AS countries around the world continue looking to a post COVID-19 free future, President Edgar Lungu’s launch of the US$400 million Ndola international airport on the Copperbelt yesterday sent perhaps the strongest message yet that Zambia is open for business.
The launch of the state-of-the-art multi-million dollar international airport puts Zambia among countries which are working to recover from the coronavirus disruptions.
The launch of the new airport will not only help the country to harness but also welcome recovery in international travel.
In as much as the developed world is making strides to wipe out the coronavirus by racing to vaccinate their populations, besides upgrading their capacity to isolate, test and treat new cases, Zambia has continued to receive and distribute vaccines.
Zambia is also constantly dealing with and monitoring the evolving COVID-19 situation in both the health facilities and in the communities.
The hosting of the ongoing Olympic games in Tokyo and the lifting of restrictions in a number of developed countries where even soccer games are now being played in front of spectators, are just some of the indications that the world is determined to move on whether coronavirus is stopped or not.
In this view, it is just fair that countries like Zambia prepare to return to a semblance of normal life as far as international travel is concerned, while obviously being cautious.
The new international airport has been built through a loan obtained from China’s Export and Import (EXIM) Bank.
The airport is located some 20 kilometres west of Ndola, off the Kitwe-Ndola highway.
Chinese company, AVIC International, was hired to design and build the airport which includes a 12,000 square metre terminal building, a 28-metre-high control tower, a fire station, aircraft hangar, a 3.5km runway and a 50-room hotel.
The class E runway will be able to accommodate large aircraft such as Boeing 747/777, Airbus 350 and MD 1.
The Copperbelt International Airport replaces Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport which President Lungu recently handed over to the Zambia Air Force (ZAF) and rechristened Peter Zuze Air Base in honour of the first indigenous ZAF commander Lieutenant General Peter Zuze.
Unlike the old airports that were developed strictly as landing facilities, the new international airport has incorporated into its design a 50-room hotel, from which it will be generating income
outside aeronautical services.
The airport has capacity to handle one million passengers per annum, and will incorporate freight transport, an operation that was not part of Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport.
It will also handle 8,000 tonnes of cargo per annum.
Cargo planes from Europe, Asia and other parts of the world will be capable of landing owing to the category E runaway.
Besides the new airport being instrumental in supporting tourism, it will also be critical in Zambia’s plans to exploits its central location in the region by becoming a land linked communications hub with world class air travel and Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions.