The P180.5 million upgrade and expansion of the Kasane Airport is expected to open avenues for tourism development because it will provide greater and more efficient access to the Chobe natural attractions.
Signing a $8 million (P54.4 million) Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) loan towards the project last Thursday, Assistant Finance Minister, Charles Tibone said the upgrade and expansion of the airport would drive the promotion of other economic sectors, apart from air transport
"We are currently in the process of transforming our economy from one that is heavily dependent on minerals by increasing the growth of other sectors like transport, tourism and financial services.
"The upgrading and expansion of the Kasane Airport to handle greater volumes of traffic will no doubt add impetus to growth in other sectors of the economy. Botswana's central location in the Southern African region also offers an advantage in terms of providing air-links to neighbouring countries," he said.
The multi-million project involves extending the runway from two to three kilometers and widening the width to 45 metres, refurbishing the terminal building to cater for increased traffic, additional parking for small aircraft and serviced space for private tenants to erect their own hangars and build new offices for the airport staff. When complete, Kasane Airport will be able to handle Boeing 737 and equivalent aircraft, boosting traffic to the tourism- rich northwest region.
Passenger volumes and aircraft movements, both domestic and international, have risen over the years, necessitating the upgrade and expansion of the airport. Passenger traffic grew from 9,398 in 1991 to 63,267 in 2008, while aircraft movements increased by 12,000 to 13,549 over the same period. "This is an extremely important project especially as we are looking at diversification away from
BADEA director general, Abdelaziz Khelef said the loan was in line with the bank's historical support towards the growth of Botswana infrastructure. Since 1975, BADEA has extended loans and grants worth P867 million to Botswana in areas such as water development, electricity and transport. The bank has seconded experts to Botswana in areas such as water and sanitation, irrigation and horticultural marketing.
"BADEA shall contribute to the financing of this project with the objective of strengthening the local and regional aviation networks and providing better and more efficient transport links. It is envisaged that the benefits of the project will not only include the local economy, but will spill over to benefit neighbouring countries such as Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe and the whole region," he said.
Botswana was able to negotiate a three percent interest rate on the P54.4 million loan, with a repayment period of 20 years, including a grace period of five years from the disbursement of the first payout. Besides BADEA, the Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund for International Development has also extended a $10 million (P68 million) loan to Botswana for the Kasane Airport project.
Botswana will raise the balance of the funding, estimated at P57.6 million. Finance Minister, Kenneth Matambo is scheduled to sign the OPEC loan agreement in Washington next week, as part of his itinerary for the World Bank Spring Meetings.