Sierra Leone scraps China-funded airport deal in capital city Freetown

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Published: October 12, 2018 9:13 AM

Sierra Leone has cancelled plans to build an airport with China's help in the outskirts of the country's capital, Freetown, saying it was economically unviable.

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada (ANI)

Sierra Leone has cancelled plans to build an airport with China’s help in the outskirts of the country’s capital, Freetown, saying it was economically unviable. The Mamamah International Airport had been commissioned by previous Sierra Leone president Ernest Bai Koroma in March. The project was funded by China worth USD 318 million and due to be completed by 2022, CNN reported.

“After serious consideration and diligence, it is the government’s view that (it) is uneconomical to proceed with the construction of the new airport when the existing one is grossly underutilised,” a letter from the country’s Minister of Transport and Aviation Kabineh Kallon read. This is the first time that an African government has scrapped an announced and a major China-backed deal.

Reacting to the same, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said that the cancellation of the airport project did not indicate a rift between Sierra Leone and China. He claimed that the deal was in an exploratory phase. “When cooperating with African countries that include Sierra Leone, China has always adhered to the principles of equality-based consultations and win-win cooperation. I don’t think this particular project should be overblown as an indication of problems between the Chinese and Sierra Leone governments,” Lu said.

Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping had announced a financial package of USD 60 billion aid, comprising investment and loans to the continent. This was made during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit that was held between senior Chinese leaders and their African counterparts in Beijing.

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