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Kisumu airport upgrade to create regional hub

Updated: 2016-08-26 09:52
By Fiona Xiaojun Guo (China Daily Africa)

In the local language, Kisumu translates as "a place to trade". Come next summer, the Kenyan city is expected to further live up to its name after a $7.5 million expansion of its international airport.

The project, which is being carried out by China Overseas Engineering Group, is scheduled for completion in June and promises to create a transportation hub for East Africa.

Since 2008, the main runway at Kisumu International Airport has been extended from 2 kilometers to 3.3 km. Construction has also been finished on a 1.35-km taxiway, a new terminal building and car park, and an apron covering 40,000 square meters.

 Kisumu airport upgrade to create regional hub

Kenya's Kisumu International Airport is now in its third phase, in which it will further expand its runway capacity. LIu Hongjie / China Daily

The two-story terminal has six immigration desks, eight check-in desks, lounges for first class and business class, a VIP lounge, and 300 sq m of commercial area.

The airfield's ground lighting has also been upgraded to allow flights to land and takeoff at night.

The project is now in its third phase, which will see runway capacity further expanded.

"The 3.3-km runway is being strengthened and widened by 60 meters, which will allow us to accommodate more international flights and cargo flights," says Joseph Okumu, the airport's managing director.

Once complete, Kisumu International will be able to handle bigger aircraft, such as the Boeing 777, he says, adding that a new hanger is also planned to provide maintenance services.

The airport, which serves Kenya's third-largest city, currently handles mostly domestic flights.

Funding for the expansion project has come from the Kenyan government and the World Bank. In April 2008, China Overseas Engineering Group, one of the first Chinese companies to enter Africa, won the government bidding process.

"Over the years, Kisumu International has become the busiest and most important airport in western Kenya," says Zhao Canhui, the contractor's managing director in Kenya.

The airport today handles more than 400,000 passengers a year, a significant increase from the 250,000 it recorded before the expansion work began.

With modern facilities, the hub can meet the growing demands of international travelers to and from western Kenya, according to Okumu.

The airport, which is close to the border with Uganda, is expected to unlock greater potential for economic growth in the East Africa.

Okumu says more than 600,000 residents in Kisumu will directly benefit from increased investment and employment opportunities, while imports and exports will also receive a boost.

Two hotels and a shopping mall will also be built nearby, with land prices around the airport already soaring, he adds.

While a lot has changed in the eight years since the project was started, some things have remained the same.

Engineer Zhang Xiaoguo, 45, is one of 12 Chinese workers on the project who have witnessed the area's transformation.

"I came to Kisumu as soon as I arrived in Kenya. There was a lot to be sorted out, but gradually things started to get better," he recalls.

Over the years, the project has employed more than 190 Kenyan workers through local subcontractors.

In addition to welcoming Chinese workers and global travelers, Kisumu International is also a favorite field trip destination for students from schools in the surrounding towns.

Every weekend, hundreds of primary and secondary students flock to the airport to watch the planes - with many seeing them for the first time.

For China Daily

(China Daily Africa Weekly 08/26/2016 page27)

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