A Zambian Airways 737 aircraft (Photo: aeroprints.com / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0))

Zambian Airways Looks to Relaunch Despite Backlash

The relaunch of Zambian Airways may not be a new story surfacing since it last went under receivership more than two decades ago. In 2018 plans were underway for the revival of the southern African carrier by Ethiopian Airlines looking set to acquire 45 percent with an initial investment capital of $30 million for the revamped airline while the Zambian government retaining 55 percent.

Towards the end of 2019, Zambian vice president Inonge Wina admitted that plans were underway and the state was sorting issues surrounding the relaunching process.

According to multiple reports, the Zambian government has now engaged Ethiopian Airlines to revive the airline and will cost Zambia $700,000 a month in leased airliners from Ethiopian.

Zambia has also invested hugely in refurbishing its airport with communication and transport minister Mutote Kafwaya acknowledging $1 billion has been used to prepare facilities ahead of the planned relaunch.

“We have invested over US$1 billion in refurbishing the airports and facilities to prepare for the re-launch,” said Mr Kafwaya.

There is heavy backlash from some stakeholders on the government’s inability to manage such a lucrative industry with questions being raised on where the finances intended for the new airline will be obtained from with Kafwaya insisting that no money will come from the treasury.

From 35 percent in 2014, Zambian public debt has tremendously increased to a massive 80 percent of the country’s GDP in 2019 with rising inflation expected to hit nine percent in 2020.

The Center for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD), an economic advisory board commissioned to advise the government, will caution in an open letter that using state funds to relaunch the airline will lead to increased financial burden for the country.

Key stakeholders are also advocating for a privately-driven airline as opposed to a government-funded airline taking note of its southern Africa counterpart, South African Airways, recent struggles which is also government-owned and is still undergoing a restructuring process.

However, the Zambian government looks determined to relaunch its flag carrier despite calls to halt the relaunching process with preparations underway for the country’s civil aviation authority to provide for the necessary certifications.

Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta also echoed the soundness of relaunching the Zambian carrier, speaking during Zambia’s first business summit. The relaunch will foster bilateral links between the two countries, also taking advantage of the planned African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which begins in July, 2020.

Victor Shalton
Victor Shalton
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