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Saturday, 5 May 2007

Zambian aviation : a caution for Sarah

Yesterday's announcement by Zambia Skyways and Air Zimbabwe that they plan to launch new routes to London and Dubai from Lusaka, is a timely caution against Government's recent ideas for a national airline.

Sarah Sayifwanda the new Minister of Communications and Transport has a remit from President Mwanawasa of ensuring " the matter of the establishment of the national airline was speedily concluded and brought to cabinet for a decision". In reaching any recommendations for cabinet, Sarah needs to reflect carefully on the global, continental and national nature of the aviation market. Due consideration is particularly needed to the real problems that the Zambian aviation market faces and the best way of handling them.

The air travel industry across the world has been going through a process of liberalisation. The 1990s saw the deregulation of the US aviation market, and now we have seen new programs in Europe like SESAR and the latest Open Skies agreement push the boundaries even further. In Europe & US the rise in low cost carriers (so called no-frills) continues to grow and these models are now being copied in other parts of the world. China, South Africa and India serve as the latest examples. All of this growth is private sector led.

Simply put, aviation demand around the world is rising. Even in Zambia, the resurrection of Zambia Airways and now the new Zambia Skyways - Zim Airways alliance deal to London and Dubai (at possibly as much as £200 cheaper per London trip compared to the incumbent BA ), proves that the market is best placed to handle growing air travel demand in Zambia. The market can handle this demand as long an enabling environment exist where the new low cost models can thrive both within Zambia and connecting Zambia around the African region and beyond. Several airlines are already exploring Lusaka & Ndola with the possibility of connecting them to the European and Middle East destinations. The lack of a national airline is a good incentive for new aviation investment in Zambia because it provides comfort that foreign airlines won't be discriminated against in terms of slots and regulations in preference to a "national airline".

Government ownership of a national airline is the last thing that the nation needs. Aside from dissuading other airlines from offering services, few countries in the world except the Arabs with vast amounts of cash own airlines anymore. It is too expensive and the industry is too volatile. And there's a moral argument as well - why should most Zambians who don't travel abroad, pay taxes just to enable the richer Zambians to travel? Surely the tax payer's money can be spent on something more useful?

The best thing that Sarah should be thinking about is to create a good coherent airport strategy for the whole country and provide an enabling environment to help attract low cost carriers. Let us look at the state of our airports (starting with Lusaka and Ndola Airports) and then let us offer new incentives to the low cost carriers. We must not waste money on a new national airline.


  1. I found this link with a lot of data about the flights to Lusaka and the seats per plane etc.

  2. Thanks for the link.

    Very interesting!

  3. I totaly agee with the points raised above.Other issues will have to be addressed eg trainging of pilots,ground staff,information technology,revamped our delapidated airports to international standards etc.My main concern with a zam/zim allaince are the sanctions that are currently imposed on zimbabwe.Will the british government for example allow an airline partly owned by a zimbabwean rigime be allowed to operate in Great britain?If all these can be acheived then hey presto zambians will be able to travel abroad at low costs..

  4. "Will the british government for example allow an airline partly owned by a zimbabwean rigime be allowed to operate in Great britain?"

    The sanctions as I understand them don't apply to travelling, although there's a EU ban on Zimbabwean leaders.

  5. A plane needed license from people unable to patrol the night sky with experience. Why is it taken to be road license for an unfit vehicle.


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