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São Tomé and Príncipe announces an airport modernisation deal

Signed with Turkish company FB Airport STP, the deal has been described as a complete airport overhaul that will revitalise the island nation’s economy
  • Lack of transparency and potential conflict with an existing Chinese deal have drawn criticism of the project from the country’s political opposition

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São Tomé and Príncipe has announced a 300-million-euro modernisation of its main airport, set to begin this year.

José Cavalho de Rio, minister of infrastructure and natural resources, and Ginésio da Mata, minister of planning and finance, have signed the contract to upgrade and modernise the airport with FB Airport STP of the Turkish FB Group. Government authorities say the work will improve passenger terminals, cargo terminal, VIP lounges, catering and car parks. De Rio says the project will “revolutionise and bring a new dynamic to the domestic economy.”

The minister said passenger capacity will hit 500,000 in the first phase and increase by 500,000 with each of the subsequent two phases. FB Group said the project was a “complete overhaul” that included expansion and rehabilitation of existing aprons, as well as runway and taxiway rehabilitation, and said it will use a build-operate-transfer model with a 49-year concession.

[See more: São Tomé and Príncipe has run out of money to pay for imports]

However, opposition leader Jorge Bom Jesus said he had many doubts stemming from what he called the lack of transparency and information about the deal. He pointed out that it overlapped with a previous airport modernisation agreement signed with China under his administration in July 2022. That US$100 million renovation deal was still in effect as of March this year.

The agreement with FB Airport STP comes in the wake of another controversial deal last December, when the government handed management of the Água Grande thermal power station to a Turkish investment company without disclosing the contract and before it was submitted to the Court of Auditors for approval. 

For the airport project, de Rio pledged that work would begin only after the Court of Auditors approved it in around three months. FB Group says the project is expected to be completed within two years.

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