Home | News    Saturday 24 March 2012

Upgrades to Juba International Airport to be finished in June

By Ngor Arol Garang

March 23, 2012, (JUBA) - South Sudan has secured funds to complete upgrades to Juba International Airport by the end of June, the country’s Deputy Transport Minister, Mayom Kuoc Malek said on Friday.

Malek said it is the “hope” of his ministry and the government that current construction activities, which were “progressing well” would be completed before the first anniversary of South Sudan’s independence on 9 July 2012.

The minister said that the Juba International Airport is one of the government’s "top priorities" but declined to revealed the source of the funding. The intention is the make the airport of international standard.

“The number of airlines coming to Juba from different countries of the world has now increased drastically because of the business opportunities in the new nation" Malek said. Juba airport is now used by 22 airlines.

Over two decades of civil war (1983-2005) led to South Sudan’s seccession from Sudan last year. During that period only military and humanitarian planes landed in Juba.

"Commercial flights started coming to Juba after the signing of the [2005] Comprehensive Peace Agreement but still the number did not increase until when South Sudan became an independent state”, said Malek. Most of the airlines are from neighbouring countries.

“Kenya and Uganda were the first to start before Ethiopian and Egyptian and other airlines joined," he said.

South Sudan has said that it hopes to become a regional hub due its location near the geographic centre of Africa. The government plans to secure funds to extend runway and build better facilities.

“The current activities at the airport are only renovation of the runway but we also have plans to build even a taxi packing ground within two to three years”, he said.

Malek, who participated at the recently concluded international investment conference held in Juba, said the government had approached private investors and development partners to fund building of three other new airports, one of which will be in Tali to serve Ramciel, where the government is planning to build a new capital. Another will be built in Bentiu, capital of Unity State.

"These are of course long term plans but we have already started discussing them with potential investors to prepare", he said explaining that government will contribute funds for construction of these airports.

“As a landlocked country we need to have access to the outside world”.

The official said the ministry has plans to improve South Sudan’s river transport system and there are plans to make Mangala the main port for trade between Uganda and other East African countries.

“This is very important because river transport is one of the cheapest transport systems in the world”, he said.

An Egyptian company began work last week on a $26.6 million five-year project to clear the rivers of Greater Bahr-el Gazal and Unity State to allow them to be navigable by boat.

He said the ministry has already approved some of the airlines companies to operate and to help the government upgrade infrastructure facilities including expanding the runaway to handle larger aircraft.

(ST)