Zimbabwe will roll out an aggressive rehabilitation programme for all major airport facilities in the country as it anticipates a boom in tourism and air traffic space.Finance and Economic Development Minister, Mthuli Ncube, said the broad-based project was part of a grand plan to ensure that Zimbabwe complies with the minimum requirements of the International Aviation Organisation and the European Union Air Safety Committee.
“Compliance with the above will ensure that our aviation sub sector moves from category 2 to category 1 that will result in increased access to the international markets,” Ncube said.
“This would entail rehabilitation and upgrading of civil aviation facilities, with the ongoing works at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport being the most significant.”
The government has identified tourism as one of the sectors to drive economic recovery alongside mining and agriculture.
Consequently, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, launched the country’s Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy four months ago, meant to help restart the sector which had been ravaged by the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
The strategy also seeks to help overcoming challenges relating to destination image, connectivity and quality of products and services.
The government is modernising the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
Zimbabwe obtained a loan facility from China to upgrade and rehabilitate the airport in the capital, which had been scheduled to be completed by 2021.
But, due to Covid-19, the project will be delayed, and the completion date has been moved from 2021 to 2022.
The government will also avail about ZWL$200m, through the budget, to be channelled towards construction of the tower at the Joshua Nkomo International Airport.An additional amount of ZWL$550m has been allocated towards the rehabilitation and upgrading of Kariba, Buffalo Range and Grand Reef Airports.
Airspace management and air safety require immediate intervention through procurement and installation of the requisite equipment and leveraging on CAAZ’s cash flows.”
The country’s out-dated air traffic control system is putting the lives of passengers in danger as it exposes planes to possible collisions, aviation experts have always warned.The archaic system has exposed the country to a serious security threat, including an invasion by a hostile foreign army because it cannot detect fast-moving fighter jets until it is too late, according to the experts.
Zimbabwe is currently using an old procedural control system, which is a method of providing air traffic control services without the use of radar.
It is used in regions with sparsely populated areas and oceans, where radar coverage is not feasible, or as a back-up system in the case of radar failure.
The African Development Bank recently noted that a contraction in demand for air services to and from Zimbabwe contributed to a reduction in the number of international airlines that service the Zimbabwean market.
During 1997-2007 more than twenty scheduled airlines discontinued services in Zimbabwe, including major carriers such as Air France (1997), KLM (1998),Lufthansa (2000), Swiss Air (2000), and British Airways (2007), the report notes.
Currently, about 16 airlines operate services to and from Zimbabwe.
Air transport has become indispensable for the development of the tourism industry and if Zimbabwe is to rebuild its tourism industry and gain a competitive advantage over other African States, sustained improvements in air safety and security as well as in airside and landside facilities remain essential.