Africa’s push to conquer the skies with national airlines

Uganda is the latest African country to pour money into a national carrier. But the aviation industry faces some particularly tough conditions on the continent before it can turn a profit. Aircraft on Entebbe Airport showing the colors of Uganda Airlines Just over a fortnight ago, a plane belonging to the newly revived Uganda Airlines lifted off from Entebbe for its maiden flight. Fifty minutes later, the jet full of dignitaries landed safely in Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya.

Ugandans took to Twitter and Facebook to celebrate the successful flight of the Bombardier CRJ-900, one of two such planes currently flying for the relaunched national carrier.

“In some ways this airline is beginning to feel like we are sending someone on the moon if you look at the reactions online,” Angelo Izama, a Ugandan journalist, told DW in Kampala.

It’s taken Uganda nearly two decades to get its national carrier back in the skies – the airline was grounded in 2001 after years of losses.

Its relaunch has sparked national pride, with President Museveni describing the inaugural flight as a "historic moment" for all Ugandans. When proposing the Uganda Airlines relaunch in 2016, President Museveni said the lack of a national carrier was a ‘big shame’ The new aircraft will connect seven regional destinations, including Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania and Mogadishu in Somalia. Uganda Airlines has already ordered two long-haul Airbus A330 Neo planes and says destinations further afield will follow.

Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda hopes the new carrier will also contribute to the economy – Ugandans spend $450 million (€405 million) flying with foreign airlines, he said at the inaugural ceremony. That money could rather flow to Uganda.

State airline boom

Like Uganda, a number of African countries are championing the idea of a national carrier and are either planning to resurrect their state airlines or pouring money into expanding their fleet and routes.

Ghana, which has been without a state airline since the collapse of Ghana International Airways in 2010, is planning a new national carrier in partnership with Ethiopian Airlines.

In a similar deal, Zambia plans to relaunch its state carrier in late 2019 more than two decades after it was shut down.

Senegal commenced domestic flights with its newly revived national carrier, Air Senegal, in 2018 while Tanzania has announced plans to buy new Airbus jets in order to increase the routes of its state-owned national carrier.Rwanda and Togo have also ramped up […]

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