Tanzania recently acquired two new Bombardier Q 400 planes, bringing joy across the country.
Many Tanzanians were of the opinion that this was another opportunity to fly high the wings of Mount Kilimanjaro.
A new plane landed at a home airport for the first time and it will be our own, was the feeling. Being married here, I also felt that we now have what we can proudly call our own, something to be proud of.
And of course, something that will make the country a competitive player in the air transport industry.
If you thought acquiring a few planes is a mean feat, then you are wrong. The citizenry was really enthusiastic and the planes got water salute upon landing at the Julius Nyerere International Airport.
You might be wondering why all the enthusiasm, but many who know what daunting task it is to revamp an ailing national flag carrier like Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) would obviously understand Tanzania’s happy dance when this plane touched the ground.
I went to a quite corner and did “President John Pombe Magufuli push-ups”, something we usually do here when we feel satisfied with specific government’s achievement to laud the president. We only wish it will be managed by competent people and turned into a profitable venture.
Restoring an airline’s lost glory can be very tough, just go and ask Magufuli’s predecessors. And in the neighbouring Rwanda, President Paul Kagame’s government purchased its first airbus to boost RwandAir’s capacity to expand.
Well, my motherland Kenya also acquired dreamliners in its quest to expand the Kenya Airways wings in the Afro-Asian trade corridor. And mid this year, Ethiopian Airlines, which is Africa’s biggest and fastest-growing national carrier, also acquired 14 new Airbus A350 aircraft, according to BDLive website.
It was the first nation to purchase such aircraft in Africa. And with all these developments, many may wonder why African airspace is still dominated by foreign airlines apart from the Ethiopian carrier, which so far flies to 52 destinations around the continent and 92 across the globe.
Go it alone
Though the AU Commission mooted a single African Air transport by 2017, it still seems impossible since most countries in the continent still prefer to either go it alone or sign agreements with European or middle eastern nations.
So with African nations not ready to open their air markets for regional competition, implementation of the 1999 Yamoussoukro Declaration, is not going to be easy.
Implementing the said agreement will also make trips to other African nations easy, thus opening up of markets for even the small carriers to leverage with their stronger counterparts.
I believe Africa has enough money to build aircraft maintenance facilities to cut the cost of individual country carrier maintenance.
It would also reduce the nightmare of connecting flights to access other African nations. My colleague had to fly from Tanzania to Dubai to reach Mauritius.
Connecting to African cities would be seamless if African carriers dominated the continental airspace.
However, for African airlines to succeed, there is a need to tackle challenges facing its aviation industry like poor safety record, high taxes and hostile environment for new regional players and competitors.
Most of air transport facilities in Africa also need complete upgrade.
Imagine a powerful continental airline!
Hello Africa, our airlines are too small to operate alone.