Bole International Airport, on the edge of Addis Ababa, will be able to triple the number of passengers it handles from the current level of around seven million annually when the expansion project is completed, Ethiopian Airports enterprise project manager for Bole Hailu Gebremariam said in an interview with Reuters.
However, Hailu said Ethiopia, with one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, is already studying potential sites for a new international airport that would be able to serve up to 70 million passengers a year.
Hailu said: “We have whittled down potential sites from eight to three, all of which are within 60 to 70 kilometres from Addis Ababa.” Hailu said he expected a site to be selected within the next six months, although airport designs and financing were among issues to be considered after that, which could mean construction work will not start for up to eight years.
The Beijing-based China Communication Construction Company Ltd started the $300 million Bole expansion project last September.
China is a key infrastructure investment partner in Ethiopia. Most recently, China has backed a $475m metro rail project in Addis Ababa with construction carried out by the China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) and “mostly financed” through a loan from the Export-Import Bank of China.
The metro system will cover a combined distance of 32 kilometres, with two rail lines dividing Addis Ababa north-south and east-west, serving a total of 39 underground and overground stations. Shenzhen Metro, the enterprise managing the Chinese city's metro system, will operate the Addis Ababa metro for 41 months alongside CREC.
In January 2014, the Ethiopian Roads Authority awarded contracts for road construction projects worth 6.5 billion Ethiopian birr ($320m) to three Chinese companies.
According to Chinese Ministry of Commerce figures, reported by the state-run Xinhua News Agency, China's direct investment in African non-financial sectors increased 71.6% year-on-year to $2.54 billion in the first 10 months of 2013. The vice-chairman of the China council for the Promotion of International Trade, Zhang Wei, told Xinhua that more than 2,000 Chinese companies are investing in Africa in sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, finance, logistics and construction.
Last year, Addis Ababa was included in a list of so-called ‘next 10’ cities in sub-Saharan Africa that are expected to see faster economic growth than any other region by 2040. The list was part of professional services firm PwC's 'Global Economy Watch'.
Ethiopian Airlines was the largest airline in Africa in terms of revenue and profit, according to figures released last year by the International Air Transport Association, which is the trade association for the world’s airlines.