Sierra Leone: President Koroma commissions Mamamah airport project

By State House Communication Unit

Few days to the March 7 general elections, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma on Thursday 1st March 2018 commissioned the construction of the Mamamah International Airport at Mamboima off Songo Village, Koya Chiefdom in Port Loko district.

Delivering his keynote address, President Koroma expressed delight that in a few days to elections and his retirement, he is commissioning his dream project that will transform and take the country to the next level adding, that the construction of the Mamamah project is one of the projects put aside to transform the country.

He also disclosed that the next administration will commission the construction of the long anticipated Lungi Bridge which will transform Lungi and it’s environs into an economic zone.

He pointed out that in transforming a nation and creating the foundation to attaining a middle income country by 2035, bold decisions have to be taken. “We have to take big and bold decisions that are visionary,” citing Kwame Nkrumah’s decision to construct the Akosombo Dam that has yielded dividends for the people of Ghana.

He stated that when he came into governance in 2007, three projects which included the expansion of the Queen Elizabeth II Quay, the Mamamah airport and the construction of the Lungi Bridge that will transform Lungi were specifically put together to usher the country into an era of great economic development pointing out, that the Mamamah Airport will bring employment, development of tourism, connect with the international world among others.

This development, the president said, should go along with the construction of an administrative block, new state house, parliament, ministerial section, judiciary and an environment that will transform Koya into the New Freetown.

“This will help to decongest Freetown and encourage the next administration that all of these development projects should be completed within five years under the next government. “We should not hesitate and be distracted, it is possible,” he emphasized.

President Koroma noted that Lungi Airport will not be closed as a result of the Mamamah Airport.

Chairman of the ceremony who also doubles as the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Mr Leonard Balogun Koroma said the airport will propel economic growth and foster the continued transformation of the country. He said the airport which will be completed within four years will be an ultra modern and a state of the art airport that will significantly promote and develop tourism, job creation, provides an impetus for the massive expansion of Freetown and the creation of a new Koya City. He stated that the construction of the airport was as a result of the special bilateral relationship between China and Sierra Leone.

Giving an overview of the Mamamah Airport, Director of Mamamah International Airport project Mr Morlai Buya Kamara said they are building an airport development zone of approximately 21,000 acres of land with a facility of a category four E Airfield, wing span of 60 metres, presidential terminal, terminal building, office space and any other facilities found in any international airport in the world. He said the project will cost Three Hundred and Eighteen Million United States Dollars through a concessionary loan agreement with the Exim Bank of China.

Chairman Civil Aviation Authority Captain Victor Spaine said the move is a fresh start in the aviation industry as it will form the nucleus for a mega city and will address challenges in the aviation industry.

Making a brief statement, the Chinese ambassador Mr Wu Peng said the airport will create economic growth, jobs, open up a new city and an economic zone in the area. He said the project was as a result of a special arrangement between the Chinese government and the government of Sierra Leone and thanked President Xi Jinping and the people of China for their support to the project. He noted that the Mamamah Airport will bring unimaginable benefits that will contribute to the development and great transformation of the country.

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An insight: Mamamah, beyond an airport

John Baimba 

Author: John Baimba

In a July 2016 interview I had with him, minister of finance, Momodu Kargbo looked at Mamamah as a concept beyond the airport alone. “Maybe,” he said, “in packaging this whole arrangement to the public, we have only been talking about the Mamamah Airport. It is a concept beyond the airport. A five miles radius has been delineated around which, a modern city is expected to develop, and ‘Six Mile’ is not far away from the Mamamah Airport. In Six Mile, there is already an Economic Zone, owned by Four Step. Not far, you get to the Rokel River. So if you take that whole area, it is an Economic Zone that is developing.”

It is refreshing that we have finally signed the contract and loan agreement for the airport with the Chinese. Funding comes from China, through EXIM Bank. Exim-Bank is the world’s third largest export credit agency, with a mandate to “implement state policies in industry, foreign trade and economy, finance and foreign affairs.”
The signing comes at a time that both Sierra Leone and the People’s Republic of China are marking two years since scaling up ties of friendship and cooperation to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership level, China’s highest level of cooperation. By December 2016, leaders of both countries also agreed to continue their bilateral and multilateral relationships with mutual trust, mutual respect and closer friendship. This remains the same and the ties have continued to produce encouraging results for both nations.

The Mamamah Airport project

By 2016, we saw the two countries signed six cooperation agreements geared towards lifting their bars of cooperation.  Both nations had to scale-up their bilateral relations in a bid to fully utilize the ten point cooperation package announced during the 2015 Johannesburg FOCAC Summit. The intervention by the Chinese in Sierra Leone’s growth process has been touching and impressive especially in areas of infrastructure, health and human resource development. That they are also providing funds for the new airport further strengthens the already existing and unbroken ties of friendship and cooperation.
President Koroma, in a 2016 interview told me, the relationship with China “has been mutually beneficial. Time there was when we supported China to get into the United Nations and we have always supported them in international affairs. They have also supported us; it is not just a question of the recent ebola. They have spoken on our behalf in the United Nations Security Council. I think it is a relationship that has grown up over the years and it has been based on mutual respect and trust.”
Having an airport on the mainland will help address a number of challenges posed to travelling from Lungi to Freetown. Glen Weisburd et el submit, in a work titled, “Airport Area Economic Development Model,” that, “As business markets become national and international in scale, airports are increasingly being viewed as catalysts for local economic development. Their ability to generate jobs and attract new business is being used in many locations as a justification for public investments in new airport construction and expansion.” (Mamamah International Airport Will Be An Economic Game-Changer In Sierra Leone- It will help put the country in a valuable position to compete positively in International Trade and Commerce. It also will help with job creation. Mamamah will also eventually provide the country with the opportunity to expand her capital city, as well as bring about growth like hotel facilities, new settlements, new public sector investment which will all help improve the economy.
Let’s get the work started; Mamamah is not just about an airport, it brings with it other growth packages.