Tuesday, August 7, 2012

■ CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Bangui M'Poko International Airport to be upgraded and modernized from 2016 onwards.

Central African Republic
Following years of neglect that have seen the degradation of its runways, taxiways and airport terminal, the Central African Republic's capital city Bangui's M'poko International Airport is to be upgraded to international standards after the Central African parliament's recent adoption of a bill establishing the Corporation for Airport Infrastructure Development in Central Africa (SODIAC), which is to oversee the project and various others.

The move to modernize the CAR's decrepit aviation infrastructure comes after a damning 2008 ICAO Audit Report stopped short of recommending the total downgrade of the Mpoko International, a move that would have cost the CAR its valued European flight connections.

SODIAC will be donor-sponsored to the tune of around FCFA40billion (€61million) with finances coming from the Exim Bank of China, the BDEAC (The Business Development Bank of Central African States ), the AFDB (African Development Bank), and finally the French Development Agency (AFD).

Bangui M'Poko International Airport [Click to enlarge]
Bangui M'Poko International Airport, CAR
Built in 1967, Bangui-M'Poko International Airport has had various improvements to its infrastructure - paid for mostly by the French Development Agency.
  • A4million grant in 1982 to allow for the handling of Boeing 747 freighters, with extension done to the apron  along with the construction of new blast strips and the widening of the runway 
  • A €730'000 grant in 1985 for the extension to freight hangars 
  • A €13.4 million grant given in 1986 (AFD (€3.75million), OPEC (€1.9 million), BADEA (€3.75million) and the Saudi Fund (€4million))  for the rehabilitation of the runway, access ramps and parking area.
Rendering of Bangui M'poko International Airport, Central African Republic
Rendering of upgraded Bangui M'poko International Airport

Since then, a lack of proper maintenance has resulted in the the infrastructure degrading to a very poor state: accelerated deterioration of pavements, a leaking roof in the main building of the airport amongst others. In 2008, the French Ministry of Transportation and Civil Aviation engaged airport consultancy firm Egis Avia to perform a study of the required work for the standardisation and expansion of Bangui M'Poko airport.

The works are to set to start in late 2015/early 2016 on the current site of M'poko and will consist of:
  • The extension and redevelopment of terminal buildings with particular emphasis on a new customs area and a new baggage reclaim facility
  • The lengthening of the runway from 2'600m to 3'200m.
  • The enlargement of the apron to further accommodate 11 aircraft
  • The building of additional ramps

With the CAR's real gross domestic product (GDP) expected to grow by 4.2% in 2012 because of improved security conditions, improved political stability, good harvests and the resumption of much needed investment in its mining sector, so too can it expect an increase in traffic at its airports: in 2004, the airport served 53,862 passengers whilst in 2011 the number reached over 100'000.

Currently, Bangui is served by: Air France (Paris-Charles de Gaulle), Camair-Co (Douala), Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Abeba), Interair South Africa (Douala), Kenya Airways (Douala, Nairobi), Royal Air Maroc (Casablanca, Douala) and TAAG Angola Airlines (Brazzaville, Douala, Luanda).