An aviation expert and the Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) have expressed reservation on the deal which Ethiopian Airlines signed last month with the Zambian government to re-launch the country’s national airline, which ceased operations more than two decades ago.
According to Reuters Ethiopian Airlines has struck a deal with shareholders of Zambia Airways and had acquired a 45 percent stake in the firm.
Zambia Airways will become the second carrier in the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) region to partner with Ethiopian Airlines, after Air Malawi (now trading as Malawian Airlines).
PPPC, a government agency that brokered the Air Malawi deal, has said it is not normal to have an investor invest in two neighbouring countries; hence, the need to find out the rationale behind the deal.
“When it comes to airline business, it obviously begs a bit of explanation how an investment into airline can be justified next door. But the best party to answer that question would be Ethiopian Airlines. They need to explain what exactly this means when they invest in an airline next door to Malawi,” said Jimmy Lipunga, PPPC chief executive officer.
“We will have to engage and try to get to the bottom of this while arrangement of what this means. No one has written us to explain to us on this and on the basis of the concerns being raise, the PPPC will have to take upon itself to find out from Ethiopian Airlines the motivation behind this,” he said
In a separate interview, aviation expert Tonny Chimpukuso, who is former Air Malawi Limited tariff and industry manager, said the deal is a cause for concern as the Malawi government is yet to benefit from its partnership with Ethiopian Airlines.
“We can be concerned because we have not benefited anything from the deal between Malawi Government and Ethiopian Airlines because even the aircrafts are not a fleet from Ethiopian Airlines and Malawian Government is made to pay for the aircraft which is not even for Malawian Airlines,” he said.
Malawian Airlines chief executive officer Hailemelekot Mamo said there is no need to panic over the deal as each airline [Malawian Airlines and Zambian Airlines] will have its own business strategy.
“Malawi Airlines is an independent airline which is owned by the government of Malawi and Ethiopian Airlines and it will be in business, there is no end in sight. The establishment of the partnership in Zambia would be beneficial to Zambia and the region itself because this area covers a lot of population.
“Therefore, Zambia will have its strategy, so will Malawi; so you have to see them as two different airlines and each airline has to do its business. Each airline will fly according to their space and will be able to carry passengers and this will create an opportunity for African nations to have access across the borders,” he said.
Under the PPPC’s original plan, the Malawian government would have offered up a 20 percent stake in the carrier to Malawian citizens once it turned profitable.
Malawian Airlines currently operates one B737-700 and one Q400 on scheduled flights to seven destinations in Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Kenya.