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Chinese companies take leading role in building airports in Africa

Updated: 2015-02-09 08:25
By Huo Liqian and Hu Haiyan (China Daily)

With continuing growth in air travel worldwide, the council says, there is growing demand for infrastructure that is safe and secure and fit for the demands of new generations of aircraft and the technologies they use.

The Center for Asia Pacific Aviation says $33.8 billion is invested or is earmarked to be invested in construction and associated projects at existing airports in 77 projects in more than nine African countries, meaning the average price tag on each of the projects is almost $440 million.

In many countries, airports built decades ago have long since become incapable of handling the thousands of passengers flowing through them every day. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, opened in 1958 with capacity of 1.5 million passengers a year. But passenger flow has reached 6.5 million a year and it is estimated that this will reach 25 million in 2025.

Hong Shangyuan, general manager of China Airport Construction Group Corporation, says growth in Africa now echoes what China went through in its early days of reform and opening-up, when airport construction developed rapidly. "The airport construction industry in China grew at 1.5 to 2 times the speed of GDP growth at that time. And usually growth in aviation comes a lot earlier than does economic growth."

If political stability in Africa can be maintained, the market will continue to boom, he says. China Airport Construction Group Corporation, with an eye on the opportunities, opened an office in Togo in late 2012.

As Africa continues to grow economically it has become the ideal staging spot for Chinese companies eager to draw on their experience in building airports.

There are now more than 200 civil airports in use in China, and plans were announced for 100 new airports, and for 120 airports to be rebuilt or expanded during 2011-15.

"Many airports in China have been relocated and some have been expanded or rebuilt several times," Hong says. In the past 60 years there have been more than 10,000 airport projects in the country, Hong says.

Liu Ying, chief economist of the company, says: "In China we have built airports on land with all features that you can find anywhere else, and so Chinese companies have the technologies to tackle almost all challenges in building airports."

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