China to build $1.2 billion airport in Sudan

China has agreed to build a $1.2 billion airport in Sudan.

A Chinese company has won a 900 million euro contract to build a new international airport in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, underscoring the close links between China and sanctions-hit Sudan.

A subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company will build a runway long enough to handle giant Airbus A380s, a passenger terminal, hanger, control tower and other facilities, China’s state-owned companies administrator said in a statement on its website (www.sasac.gov.cn) on Tuesday.

The new airport will have a runway long enough for the giant Airbus A380

“After this project is completed, it will greatly enhance the degree of internationalisation of Sudan’s capital Khartoum, and also increase the impact China Communications Construction Company will have in Sudan’s market,” the statement said.

The company has a Hong Kong-listed unit, and is involved in infrastructure projects around the world. In January it was given an $810 million contract to build the second phase of a new port in Sri Lanka.

The deal with Sudan comes at a time when airlines are considering cutting back operations because of currency restrictions that prevent them repatriating their profits.

The airlines are constrained because of local laws that prevent selling tickets to Sudanese nationals in foreign currency. Credit card transactions are also not possible due to U.S. sanctions imposed since 1997..

Only about a dozen foreign airlines fly to Sudan because of the U.S. embargo. Sudan also has a poor safety record, with the European Union banning all Sudanese airlines from flying to the bloc.

But Beijing has long been an ally of the government in Khartoum, providing much needed infrastructure development for the country that conceded to a January referendum outcome which will see its oil-rich south split as soon as July 9.

China relied on Sudan as its sixth largest source of oil imports in 2010, and has been keen to build a relationship with leaders in the south.

Zhang Jun, the Chinese Commercial Consul to south Sudan, said oil remained the backbone of the economy in both the north and south, and hoped the agreement between the two sides would not affect oil production, China Business News reported on Tuesday.

China is Sudan’ biggest investor.  Most of its investment is in the oil sector.  Just recently China agreed to help build and modernize Uganda’s infrastructure.  These agreements that China has with regards to infrastructure development are now routine and are expected in its diplomatic relations with African states.

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