Finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi is expected to finalise a loan agreement with China for the upgrading and expansion of the Hosea Kutako International Airport after the Asian giant gave the go-ahead for a “special financial package”. Finalising the loan facility for the airport expansion is one of the priority projects that Shiimi will have to deal with as outlined in his targets set by President Hage Geingob. New Era has seen a copy of the finance minister’s targets, which also includes decongesting the Central Procurement Board in order to improve efficiency and spearheading the development of an economic recovery plan, among others. Funding for the airport upgrade forms part of the US$60 billion in new development financing for Africa pledged by Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing last year. During a conference call with his Chinese counterpart on Friday, Geingob expressed appreciation to China for having “approved the special financial package to help Namibia commence with plans to modernise and expand its main airport to international standards”.
“The terms for the construction of the airport are favourable and Namibia looks forward to urgent commencement and completion of the project in the coming years,” Geingob said.
In late 2015, Geingob cancelled the N$7 billion airport tender, citing irregularities after a Chinese company Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group had won the contract. There was also a huge public outcry as well as media reports questioning the scale of the project.
At the time of going to print yesterday, Shiimi had not yet responded to questions regarding a status update on the matter and what new agreement it would entail, including costing. Presidency spokesperson Alfredo Hengari could also not divulge the exact cost of the project, but confirmed that the rates of the loan have significantly been reduced, saying this was also highlighted during President Geingob’s engagement with the Chinese president.
“We need to bring our airport to a global standard. It should be seen as an employment creation infrastructure and an economy in its own right,” Hengari briefly commented. Local economist Omu Kakujaha-Matundu also said the expansion of the international airport was long overdue. “We could differ on the financing aspect of airport, but not on the importance of HKIA. In a country heavily reliant on tourism, a good airport is crucial,” he said.
“Namibia pre-Covid-19 attracted about four prestigious airlines, but the security of those airlines and the airport’s capacity of handling this increase was found wanting. The landing and processing of passengers and cargo became a problem. And at one point Namibia was to be heavily sanctioned by IATA. So the expansion and modernisation of this important national asset is crucial to the development of the tourism sector and its contribution to the national economy.”