African airlines face stiff competition ahead of Routes Africa Forum

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) – When Africa is set to discuss and deliberate on pertinent challenges facing its airspace during the forthcoming Routes Africa 2012 Forum to be held in Seychelles, Middle East registered airlines are stabilizing their aviation business in this continent.

Lack of vibrant airlines in Africa, air transport remain a hiccup to most governments while posing adverse impacts on tourism, forcing tourists from other parts of the world enter the continent through the Middle East and Europe.

Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways are the only vibrant and big African registered air carriers bringing tourists and other travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa directly from Europe, Asia, America and the Oceania.

Low-cost airlines registered in Middle Eastern states, including the Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways, Oman Air, Gulf Air, Etihad and Air Arabia have dominated African sky while making a good link between African nations and the rest of the world through Dubai, Doha, Jeddah, and Cairo.

The African sky is today dominated by European and Middle Eastern carriers, with those from China set to enter the continent’s sky. Poorly resourced, African airlines are in a little position to mount an effective response to the growing competition.

Southern Africa states are facing the same, with poor air transport and expensive airfares. Directors of the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA) signalled this situation, calling the Southern African regional governments to set more funding for regional airlines.

RETOSA Board Chairman and Permanent Secretary for the Zimbabwe Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Dr. Bradan Maunganidze once said the 15 member states of RETOSA lack reliable air connection between each country, making it difficult for tourists to move from one country to a neighbor member state smoothly.

The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) states are still depending on foreign airlines from the Middle East and Europe.

“This situation makes travel to the Southern African region expensive due to frequent stopover and delays caused through connections outside Africa,” said Dr Maunganidze.

Except South Africa, which has a good air transport network and a well-established national airline, the rest of the member states of SADC are still fighting to build their own national airlines.

RETOSA directors, however, called for regional governments to look at best options that would attract local people to visit tourist sites available in their own countries.

By making it easier for the locals to visit this region (SADC), it will make tourism grow faster and create more business and employment opportunities in respective member states, Dr. Maunganidze said.

Kenya Airways is expanding fast to cover Southern African region, while Tanzania registered airlines, Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) and Precision Air are looking to extend their wings to cover Zambia, Zimbabwe, Comoro Island, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola.

ATCL is expected to get more equipment to enable the firm expand its services, said the airline’s chief executive officer, Mr. Paul Chizi.

He said the airline expects to get Boeing airplane through leasing and that will be dispatched to SADC regional airports of Zimbabwe, Zambia and DRC (Lubumbashi).
Mr. Chizi expressed his optimism recently during the re-launching of ATCL flights following acquisition of a Boeing 737-500 that was dispatched for key domestic routes.
Routes Africa 2012 Forum will be held in Seychelles to provide a platform for Africa to discuss the way forward in aviation on the continent where the potential to have the biggest growth in tourism movements exists.

Seychelles Tourism and Culture Minister Alain St. Ange said that Seychelles wanted a discussion forum for Africa to hear each other and discuss together with airline partners who have a serious and genuine interest in Africa.