Is Kagame’s US$818 Million Bugesera Airport Finally Taking Off?

Kagame’s Bugesera International Airport has been in his dreams since at least 2007. By 2009, his then infrastructure minister Linda Bihire announced that the construction of the airport would soon begin and take 30 months to complete at a cost of US$360 million.

The airport was then forgotten until 2013. That was the year that Kagame announced that Rwanda would more than double the US$400 million bond he acquired in 2013 to US$1 billion to build Bugesera airport.

That did not happen.

Then on September 1, 2016, the Kagame government signed an agreement with a Portuguese company, Mota Engil, to build the Bugesera airport. It was announced at the time that construction would begin in June next 2017.

Rwanda sources indicate that construction has already begun as of October 2016.

Bugesera airport will be built in two phases. The first phase to be completed in 2018, will cost US$418 million, delivering a facility with capacity to handle about 1.7 million passengers per year. The second phase will follow, providing capacity to 4.5 million passengers per year and costing an additional US$400 million.

The Bugesera airport will therefore cost US$818 million in total.

Here are some of the unknowns:

1. To handle this project Kagame created in 2015 a special investment vehicle called Aviation Travel and Logistics Holdings Limited (ATL). So who runs ATL? Who is its CEO? Who is on its Board of Directors? Does it have an address?

None of these questions can be answered. ATL does not even have a website. Yet it is ATL that signed the Bugesera airport agreement on behalf of Rwanda.

2. Who will finance the construction of Bugesera airport?

It was announced in September 2016 that Mota Engil will finance, construct, and manage Bugesera Airport. The Rwanda government will not incur any costs to build Bugesera.

3. How will Mota Engil finance the building of Bugesera airport?

The Portuguese firm will recoup their investment by running Bugesera airport for 25 years with an option to extend by another 15 years – 40 years in total.

4. What if the 4.5 million passengers per year don’t materialize and Mota Engil fails to recoup the US$818 million investment? Watch out for trouble.

Is Kagame’s USD818 Million Bugesera Airport Finally Taking Off? Stay tuned.

David Himbara