Airport Company Mozambique manages 20 airports of the Southeast African nation. Roy Ezzee speaks to Emmanuel Chaves, chairperson and board chief executive officer of Airport Company Mozambique and finds out the plans the company has to develop airports and air cargo in Mozambique to create a new and exciting hub in the region.

How do you look at the airport industry in Mozambique, how many airports do you run, what has been the trend, the challenges as it concerns Mozambique specifically?
Our two areas of businesses at Airport Company of Mozambique are managing airport and managing airspace. So, we do both and we run twenty airports of which 11 have scheduled flights and others have small air flights. In the last years, we have been busy investing in improving the infrastructure. We did investment of $200 million in Maputo Airport where we almost re-structured the terminals, new towers, and even the runway was completely expanded. We improved the technology being used in both air traffic control and airport operation so we built a new airport at a new site. We also built a completely Greenfield airport in Nacala to the north of the country, one of the most beautiful airports in Africa and it was described as the most beautiful civil architecture infrastructure in Africa in 2015.

So, we have the facilities to handle passenger aircraft like the Airbus 380. We are in the phase of positioning the airport in the market, attracting airlines to fly into the airport. We did the same at the airports in areas to serve the tourism to places like Maputo, Nacala, Vilankulo and Pemba Airports; we refurbished the terminals and we modernized them and we also expanded the capacity to handle more passengers because they serve tourism, some of the most famous tourist sites of the Northern Mozambique, Vilancolo in the Yabani area. We were at it from 2008 till 2014 and we have successfully completed the project.

What about cargo facilitation and facilities at your airports, these have been a challenge in most African Airports, what have you done in the aspect of cargo for perishable goods and for other high-value goods?
At Maputo and Nacala airports, we will build new facilities and we built a Greenfield cargo terminal and cargo apron to handle aircraft category E and the capacity we have at the Maputo cargo team is such that we can accommodate whatever airline. Unfortunately, we are not yet using it at full capacity. We are still using it at not more than 50 percent and we are attracting new companies with cargo capacity, new airlines are coming in so we expect it to be more active.

We are working with some logistics companies like NAS from Kuwait, though they want to build additional facility like cold storage capacity and also to increase the capacity of existing cargo terminal by optimizing it. No need to increase the capacity but just optimizing it. Also, the advent of these companies will also challenge us because it will bring new demand on the cargo, but we are being contacted by logistics companies because they want to establish their business; and also the airlines who are starting operations soon are coming with bigger capacity for passengers or with bigger capacity to carry cargo. So, we have not done so much yet. We are not very successful in terms of cargo but I tell you, from the ACI Africa ranking, we are number 22 in terms of cargo handling at Maputo airport and also in the rank of 50 airports. We have three airports which means that we have potential. What we really need is to explore the potential and maximize and in the next years the story will be different because we have our strategy focused on developing cargo.

We are finalising studies of the cargo production; looking at the production in the country to be exported by air, and also, we are working with entities who are working in the cargo management so that we can concentrate cargo at the main airports. We want to have one airport in the middle of the country to be the cargo specialized terminal.

So, these are the plans we are doing in order to develop cargo because we recognise that cargo by air will be the biggest. In our airport city in Nacala, we are planning to use 50 hectares of land to develop the logistic terminal and mobilize more cargo traffic to Nacala Airport. So, those are the things which we are doing to improve our performance in the cargo business.

Building aviation infrastructure in Mozambique

How about the airlines? What is your relationship with the airlines in terms of cargo, do you have African airlines using some of your cargo facilities or are they mainly foreign carriers from outside Africa, and how do you hope to boost the cargo movement by air?
Well, our experience has been that the Mozambican airline in the past years have operated aircraft with a small capacity of cargo and because of that the domestic movement of cargo was slowed down and what is happening now in our country is that our government has opened the market for even foreign airlines to operate in domestic markets and we have big airlines coming in. One of them is Ethiopian Airlines; it is establishing a local company in Mozambique and they are interested in developing partnership with us and other entities to feed cargo traffic in Mozambique. So, we are expecting Ethiopian to be here because currently they handle a lot of cargo; and we are always functioning as feeders. For example, we feed Johannesburg, we feed Nairobi and we also feed Addis Ababa with cargo. We also receive cargo from those airports but what we now want to do is to have a cargo hub where we can ship cargo and receive cargo, and we are discussing with the airlines.

