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Public private partnership makes new Rwanda international airport possible

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The planned new Bugesera International Airport in the eastern province of Rwanda – only 25km southeast of the capital Kigali – will highly improve the country’s competitiveness as a regional conference hub and tourism destination.

Construction is set to start in June next year at an estimated overall cost of $818 million after the signing of a Public private partnership with the Portuguese firm Mota-Engil Africa. The international firm is said to invest the first $418 million needed to complete phase one of the project.

As soon as phase one is completed, Bugesera will be Rwanda’s biggest airport with a 4.2km runway and an initial capacity to handle 3 million passengers annually. The ultimate passenger target after final completion is 4.5 million passengers a year. Rwanda’s only existing international airport – Kigali Kanombe International – has an annual capacity of 1.6 million.

According to Rwanda’s Minister of Finance, Claver Gatete, the new airport will enhance Rwanda’s “economic growth and development and serve as a gateway to the external world. It will facilitate trade and investment and act as a hub for RwandAir’s growth strategy and other commercial airlines serving in the region”.

The deal with Mota-Engil Africa is described by Gatete as an arrangement in which “we can achieve much more with less”.

Construction of phase one is hoped to be completed by the end of 2018. The Minister for Infrastructure James Musoni, said the rapid completion of the new airport was important to accommodate the ever-growing air traffic demand in a country. He allayed fears that the building will overshoot target dates as was seen during the building of the international conference centre in Kigali saying they have learnt from previous mistakes and were already impressed with work done by Mota-Engil at Kigali International during expansion works.

The planned construction of Bugesera has a long history. Since mid 2000s, Kigali Kanombe International recorded large growth in passenger numbers. An initial plan to further expand Kanombe was abandoned because Kanombe is located in an urban area.

By 2008 the initial decision was taken to build a new airport. A first study was done in partnership with the American company OZ Architecture. Design work started with TPS UK  (who designed Heathrow’s T5) a year later but several delays – mainly due to a lack fund – delayed building indefinitely.