The Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) has given Botswana P 54 million for the upgrading and expansion of the Kasane Airport is which is expected to re-charge the fledgling tourism sector in the country.
The loan is expected to result in the new look Kasane Airport that will be able to handle to handle greater volumes of air traffic as the country is looking forward to liberalization of the its skies.
Moreover, the development, according to a Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Charles Tibone will add further impetus to other sectors of the economy, especially the tourism sector which is viewed as critical in terms of diversifying the economy way from the minerals sector.
This followed the signing of an agreement between Tibone on behalf of Botswana Government and the Director General of BADEA, His Excellency Abdelaziz Khelef, at the Headquarters of the MFDP Conference Room in Gaborone on Thursday.
“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,” said Tibone.
He pointed out that Botswana’s central location in the Southern African region was an advantage in terms of providing air links to neighbouring countries.
The Kasane Airport facility, which was opened to traffic in 1991, provides access to the major tourist attraction in the area, namely, the Chobe National Park. In addition, the passenger and aircraft movement at the airport consists of international, domestic, scheduled, chartered and private as well as transit traffic.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Tibone indicated that the objective of the project was to rehabilitate and develop the airport, which consists of upgrading the runway and buildings, as well as provision of equipment and consultancy services.
It was mentioned that works entail extending the length of the runway from the current 2,000 meters to 3,000 meters and widening the runway width to 45 meters. Listed in the upgrading schedule was also, the refurbishing of the terminal building to cater for the expected increase in traffic.
Tibone stated, “A further provision is to be made for additional parking for small aircraft as well as serviced space where private tenants can erect their own hangars and construction of new offices for the airport staff members.”
The Minister intimated that expansion of the airport will upon completion of the airport have attained the capacity to facilitate landing and taking off of BOEING 737 or equivalent class, so as to enable access to Kasane which thus far showed up as tourist resort of choice, hence the need for additional facilities at the airport.
For his part, Khelef said, “It is envisaged that the benefits of the project will not only include the local economy, but will spill over to the neighbouring countries such as Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe as well as the whole region.
Again, he posited that the project represented an addition to the list of projects that BADEA has already financed in Botswana, adding that it comes within the framework of his bank’s overall goal of contributing to the development and strengthening of the African-Arab linkages.
“Active involvement in financing development projects in Africa and fostering the cooperation between our two regions to the level we all aspire to, is one way such linkages could be enabled,” qualified BADEA Chief.
He added that BADEA’s total commitments for Botswana since the commencement of the cooperation between the country and his bank, since 1975 until the end of March 2010 stood at US $ 127. 465 million utilized for funding 18 projects and 7 technical assistance operations while the total commitments of the Development institutions to Botswana were approximately US $300 million.
Expressing his appreciation for the loan, Tibone said, “We have argued and still we maintain that though classified as a middle income country, the developmental challenges that the country faces are similar to those of the less developed countries.”
The loan, and two other recent ones were offered at an interest of 3% per annum, which according to Tibone far lower than all the previous offers from the Arab bank.