Air Nam to launch Eastern, Western African routes
By Tiri Masawi
DRIVEN by the desire to turn around its financial fortunes and cement a visible footprint in Africa, Namibia’s national carrier will soon launch new routes to Nairobi, Lagos and Accra in addition to the regional and oversees route its already plying.
Although plans to fly to East and West Africa are now being handled at a diplomatic stage, The Southern Times can reveal that the move has been necessitated by the cordial bilateral relationship between Namibia, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana.
The move to exploit the African market is a deliberate tactic by the Namibian airline to shed off competition from the increased proliferation of most of the African routes by budget airlines.
Though easier said than done the Namibian airline’s newly found romance with East and West Africa is hot on the heels of a call by African leaders to promote free movement of people and goods across African borders.
To cement their bid for inter-Africa trade and movement, most nations Namibia included, are exploiting every opportunity available to promote free movement of goods and people across the continent.
Namibia has strong bilateral codes with both Nigeria and Ghana while the route to Kenya could be a consolidation of a code sharing agreement that Air Namibia sealed with Kenyan Airways about two years ago.
Air Namibia head of international Marketing Wimpie Van Vuuren confirmed to The Southern Times that , “We will soon be plying the Nairobi, Lagos, and Accra routes but in the interim we are not in a position to give much detail about the proceedings as they are now being finalised at a bilateral level. It is already captured in the turnaround strategy and we will soon see the plan come to fruition.”
Only last year, Namibian airspace was opened to competitors including world renowned Qatar Airways and plans are afoot for Ethiopian Airways.
The move to have as many airlines plying the Windhoek route, although taken with a pinch of salt by those that are keen to maintain dominance over Air Namibia, has been necessitated by the Namibian government’s appetite to have the country play the transport and logistics hub of the region.
Perhaps what is more interesting about Air Namibia’s move to capture the West African routes is that in the recent past Nigerian envoys to Namibia have not made it a secret that they would like to improve their bilateral engagements with Namibia and have more business engagements between the two countries.
The move also comes at a time when the Namibian government demanded that Air Namibia turn its fortunes around and make profit.
This comes after the realisation that the government will not be able to sustain the bailouts to the struggling national carrier.
Although Air Namibia already flys regional routes to Cape Town, Johannesburg, Harare, Lusaka, Gaborone, Maun and Victoria Falls, it has not been immune to the plethora of aviation challenges faced by regional airlines.
Other airlines that have been feeling the pinch of both competition and financial constrains include Air Zimbabwe which has been battling to acquire the latest planes due to liquidity constrains while South African Airways has been surviving at the mercy of that country’s tax payers despite having a regional monopoly and also enjoying a wide spectrum of routes.
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