Sierra Leone cancels plans for an “unnecessary” China-funded airport

Sierra Leone has canceled the controversial China-funded $318 million airport project approved prior to the country’s presidential elections in March by Sierra Leone’s former President, Ernest Bai Koroma. This is in line with the warning of the International Monetary Fund which warned that the project would impose a heavy debt burden on the country.

The country’s Aviation Minister Kabineh Kallon said that the proposed Mamamah International Airport, which was due for completion in 2022, was not necessary and instead of building a new airport, the country’s current international airport, Lungi International Airport would be renovated. The cancelled airport project which was designed to replace Lungi International Airport was considered an obstacle to the country’s development.

The government’s official letter addressed to the director to stop all contracts relating to the construction, stated: “After serious consideration and due diligence, it is government’s view that it is uneconomical to proceed with the construction of a new airport when the existing one is grossly under-utilised.”

The construction of the $318 million Mamamah International Airport began earlier this year. At the time, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund warned that the project would impose a heavy debt burden on the country.

The decision to cancel the proposed airport which was being constructed by the China Railway Seventh Group and funded by China Exim Bank comes at a time many experts have expressed concern over Africa’s rising debts, especially to China.

In 2017, Sierra Leone recorded a government debt equivalent to 60.30 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, $3,774 million. Government Debt to GDP in Sierra Leone averaged 109.99 percent from 1990 until 2017, reaching an all-time high of 247.38 percent in 1999.