Once a power house of emerging aviation nations in Africa, the country now stands like a destitute seeking aid after it elected to lose what was once its pride, Zambia Airways.
Since December 4, 1994, Zambia has been the prodigal child of the aviation industry in Africa.
The loss of Zambia Airways Corporation was a slap in the face of its employees, the travelling public and the nation at large.
Despite this, Zambia’s sound investment climate has continued to offer hunting ground for foreign investors who are interested in injecting their resources in the development of various sectors of the country’s economic strata.
With investors in the mining industry and agriculture taking the lead, there has not been a plan by the Zambian private sector to explore the local aviation industry, whose gap is still unfilled following the demise of the national airline more than 15 years ago.
Although attempts have been made by some business individuals to spearhead the establishment of a national airline, they have not been successful because of the enormous capital involved.
This has given chance to foreign airlines that have taken advantage of the not-so-active aviation industry in Zambia.
The coming of airlines in the country, such as Proflight, Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines, for example, has supported a diverse range of Zambia’s imports and exports as the country’s importers are finding it easy to bring in commodities from international markets.
Other airlines operating in Zambia are Kenya Airways, British Airways, South African Airways, Air Malawi, Air Zimbabwe, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Precision Air.
Emirates Airlines from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which was recently, launched for both passenger and cargo flights into Lusaka and Harare in Zimbabwe is of great benefit to the development of Zambia’s economy.
This has helped in facilitating the linkage of Zambia to a wide range of global markets and will make connectivity for the local private sector to these markets easier.
The aviation industry in the country is showing signs of growth going by the number of airlines registering their presence in the sector.
National Airports Corporation Limited (NACL) managing director Robinson Misitala said the coming in of new international airlines into Zambia would provide passengers with alternative and convenient routes as well as build Zambia as a regional hub.
Mr Misitala said the introduction of international airlines to Zambia has made the country post positive growth and become attractive to foreign investment.
He said the corporation had invested heavily in ground handling equipment to provide competitive and efficient services at all the four international airports in the country.
“As NACL, we welcome the international airlines to be part of the NACL family and we will provide ground handling services to these airlines,” Mr Misitala said.
It is unfortunate that the performance of the Zambian aviation industry is still lagging behind.
Over the period 2010-2015, Zambia is expected to be among the African countries’ third fastest growing region in the world in terms of international traffic.
This trend is expected to continue in the coming years due to a number of factors, notably the robust economic growth, increasing number of airlines coming into the country.
Despite the negativity, Mukuba Airlines will soon be launched in Zambia.
This is positive news for the Zambian aviation sector as it continues to grow.
Mukuba Airline chairperson and chief executive officer, Mwansa Chalwe explained that the airline’s business model would come as a great change to air travel in the country and would promote tourism and investment throughout Zambia by making air travel affordable and complement other product offerings on the market.
Mukuba Airlines, which is expected to be a low-cost carrier, will be the first of its kind in Zambia for domestic travel.
He said with regard to the airline industry, the number of regional and international airlines coming into Zambia has increased in the last 10 years by more than 60 per cent, bringing in record numbers of regional and international passengers.
The Government must be commended for its policy of promoting private sector development by creating an enabling environment as it is the private sector that creates jobs.
“Research findings were that the Zambian macro-economic indicators had been consistently good over a time frame of 10 years,
“The research concluded that it is the good macro-economic and stable political environment of the country that is attracting many foreign investors to Zambia in order to seize investment opportunities in various sectors including tourism,” he said.
Mukuba Airline is expected to be operational in July this year and its offices will be based in Livingstone.
Once the airline was operational, it will help improve domestic tourism as people will have a chance to visit tourism places in other parts of the country at a low price.
On the other hand Government’s plans to re-establish the national airline in Zambia have reached an advanced stage.
Communication, Transport, Works and Supply Minister Christopher Yaluma said Government had exhausted all possible means in as far as re-establishing the national airline was concerned.
Mr Yaluma said he had looked at all possibilities whether to go ahead on its own or engage with other airlines and other interested parties but get the biggest equity.
“We have advanced with our plans to re-establish the national airline and we have exhausted all possible ways, as to whether we go alone or partner with other airlines and others interested parties but retaining the biggest equity,” Mr Yaluma said.
The Government needs to urgently set up a good team of aviation experts to study three African airlines in conjunction with consulting firms such as Lufthansa Consulting for startup airlines and come up with an implementable paper, which shall set a framework of creating a national airline.
Mr Yaluma said discussions on the matter had been concluded and that the Government would soon be handing the recommendations to relevant authorities and Cabinet.
He said the Government had had several meetings with a number of airlines and other stakeholders interested in the re-establishment of the Zambian national airline to discuss possible means of setting up a national airline.
Late last year, Mr Yaluma told Parliament that the country would have a national airline in place before the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) general assembly to be co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe in August this year.
The Government has been actively consulting and engaging various stakeholders to see how this vision could be realized.
|Fast Facts about Zambia:|
|Area||752 618 sq. km|
|Population||Approx. 14 million|
|Number of Provinces||10 (72 Districts in Total)|
|Rankings||39th largest country in the world|
|Average monthly temperatures||20 Degrees Celsius|
Zambia is among the seven countries that do not own or has not designated any as its national airline, placing it in the same category as South Sudan and other poor countries.
The aviation sector plays a vital role in the country’s growth process by accelerating movement of goods and persons.
Growth in the sector has direct maps into economic growth due to spillover effects through creation of direct and indirect jobs in the industry and other auxiliary sectors such as tourism and other service sectors.
Zambia can maintain the growth of its aviation industry if more efforts were made towards the re-establishment of a national airline.
The rapid expansion in the aviation industry is hampered by a number of factors; among them the poor record of safety and security, lack of adequate resources and infrastructure, distance and limited connectivity, and lack of regulation.
The aviation industry faces various challenges including poor airport infrastructure, lack of physical and human resources, limited connectivity and lack of transit facilities.
Although substantial progress has been made during the past decade, Zambia still lags behind other countries in terms of “soft” and “hard” infrastructure.
It is, therefore, critical that Zambia invests in the soft as well as hard infrastructure to support the industry.
These challenges require the Government to enhance regulation of aerospace management, consumer protection and safety of airlines.
Lack of aviation experts and skills, high airport taxes and fees, weak connectivity and restrictions on transit visas and facilities add to the menu of impediments affecting the aviation industry.
The aviation industry is essential to the prosperity of Zambia as it opens up opportunities that did not exist before.
Fostering the Zambian aviation industry may be one of the driving forces of growth in the tourism sector in the country.
Developing the aviation industry may also represent an opportunity to mitigate chronic transport problems faced by African countries.
The civil aviation industry is highly cyclical, being extremely sensitive to the economic cycle.
In times of economic hardship, people simply fly less often than they do in good times.
This is true of both the leisure and business sectors.
This characteristic is exemplified by the industry’s abrupt change of fortune in the years.
It is clear that the outlook for the Zambian economy and the aviation industry will improve even more rapidly than had been anticipated because of the good environment in the country.
By: Andrew Miti
Date: 15 May 2013