Can Zimbabwe Get Its Airlines Back? Can Africa Grow Its Own?

Can Zimbabwe Get Its Airlines Back? Can Africa Grow Its Own?

More than 300 delegates representing 40-plus airlines and 50 airports are in Victoria Falls for the Ninth Annual Routes Africa Summit, drawing attention to African aviation in general, and the state of Zimbabwean aviation in particular.

Stakeholders say Africa’s aviation industry is one of fastest-growing sectors in the world. Aviation analyst Chris Zweigenthal talked to eNCA about it.

Although Africa’s aviation growth is impressive, Zweigenthal identified five main concerns: liberalization; safety and security; rising costs; infrastructure; and immigration — making access to countries easier.

“We have to liberalize and expand services because if we don’t the international carriers will continue to come in and instead of using hubs within Africa, they’re going to be able to operate directly into countries and destinations that could normally have been serviced by African carriers,” Zweigenthal said.

Zimbabwe, which once had 34 airlines flying into the country but now has 14, hopes to add two more to its runways by the end of 2014, ZimbabweIndependent reported in May.

The government is promoting Victoria Falls International Airport as an international entry point to increase capacity.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe is negotiating with RwandAir and a Tanzanian airline with agreements and flights expected before end of 2014, said David Chawota, general manger of the aviation authority, in a May report.

The opportunity exists for low-cost carriers to target new markets — not cannibalize existing markets, Zweigenthal said. Theres an African market that hasn’t considered flying. “We need to target it,” he said.

Is it an attainable goal to bring all the airlines back into Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe has a very strong civil aviation background, Zweigenthal said. It has the basic infrasturcture there to host the airlines. Victoria Falls is building a new runway and terminal building to accommodate 1.5 million passengers. Right now it’s at about 230,000 passengers, he said.