On Friday, Africa’s largest airline, the Ethiopian Airlines officially announced its arrival in our country. The decision by the east African nation’s airline to join another east African airline, Kenya Airways is anticipated to add efficiency to downstream industries such as tourism, investment and diamonds trading that heavily depend on a robust and reliable aviation sector.
In as much as we are delighted about this development, precisely because the Ethiopian Airline executives confirmed on Friday that they were partly lured by Civil Aviation Authority Botswana (CAAB) to come and start their operations here, we equally call on CAAB to consider encouraging airlines with intentions to operate domestic flights. This will leave consumers with more options to choose from.
The most simple encouragement that the authority can give to these airlines, which include amongst others Blue Sky Airways, a local company, entail but not limited to opening up the skies. For a very long time Blue Sky Airways has decried the authority’s tactics of delaying in giving it the go ahead to operate scheduled domestic flights. We are sorry to say since our last interaction with this airline a few years back, 2012 to be precise, progress has been less than what we hoped ÔÇô That’s the sad reality.
The saddest reality though is that these delay tactics by CAAB, happen to be a hindrance to the growth of the aviation sector in this country and by extension the growth of our economy.
CAAB became a legal entity and instigated full operations in 2009 after taking over from the former Department of Civil Aviation (DCA). This adds up to more than 5 years, and the authority cannot claim to be still “settling”.
While the CAAB continue to “sleep”, global markets figures do show that in spite of increasing FDI flows into Africa, including Botswana, not all African countries are experiencing an influx of FDI. For Botswana this is partly due to lack of direct flights to the developed parts of the world such as Europe. This is perhaps partly due to lack of vibrant aviation industry which entails scheduled domestic flights. For a country that is home to a globally recognised delta, the Okavango Delta, and a country that boasts of the largest herds of cattle (that could be used as part of farm tourism….being an extension of village stay tourism) we need not to be dragging our feet to uplift this critical aviation sector and make it at par with those of other nations, atleast by African standard.
In our sane minds there is no single doubt that a vibrant aviation industry is crucial to Botswana’s economic prosperity but we also need to remind the CAAB that modernisation and competitiveness are vital. In short there is need to optimise what our landlocked country already has in terms of its airspace and airports. It is how this once ‘Africa’s shining example’ can remain a vibrant and natural crossroads for both the regional and global aviation sector.
We had hopes, yes high hopes that the relocation of the Diamond Trading Company presented Botswana with a good “excuse” to capture new world markets through the expansion of the SSKA. To date the airport is still under renovation, six or so years after the set deadline date.
Despite this shoddy works at SSKA and other airports, influenced mostly by political interference, we still believe that the aviation sector is or should be a true connectivity, on a global scale. It drives economic growth, creates jobs and brings the citizens of the world together. We rely on aviation for the international links that could make Botswana a global diamond hub that we dream to be as a nation.
In the meantime though, lest we forget, we need to advise our national Airline, Air Botswana to consider taking the arrival of Ethiopian Airline as a blessing. Through a code share, Air Botswana can and should be able to control the SADC region working hand in hand with the eastern African nation airline to connect to the rest of the world since we still have ten more decades before we can think of having direct flights to first world cities.
The #Bottomline however remains that there are significant prospects of growth for our country’s aviation industry and market. If we can make use of them, our domestic economy will gain as the sector raises its performance, efficiency and takes new market opportunities.