By STUART LISULO
Ndola’s newly-opened Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport (SMKIA) is expected to boost trade volumes between Zambia and regional markets, says the Kitwe Chamber of Commerce.
SMKIA has become fully operational from October 7, 2021, following its commissioning on August 5 by former president Edgar Lungu.
In a notice to stakeholders, Zambia Airports Corporation Limited (ZACL) Communications and Brand Manager Mweembe Sikaulu stated that following commencement of the new facility’s operations, the old airport located in the Itawa area of Ndola District was now obsolete.
Emmanuel Mbambiko, Kitwe Chamber of Commerce Vice-President in charge of Commerce, has hailed the momentous infrastructure development, saying the airport is destined to boost trade volumes, especially from mining sector companies who are expected to take advantage of the aerial route to export their copper cathodes to foreign markets faster.
“Now that airport is much bigger, much bigger planes can land, which gives us an advantage. This one can land a very big airbus comfortably. So, suppose there is big cargo, copper, for example, you can quickly ship it. These days where people are in a hurry to doing business that are linked to timelines, you can easily transport your goods and meet your time limits as opposed to rail lines,” Mbambiko says.
“We are very hopeful that the airport will be exploited to the fullest extent. We hope and pray that all the supporting activities that need to be done will also be in place. It is very welcome development for us, as a Chamber. We’re expecting that trade activities will substantially increase.
“Therefore, we are hoping that this (airport) facility can help in the transportation of minerals to all parts of the world so that we can tap into that.”
Mbambiko hopes that auxiliary business entities would emerge around the airport facility’s vicinity to spur further economic productivity.
“We’re hoping that customers will come straight into Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport and the next thing we look forward in doing is that we can also build business facilities there and enrich the airport so that if possible, trade happens there.
“So, we hope that we can tap into all these auxiliary activities and enrich that area where the airport is so that it’s not just enabled for landing planes, but other activities taking place to exploit the fullest potential of the airport. That is why it is exciting for businesspeople like the (Kitwe) Chamber.”
The airport is set to host two million passengers per annum at the capacity terminal building, alongside other world-class facilities, and will reposition Zambia as a major aviation hub in Africa.
SMKIA has three aero bridges, a new fire and rescue service station, a cargo terminal, business complex, aircraft maintenance hangar and an airport fuel farm. The airport also has infrastructure that includes a 3.5 kilometre runway, taxiways and an apron.
In the near future, the airport will also house a 50-roomed luxury hotel, which will be managed by a renowned hotel group, according to ZACL data.
Additionally, the airport lies in close proximity to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Katanga Province and is thereby envisaged to improve commercial links between the two countries.