INTERNATIONAL transportation analysts recently predicted that as the conflict in Angola subsides, air traffic into the oil- and mineral-rich south-west African nation would increase at a rate higher than in any other developing country in the region. They cited Angola's huge economic potential and its key geo-graphical location as the two main reasons for their fore-cast. But nothing in their reports was news to Manuel Nunes Jr., chairman and managing director of Angola's state air-port authority ENANA (Empresa Nacional de Exploraçao de Aeroportos e Navegaçao Aérea), a public company created in 1980 under the wings of the Ministry of Transportation. "We need to make some urgent and crucial investments in Luanda international airport and in the main provincial air-ports to bring them up to world standards," Mr. Nunes stresses.

"And we have to be imaginative if we want to be among the best in Africa because resources are scarce." Luanda is one of the country's few airports equipped to cope with modern aircraft. Many of the others were designed during colonial times in the 1960s for DC-3 and F-27 landings. Upgrading in Luanda is being carried out in line with International Civil Aviation Organization standards. With several airline companies expressing increasing interest in the Angolan capital as a stopover for their flights to Africa, Mr. Nunes says his objective is to upgrade Luanda's 4 de Fevereiro air-port to Category One status as soon as possible, thus converting it into an African hub. "These airlines do not fly into Luanda at the moment because our airport does not yet offer services meeting international standards. There-fore, if we increase the quality of our infrastructure and aeronautical services there will surely be a lot of companies flying to Luanda," he says.

On this premise ENANA was able to secure cabinet approval for a US$300 mil-lion Strategic Development Plan to upgrade Luanda's air-port. Most of the financing will come from the development of hotels, shopping malls, a massive parking lot and a new cargo terminal on airport land. "The parking business alone will generate some US$165 million over ten years, and the cargo business another US$435 million, according to our estimates. If things go well, we can finance the airport project with our own money and not use resources from the government's budget. The profits are there, now we need people who want to come and be a part of this project," Mr. Nunes notes. The ENANA chief says U.S. business leaders are especially welcome to take part in the c o m p a n y' s concession offerings at the airport, the revenues from which will eventually help both to modernize provincial airports and to finance a long-term project for a second international airport in the capital to be up and running by 2025.

"If a developer from the United States or elsewhere wants to set up a shopping mall close to the airport, he is very welcome. We would tell him that he can build and operate and after some years he can transfer it. We would expect him to pay a one-time bonus for the concession and then rent until the end of the agreement," Mr. Nunes explains. Mr. Nunes says the company has already received a number of proposals from foreign private enterprises for development projects at the Luanda air-port. "The main argument is very simple," Mr. Nunes points out. "It has to do with a well-known economic principle: the less abundant capital is, the greater the returns. Investment in airport services is just one of the many opportunities that the country can offer."