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Tunisia’s Enfidha Airport - Leveraging Public-Private Partnership for Development

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According to development experts, public-private partnerships are appropriate solutions designed to enable Africa develop its potential.

The Zine El Abidine Ben Ali airport project in Enfidha, Tunisia, an emerging town located some 100 km South of Tunis and 60 km from the Monastir airport is a good example for North Africa, in particular, and the entire continent, in general.

According to Tunisian authorities, the modernization and expansion of airport infrastructure have become priorities, especially in anticipation of the huge tourism and industrial development projects on the cards. Tunisia’s major airports in the north-eastern parts of the country -- the Monastir airport and Tunis-Carthage airport – are already saturated, or close to saturation, respectively. They connect major touristic zones such as Sousse, Hammamet and Monastir on the Mediterranean coast.

A new airport was therefore necessary and the private sector’s participation served as a catalyst in the project’s design and implementation.

Instead of bearing the entire cost and dealing with the project risks, Tunisian authorities decided to rely on private capital and the private sector’s managerial ability and state-of-the-art technology. This has paid off handsomely, resulting in the construction of a modern, spacious, comfortable and efficient airport.

The Enfidha Airport Project

The investment model adopted involves the granting of two 40-year concession contracts. The first contract is to operate, maintain and develop the Monastir airport, while the second is the Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) scheme, for a brand new airport in Enfidha.

The contract was awarded to TAV Airports Holding, an Istanbul-based Turkish company specialized in the construction, operation and management of airports. In addition to Monastir and Enfidha airports in Tunisia, TAV is currently operating four airports in Turkey, namely, Istanbul Ataturk, Ankara Esenboga, Antalya Gazipasa and Izmir Adnen Menderes Airports; two airports in Georgia –Tbilissi and Batumi, and two others in Macedonia – Skopje and Ohrid.

Through its Tunisian subsidiary, TAV Tunisie S.A., TAV Airports in May 2008 designed a financial plan that brought in the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank affiliate, and other commercial banks.

However, due to global financial market interruptions, commercial banks reduced their level of investment in the project. The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group and other financial institutions were then  approached to help make up for the financial shortfall. The AfDB therefore made a financial contribution of €70 million as a loan.  

The project commenced in July 2007 and its first phase was completed in October 2009.

According to its management, the airport has already attained global performance standards. It has the capacity to handle some 4,500 pieces of luggage per hour while respecting European airport security standards.

The airport prides itself on the best quality services it offers to passengers, while reducing arrival and departure wait times considerably.

Project Impact

During the project construction phase, which lasted two years, some 2,200 direct full time jobs were created.

Close to 70% of project workers were locally recruited while the rest were mainly Turkish expatriates.

During the operation phase, some 1,400 jobs were created.

Employees at the airport said they were proud to be working at the Enfidha airport as it offered them a good job, a competitive salary and spares them the pain of migrating to bigger cities.

First-time passengers were pleasantly surprised by the excellent facilities and impeccable services at Enfidha.

AfDB’s Role

The AfDB’s 2007-2011 strategy for Tunisia focuses on strengthening macro-economic policies and accelerating reforms; modernizing infrastructure, especially transportation infrastructure, and strengthening the productive sector as well as consolidation of human capital.

The Enfidha project is in line with the second pillar which provides for infrastructure modernization, the development of wealth creation opportunities within the infrastructure sector and the provision of a set of facilities to various economic actors at an affordable price.

It is in line with the Bank’s priority focus on the acceleration of infrastructure development in Africa through public-private partnerships.

The project is also in sync with this objective given that it is the biggest public-private infrastructure investment in Tunisia. Enfidha is also the first concession in Tunisia’s transportation sector and the first airport concession in the Maghreb.

Through this project, the AfDB and the Tunisian government acknowledge the role that infrastructure plays in the country’s economic development, in particular, and the continent, in general.

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