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Nacala International Airport is one of the largest in Mozambique, but boasts almost no traffic. Opened in 2014, it has achieved only about four percent of anticipated traffic, despite high costs.
Making the airport profitable as early as 2019 is a priority for Raúl Novinte, the recently elected Renamo president of Nacala municipality, who takes office in February. “Firstly, I criticized the construction of this airport, because I thought there was no need, since 80 per cent of our population does not know where their next meal is coming from. So how would you be boarding a flight from Nacala to Maputo?” Novinte asks.
Now, “there is a white elephant there and we have nowhere to lay it, but it is necessary to capitalize it, because it is an alarming situation”, he concludes.
Nacala International Airport was opened in December 2014 and designed to serve an average of 500,000 passengers and handle 5,000 tons of cargo per year. But currently only two domestic flights arrive at the airport each week.
The conversion from military to commercial airport was achieved in just 23 months by the Brazilian company Odebrecht, with an approximate investment of between US$125 and 200 million. Airport revenues are however far from sufficient to cover that astronomical debt.
The director of the Nacala International Airport, José Candrinho, acknowledges the situation, but is optimistic that, with a better environment, the airport can be better utilized. “For example, traffic at Maputo airport fell from one million to 800,000 passengers between 2015 and 2017. If Maputo, which is a very busy airport, has got quieter, imagine what a new airport would be like,” he says.
The ambitious Special Economic Zone
Since 2007, 178 projects have been approved for Nacala airport city, to develop international airport support infrastructure – hotels, residential units and shopping centres and so on. The investment is budgeted at US$5 million.
Plans for the Nacala Special Economic Zone (EEZ) are ambitious. Lourenço Sambo, director of APIEX (Agency for the Promotion of Investment and Exports) considers that it is essential to include the private sector.
“It’s a huge challenge. Nacala has in fact to be a hub, not only in aerial terms, but also in maritime terms.”
According to the government, more than two and a half billion dollars have been invested in the Nacala Special Economic Zone since 2009. The objective is to boost regional development and generate more than 23,000 jobs.Source: Lusa