The Zanzibar Airports Authority (ZAA) yesterday signed contracts with four foreign firms to provide services at the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (AAKIA).

Under the pacts, the companies will provide services ranging from management and support of the AAKIA, ground-handling, duty-free management and VIP lounge.

The companies with which the airports authority signed the contracts are the Dubai National Air Travel Agency (Dnata) – which will be offering ground handling services – and France-based Egis which brings acknowledged expertise in airports management.

Others are Emirates and Société d’Exploitation et de Gestion Aéroportuaires (Segap), a holding company with an established portfolio of airport investments across West and Central Africa.

The signing of the four-year contracts comes at a time when local ground handlers claim the market size of Tanzania airports was too small to even accommodate local ground handling firms let alone inviting new ones.

But, Zanzibar President Hussein Ali Mwinyi, who witnessed the signing ceremony yesterday, said the government arrived at the decision of seeking big foreign firms believing they would offer services meting international standards.

“We took a long time to find these companies. We were forced to have a series of discussions with a view to protecting the national interests,” he said, noting that the selected firms were capable, experienced and trustworthy in the international arena in the aviation industry.

“The government has invested $128 million in the construction of this airport (AAKIA). As a matter of fact, we want nothing but services that meet international standards,” he said.

Dr Mwinyi said the decision to cooperate with foreign companies was also aimed at cementing economic ties with their countries of origin.

“Our core objective is to see more airlines flying to the Isles. This is set to go in tandem with an increasing number of tourists and business volume,” noted the President.

However, he explained, the companies will be working closely with the government and that some decision-making and operations would remain in the domain of the State.

Some institutions which will remain untouchable by foreign companies include Immigration department, banks, Health ministry and security forces and operations.

Speaking before the signing ceremony, the minister for Works, Communication and Transport (Zanzibar), Ms Rahma Kassim Ali, said the construction of AAKIA, which could accommodate 1.6 million people on an annual basis, was at 99 percent before its completion.

“For a long time our airports have been grappling with a number of challenges when it comes to service delivery and thus having little contribution to the economy,” said Minister Ali.

Adding: “That is why we have decided to cooperate with foreign companies to enjoy their expertise.”

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