The Bugesera International Airport (BIA) project involves the construction of a new airport in Rilima and/or Juru localities of the Bugesera District in the Eastern Province of Rwanda, approximately 23 km to the southeast of Kigali City.
When completed, the new airport will be the East African country’s third and largest international airport and the eighth airport overall with the capacity to accommodate 14 million passengers a year.
The Bugesera International Airport (BIA) project was born back in 2013 with the government of the East African country planning to award the contract for the implementation of the project to China State Construction Engineering Corporation. However, the latter withdrew from the project.
The project came back to life in 2015 when the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) announced ongoing negotiations with an unnamed “serious investor”. The following year (2016) Rwanda’s Government signed a binding agreement with “the serious investor” Mota-Engil, a Portuguese group operating in the civil construction, public works, port operations, waste, water, and logistics sectors.
According to the agreement, the Portuguese firm would fund, build and operate the new airport for a period of 25 years under a concession from the government, with the contract renewable for an additional 15 years. Mota-Engil agreed to provide US$ 418M to fund the first phase of the project.
In August 2017, construction works began with Mota-Engil Africa, a subsidy of Mota-Engil Group, as the main contractor. 75% of the funding was provided by the Portuguese group while Rwandan company Aviation Travel and Logistics (ATL) provided the remaining 25%. ATL would also provide ground handling services at the airport upon completion. The first phase of the project was expected to be completed in 2019.
The construction on some parts of the airport was however halted temporarily to pave way for a redesign which would among other things help the airport to meet “green standards” and be among the first airports to achieve ‘green’ certification.
By the end of 2019, RDB announced that Qatar Airways had signed an agreement with Rwanda’s Government to acquire a 60% stake in the Bugesera International Airport project. Under the new arrangements with Qatar Airways, a much larger airport was planned, with a construction budget of US$ 1.31bn.
The first phase, which upon completion will handle up to seven million passengers P/A is planned to take five years, with completion of the second phase which would double the capacity planned in 2032.
In May 2021, Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure Claver Gatete announced that the first phase of construction of the Bugesera International Airport, including the runway, is 40% complete and that the second phase, including terminals and other facilities, will commence in two months.
He said that the first phase of the project may be complete by the end of next year “if all goes according to plan”.