12 Feb The Zambia Airways Conundrum
In 2018 alone, Zambia was visited by the likes of Will smith, Brian McKnight, Joe Thomas, Jack Ma and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. All the above world famous people shared one common experience: they used foreign airlines to visit Zambia.
South African Airways especially got serious media coverage when they safely landed Prince Harry at Kenneth Kaunda International airport. In other words, during the highest moments of highlight, Zambia managed miss out on the perfect opportunity to market the nation. Even when Zambia brought home the Africa cup of nations, it was on a foreign airline. Without an airline, our tourism policy remains cheap-talk.
The time to re-launch a national airline is now. Simple-minded arguments about the unprofitability of a Zambian national airline are baseless. A national airline is a strategic entity. It is almost impossible to calculate the profitability of a national airline. The balance sheet never tells the true story of the advantages of operating a national airline. For example, EMIRATES and ETIHAD have single-handedly helped turn the once desert sands of the gulf into world-class tourism destinations.
A national airline in Zambia, if successfully operated, has the potential to transform many sectors of the country’s economy. In deciding to re-open the national airline, Zambia made one right decision: choosing Ethiopian airlines as the strategic partner. Ethiopian airlines are known to be one of the most profitable airlines in the world. Ethiopian has a management model that strictly ties personnel remuneration to company performance and profitability. Unlike letting the airline rely on government subsidies, the Ethiopian business model creates company sustainability through realistic expenditure. Zambia has a lot to benefit from this partnership. The only caution is not to let Ethiopian run the whole show. We must get value for our investment.