airports Enterprise (EAE), which earlier on had appointed French consulting firm ADPI to assist in site sourcing, has now given three possible locations for the new airport and indicated government will now embark in a consultative exercise with local communities before making a final decision.
To be built in several phases, the new airport will eventually have four runways, several passenger terminals, and an airport city will be built which will, when ready, provide facilities equal to similar projects elsewhere in the world.
Ground-breaking is anticipated for about two years from now, and the construction of the new airport could take as much as ten years to be fully completed and probably not a moment too soon considering the increasing capacity constraints at Bole International Airport. Built initially for a capacity of six million passengers, traffic has already exceeded this last year, with more than eight million passengers arriving, departing, and transiting. Work is underway, however, to raise the capacity to over 20 million passengers to serve as a stop gap until the new mega airport will be ready.
Airport operator, Ethiopian Airport Enterprises, oversees nearly two dozen airports and aerodromes across the country including four international airports and is expected to invest at least US$4 billion in the new facility, at present day cost.
Airport developments in Africa have been largely lagging behind traffic increases, with Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport a prime example and while Kenya is now aggressively expanding their main airport, similar plans have been slow in coming elsewhere. A new international terminal will be ready next year in Dar es Salaam and Rwanda, just having expanded their present international airport in Kigali – a taxiway is being constructed right now to allow for a higher rate of landings and take offs as traffic increases – is also in the final stages of planning for a brand new international airport outside the capital at Bugesera.
South Africa made major investments in new and modernized/expanded aviation infrastructure ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, a move now benefitting the country through increased visitor numbers who come to the country for tourism and trade.