ZIMBABWE’S civil aviation infrastructure needs heavy rehabilitation and regular maintenance if the southern African nation is to attract international airlines and grow the tourism industry, African Bank Development Group (AfDB) has said.

“Civil aviation infrastructure in Zimbabwe needs heavy rehabilitation and regular maintenance. Air traffic control and safety remains a concern as equipment is old and in need of replacement,” AfDB said in its 2019 infrastructure report.

“Closely related to traffic surveillance is the capability for aircraft communication to and from the ground — in October 2018, Air Zimbabwe requested an emergency landing at Joshua Nkomo International Airport. A response was only received once the airline had diverted back to Johannesburg.”

The report notes that the entire Zimbabwe airspace had not been covered by existing surveillance facilities, and “what does exist is deficient.”

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“The airspace surveillance equipment is not well maintained across most airports. Shortcomings in surveillance also raise concerns about search and rescue operations. Weather installations are inadequate, and broadband infrastructure is not available at most airports,” it reads.

AfDB said a contraction in demand for air services to and from Zimbabwe contributed to a reduction in the number of international airlines that service the Zimbabwean market.

During 1997-2007 more than twenty scheduled airlines discontinued services in Zimbabwe, including major carriers such as Air France (1997), KLM (1998), Lufthansa (2000), Swiss Air (2000), and British Airways (BA) (2007), the report notes.

Currently, about 16 airlines operate services to and from Zimbabwe.

AfDB said air transport had become indispensable for the development of the tourism industry and if Zimbabwe was to rebuild its tourism industry in competition with other African States, sustained improvements in air safety and security as well as in airside and landside facilities were essential.

“Increased growth into tourism will have multiple forward and backward linkages to other parts of the economy. Additionally, improved aviation services will be central to efforts by Zimbabwe to build exports of a large range of perishable products. High value manufacturers who are dependent on efficient, on-time delivery need effective, reliable infrastructure,” it says.

AfDB said the marketing and growth strategy of Caazi for the decade ahead would require substantial additional resources to build a sustainable competitive advantage through the provision of world-class facilities, customer service and sustainable infrastructure.

“Zimbabwe’s civil aviation operates in a global industry; hence the airport and air navigation systems have to be of international standard.”