President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday officially commissioned the upgrading of Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport funded through a $153 million loan facility from China’s Eximbank.

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Addressing delegates at the ground-breaking ceremony, Mnangagwa said his government was committed to improving the national infrastructure, particularly airports, roads and the railway system, adding that it would go a long way in the country’s quest for economic revival.

“Today’s event is taking place following the commissioning of the commencement of works on the modernisation and upgrading of Beitbridge Border Post and other similar infrastructure, investment initiatives in mining, energy, ICTs, agriculture, education sectors, among others,” Mnangagwa said.

The upgrading of the airport was long in the pipeline before Mnangagwa took over power from his predecessor, President Robert Mugabe.

In November last year, when the airport was renamed from Harare International Airport, Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Joram Gumbo disclosed that the project would soon kick off after the Zimbabwean and Chinese governments signed the funding agreement.

Gumbo said the Chinese government had since given the go-ahead for Zimbabwe to start accessing the money and all that was left was to sign the official funding agreement.

The airport, with a passenger capacity of 2,5 million per year and a capacity utilisation of 45%, was last upgraded in 2001.

The Victoria Falls International Airport was refurbished in 2016 through a loan from China’s Eximbank.

Mnangagwa said the commencement of the airport project, a sign of pragmatic co-operation between Zimbabwe and the Asian giant, would improve the country’s tourism and economic trade.

“Furthermore, the project will facilitate trade and agricultural produce, minerals and other products with China, the Far East and Europe through enhanced air connectivity in line with existing air service agreements and the emphasised envisaged growth of every sector of our economy,” Mnangagwa said.

Speaking at the same event, Gumbo said plans to upgrade Charles Prince, Buffalo Range, Kariba, Masvingo and Hwange airports were underway. He said Zimbabwe would have commercial airports in Mutare and Beitbridge.

He said Victoria Falls International Airport, which has now been refurbished, has a monthly average growth rate of 20% in passenger movement.

Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe Huang Ping said the RGM International Airport would include the expansion of international terminal building and aprons, installation of four brand new air bridges, a secondary radar system, an airfield ground lighting system, communication system, check-in system, construction of a VVIP pavilion and a new satellite fire station.

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