The CEO of Ethiopian Airlines has announced plans to build a $5 billion airport south of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian News Agency reports.

Tewolde Gebremariam said the airport would cover an area of 35 square km and be able to handle 100 million passengers a year.

State-owned Ethiopian Airlines, which is Africa’s most profitable carrier and its biggest by fleet size, is currently based at Bole International Airport in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

A second terminal opened at Bole International last year, more than doubling its annual capacity to 22 million. Construction was funded by China’s Exim Bank.

“Bole Airport is not going to accommodate us,” Tewolde said.

“The airport looks … very large but with the way that we are growing, in about three or four years we are going to be full.”

He had previously said he wanted Bole International to be able to handle 100 million passengers a year.

Construction on the new airport is expected to begin later this year in Bishoftu, a town 39km southeast of Addis Ababa.

Details about the funding and construction of the airport were not provided.

According to Reuters, the airline posted net profit of $260 million in the 2018/19 financial year, up from $207.2 million a year earlier.

Last year it launched four-times weekly flights to Addis Ababa from Manchester.

It has a fleet of 116 aircraft and is looking to compete with Middle Eastern carriers such as Qatar Airways and Emirates, which provide numerous direct links between Asia and Africa.

Funding for numerous construction projects in Addis Ababa has come from China, including the African Union headquarters, the Adey Abeba Stadium, and a light railway system and ringroad.