Building aviation infrastructure in Mozambique

In terms of safety and security around the airport and also the control of movement of illegal wildlife trade, how do you move in to make your impact knowing that Africa is a point of movement of this illegal trade?
We are working with different entities. One very important measure taken by our government was hiring a company who supplies equipment for security control. So, we have state-of-the-art security control equipment in our international airports. Secondly, the government established a force to deal with the wildlife export and import and goods of wildlife, like the horns of elephants, rhinoceros’ horns, etc. We are proud of the level of control we have achieved because those involved in such business are really specialised and they know how to overcome the technology you have and so on. But we are really doing very well; our experience has been good in terms of recruitment of our workforce and the interaction between different forces to generate synergy in capturing those who are trying to do illegal wildlife export.

The area of airport sustainability, the issue of non-aeronautical revenue generation has attracted attention given that most of the African airports are very low on non-aeronautical revenue. What is your strategy and how do you hope to source the revenue from non-aeronautical sources?

We have started thinking about solutions and strategies for increasing the non-aeronautical revenue participation in our total revenues from some time now. When we built new terminals, we had already in mind the need of increasing the non-aeronautical revenues. Our new airports have modern facilities where we can accommodate and give option to bigger players of the world to play in our market. For example, we have finalised the civil works; Dufry will set up the duty free; we have a Middle-East company setting up VIP lounge in our terminals; and then we expanded our car park and we have implemented the technology to control the car park revenues, we now have one of the most modernised car park controls in Africa. So, we are moving towards the airport city concept; we have already assigned contracts for shopping malls in the Maputo Airport and we are coming with new tenders to invest, to build facilities where we can have additional revenues.

We have grown our revenue from less than six percent to almost 25 percent. 30 percent of non-aeronautical revenues in our total revenues for the airport activities, which was a very huge increase in terms of non-aeronautical revenues. But we will not stop because our target is to reach 50 percent of non-aeronautical revenues in the next 10-15 years.

Building aviation infrastructure in Mozambique

Now, in terms of airports certification, where are you in that aspect?
We already certified Nampula Airport; we are almost completing the certification of the Maputo airport and we are also in the process of certifying Beira and Nampula airports.

Going forward, what is your projection, where do you want to bring airports in Mozambique before you leave?
First, we would like to make our airports a place where people are more satisfied than any other airports in Africa. We want to be one of the best in customer satisfaction. This is one of our top priorities. All out investments are directed on customer satisfaction and in that trend, beside some marketing activities. We are really getting good results of making people happy by bringing local culture to the airport activities like local dance, among others, which is very good and we do these from time to time to entertain our customers departing or arriving and making people feel happy and satisfied when using our airports.

We will continue investing to modernise our airports. We want to modernise Beira Airport. We need to attract more airlines and our domestic markets would grow satisfactorily with the incoming of new airlines like Ethiopian Airline, Fastjet, etc., so our domestic market will become very active and that will push the international airlines to also come because they will complement international flights to take passengers to their final destinations within Mozambique, what was once difficult in time past because we were having Mozambican Airline flying and the tickets were not cheap. So, these are the things which we are focusing for the next four years.

Do you have a target of passenger figures?
We are, currently as a company, handling around two million passengers. In the next four to five years we want to achieve three million passengers and our agenda 2035 is to come up with five million passengers. So, in the next 17 years we should be around 5million passengers for all movement in the country, with the Maputo Airport achieving around 2.5 to 3 million passengers.

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