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The year 2021 has been simply remarkable! at least in so much as concerns world athletics. It tested zeal and resilience. The ability to face headwinds and still rise— soar— higher and faster than before!  It delivered through television the rewarding experience of a win; a waking dream shared with all humanity. And (Finnish athlete, in slow motion, runs past the finish line) a moment savoured in time… In the field of aviation, one name: Concorde, speaks to this very aspiration. But what was Concorde really (if not a pretty decent name suggestion for Usain Bolt’s next child of course)? Cool Runnings. Albeit shrouded in controversy, Concorde is the most successful supersonic commercial aircraft to have ever graced the runway. For as sprinter is to track was she to the sky. She not only broke the record for fastest transatlantic trip (February 7th, 1996; 2hrs 52min: less than half…

On August 15th 2021, the internet exploded with heartrending images of Afghan nationals scrambling to board a US Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III at Kabul International Airport. Those that failed to get in, held on, not to an aircraft as we would imagine, but rather, hope. Hope that upon take-off, they shall have escaped the social, political and economic volatility ascribed to a Taliban takeover. Willing to do whatever it took to realise peace and freedom was a pair that held on till they could not anymore, falling hundreds of feet, to meet certain death. How did we get here? Osama Bin Laden. In the year 2001, Wahhabi Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda, under the aforementioned individual’s leadership, launched a series of devastating attacks on the United States of America. Four planes were hijacked. The first two crashed into the World Trade Centre twin towers in New York (within…

No doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic hit the aviation industry hard and although for many airlines recovery plans are a key priority, innovation and technology is still on the agenda. While, flying cars have been a science fiction staple for many decades, in Kenya, the vision will soon be a reality thanks to the country’s legacy carrier Kenya Airways, through its pioneering Fahari Innovation hub and the help of airplane manufacturer Embraer. The two companies earlier in the month announced an MOU that will see both companies investing in urban air mobility and “flying taxis” with Fahari Aviation tech hub, serving as a testing ground. It’s not surprising that Kenya Airways’ venture-backed start-up, and Embraer’s Florida-based EVE are rushing to grab a foothold in this nascent market. The business has the potential to significantly disrupt the landscape of urban mobility, and investors are pouring millions into its commercialization, as they…

As surely as her aircraft took to the sky, East African Airways rode the winds of change to carry with it a Pan-African tale. A story which, in its unfolding, not only mirrored but also fell casualty to an equally volatile political climate. Setting the stage. The British Colonial government realized the benefit of shared services as early as 1890 ergo established the Uganda railway by 1896-1901 in the protectorate of Uganda and colony of Kenya, with gradual Tanzanian (then Tanganyika) integration after World War 1. The next frontier at this point, was the air. With the post-war period setting into motion economic reconstruction, there surfaced a need to establish communication links within a vast empire. Perforce, a committee was established, towards the end of World War 2 (in 1943) featuring aviation and railroad experts, businessmen, the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), and amongst other Territorial Governors; Philip Mitchell,…

Worldwide, economies have been hard hit by the COVID 19 pandemic. The aviation industry is no exception.  According to the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), in 2020 alone, airlines in Africa combined lost US$10,2 billion in revenue. In their report, AFRAA said there was a 63.7% fall in total passenger number from 95 million in 2019 to 34.7 million in 2020. Capital Market Investors predict more airlines will be bailed out by governments. The capital markets report, titled Navigating CovExit: searching for value in the debt markets, commissioned by Ocorian, a global leader in capital markets, fund administration and corporate and fiduciary services, three quarters (74%) of respondents believe governments will carry on helping national carriers despite the controversy surrounding state bailouts. After months of uncertainy and entrance into business rescue, the South African gvt rescued the South African Airways last year. Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni gave the nod to 10.5…

Discussions around a mandatory vaccination requirement for international travel continue to stir up controversy. While it poses a seemingly watertight plan for resumption of pre-pandemic normalcy, it threatens to marginalize the African continent and its people. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has developed and tested an app with a select group of airlines, that offers tools for one to manage their COVID-19 tests, vaccines information and other relevant requirements for a scheduled flight. This infrastructural setup shall not only synergise systems for better accessibility but shall also feed governments with the confidence required to relieve the industry of a few constrictive measures while still ensuring safe travel. Furthermore, it shall guarantee infrastructural preparedness in case of the emergence of another such pandemic. However, aside from the typical security and data privacy concerns that are usually attached to such initiatives by skeptics, it heralds the apprehension of an era of…

The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed both a global health emergency and an unprecedented economic crisis of historic magnitude and African aviation has not been spared from the dilemma. In trying to abide with the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines aimed at containing COVID-19 cases surged in many parts of the world, governments posed strict measures which include border closures, quarantines and lockdowns to fight the pandemic and as a result, African airlines felt the economic pressure. Last year, the operations of airlines were shattered with over 60% of commercial aircraft in the world grounded and this has seen passenger traffic dropping at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic particularly in Africa. This is explicitly supported by the African Development Bank’s director for Infrastructure and Urban Development, Amadou Oumarou’s 2020 presentation which underscores that the pandemic’s aviation effects, while felt worldwide, have been sharpest in Africa. “Nearly 5 million of the…

Cover page of an Air Afrique booklet. Courtesy: Republicoftogo.com As a child, I didn’t have a clue on how airlines operated. I simply knew that people sat in those flying machines and they traveled very far and very fast. But the first time I heard about Air Afrique, it ignited such a strong sentiment in me. I didn’t even know who owned the firm, but the name reassured me that it was truly African. I was captivated by Air Afrique because whenever I watched their commercials on T.V., I saw pilots and crew members who looked like me. And I found their posters fascinating because they depicted an Africa that I was familiar with. I was so infatuated with Air Afrique that at that age, I thought it was a much bigger airline than Air France and KLM, the only other carriers I knew. Each time the engines of an…

In recent years a resurgence of national carrier projects has been observed in Africa. However, Africa’s Aviation history is beset by the failure of prominent state-owned airlines such as Air Afrique, Air Uganda, Air Zimbabwe, the most recent being Air Namibia and South African Airways. This has created a stigma around national carriers and has drawn criticism surrounding the need and value of African owned airlines. A few airlines however have proven to be extremely successful and resilient particularly during this pandemic. How can state-owned airlines succeed? and what are the government’s roles in aviation? What should these new airlines do to avoid the fate of so many? First and foremost, the purpose of creating a national airline needs to be clear. Whether it is part of a tourism development strategy, to be connected to the rest of the world, like Air Mauritius or Rwandair, to ensure the continuity of…