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Monday, 31 May 2010

Dreams of airport cities

The National Airports Corporation (NAC) has apparently earmarked major infrastructure development at four international airports in the country, with the vision of turning Zambia into "a cargo hub for traffic in the region". The USA government is allegedly funding the development of the master plan (Mfuwe, Livingstone, Ndola and Lusaka) through the Ministry of Transport (about US$750,000). The master plan , unsurprisingly being developed by an American firm called Jacobs Consultancy,  is set to be submitted in July. The master plan will set out the plans for developing the four airports into airport cities which will have shopping malls, conference facilities, sports complex and other one-stop facilities.

The President has been promising to turn Zambia into a regional cargo hub since 2008! My view is that NACL are not well placed to take forward this vision. We need to break up ownership of these airports and allow them to compete. Separate ownership will provide better incentive for improvement in service and so forth. The Chinese model for deregulation of airports started with handing them over to local authorities. I am not sure how that would work in our context (local councils suffer from corruption problems) but NACL has failed to deliver and we should now be thinking creatively around this. For my broader thoughts on turning aviation round see here.


  1. I think rather than handing them over to private hands,the task must be to first restructure NACL and commercialise it.after such restructring,only then should NACL lease the airports to private hands

  2. I would agree with that to some extent, but I rather see local/regional control first before private hands.

    I think it can work in the following sequence:

    Step 1: Government restructures the Department of Civil Aviation into a properly independent industry wide regulator. This would in the tradition of civil aviation regulators world wide.

    Step 2: We restructure NACL so that it becomes a company just like any - non of this “code” commercialisation. Proper restructuring we have heard is happening but without tangible results.

    Step 3: Devolve ownership of the various airports to the relevant local authority with central government owning 50% and let them compete and attract players (This is very much the Chinese model).

    Step 4: Move towards full liberalisation with private sector able to bid and own these airports.

    That has to be the road map, how much is spent on each stage would depend on the progress made.


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