UGANDA (eTN) – The partnership between Air France and AKFED in the new Air Cote Ivoire with a 20 and 15 percent shareholding in the company, respectively, may open new doors for future cooperation even in East Africa, where AKFED is the principal shareholder of Air Uganda.
Air Uganda is presently seeking to employ a new Chief Executive after Kayle Haywood unceremoniously walked out on them last month after only 11 months in office to join new venture FastJet, leaving U7 scrambling to recruit yet another CEO as the company is making for its 5th anniversary later in November.
AKFED’s West African aviation ventures have been struggling, with two airlines operating in Mali and Burkina Faso, suggesting that the new format of partnership, here with the government of Ivory Coast and Air France, may become a model in the future for AKFED’s entire aviation involvement, which includes Meridiana Fly in Europe, a regional carrier based in Italy with its main base in Olbia/Sardinia, grown in size and scope after a quasi merger with former EuroFly.
There is growing speculation that Air Uganda’s future may lay in seeking a partnership, especially as new kid on the block FastJet, but also growing competition from such companies as Kenya Airways – itself already a member of the wider KLM/Air France family – and fast-growing Precision Air and RwandAir are making life difficult for smaller stand alone airlines without either a big brother, which Precision has with Kenya Airways or government involvement, which is backing up RwandAir to the hilt.
The recruitment of a new CEO by Air Uganda is, therefore, being eyed with keen interest by aviation pundits, and should the new wo/man at the helm come with any past KLM/Air France credentials, it could be a pointer into a direction U7 may take in coming years, when crucial decisions must be taken on fleet development, new routes and destinations, and potential tie ups. It is now and tomorrow that the question needs answering if U7 is to remain a purely regional carrier, turn the attention to the wider African continent or even go long haul to the Gulf, Asia, and Europe at one stage. Alone, that is not a likely scenario, especially not with the lukewarm attitude of the Ugandan government, which had the offer to buy into Air Uganda and turn it in to a quasi-national airline, but has since then opted to mess around and lean towards a revival of defunct Uganda Airlines, though no formal decision has been taken towards that end, very likely due to lack of funds at a time when government’s coffers are notoriously empty.