Aviation: Making a case for More planes for Air Tanzania
President John Magufuli was at the Dar es Salaam International Airport Wednesday this week re-launching Air Tanzania, this country national flag carrier.
The President was presiding over a ceremony to formerly receive and flag off two jet planes his Government has bought from Canada, which will beef up the fleet of an otherwise dying airline which was as good as dead with only one aircraft to talk of!
“Two more are on the way with an even higher capacity for international hauls. This means we will be talking of a national flag carrier with all this word means,” quipped the President. Indeed! The quotation you have sampled at the launch of this perspective tells it all.
A global news agency, the Associated Press, in a report filed about two months ago tells it all. Where is Mount Kilimanjaro located? Is it located in Kenya or Tanzania? This is a phenomenal question.
But it just serves to underpin the fact that in today’s competitive world, all sorts of tricks, sometimes seemingly subtle but crude techniques are used to make business.
To the chagrin of most Tanzanians, beside that thing quoted above by the Associated Press (AP), some of our neighbours in East Africa have reportedly been putting up promos that Oldvai Gorge and Mount Kilimanjaro can be seen from their country and not Tanzania! Such reports have repeatedly been on and off.
Therefore, there is need for Tanzania – the real land of the Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and where an ancient person’s skull was first discovered – to rise to reassert its global fame as some countries, such as Indonesia, are doing, buying ads in global TV networks, such as Aljazeera.
Our officials should discount the cost element these ads may entail if we have to counter such gimmicks as done by our neighbours supported by their western allies, if we have to talk the language of the past!
One way of doing so is to strengthen its national flag carrier, Air Tanzania as President Magufuli’s Government is doing, using own resources as the President announced bluntly that the four aircrafts from Canada have been bought – ‘cash’- by his Government and not via aid. Air Tanzania is basically a public firm in the same way as is British Airways or Air France or others in Africa such as Ethiopian Airlines.
That it is publicly owned and not in private hands is the more reason that Tanzanians should be proud of. But more promising for the future of this country, in terms of development is the seriousness in financial discipline shown by President Magufuli that may make this country less dependent on foreign aid as we have seen efforts to maximize public income on public outlets such as harbours and other areas where taxation for the government is due.
Crucially, strategic areas that would be key to overall economic development will be when road and air travel is elevated to higher levels to meet both domestic and international requirements and standards.This country, which is larger than Britain and Germany put together in terms of landmass needs a two-pronged approach to maximize economic development – which is air and land transport.
At the moment, road transport is predominant – with railways and air transport crucial on their own. But it leaves a lot to be desired because this country is by far most attractive in terms of global tourism.
This is a critically important factor in terms of the national economy because tourism alone would make a lot of a difference in making money for the country. A balanced transport network both on the land and in the air would therefore make great difference, offering our people alternative means of transport for their own good and the good of the national economy on a higher plane in the event visitors and tourists at different points on the globe would find it easier to visit Tanzania.
What will make it easier for people elsewhere in the world to visit Tanzania, the real Land of the Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain? Of course air travel! We in Tanzania have one – Air Tanzania.
It has been there since the old good days of the Founder President of this country, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere about half a century ago. But how is this airline fairing? Its weak performance in the intervening period explains why President Magufuli’s intervention is most welcome.
Regionally, in terms of the East African region, this airline needs greater support by the government of the day since it is a public company. Actually, for nationals of this country, it has been very depressing to see it so low.
Even where we see privately owned airlines seemingly owned locally, it is quite another thing, isn’t it, to have a national flag carrier that is not strong enough to move internationally! An Air Tanzania that could be caught by travelers in London or Washington would make a hell of a difference, isn’t it?
How does one go about to counter business ploys by much stronger airlines in East Africa which allegedly ferry tourists or visitors from Europe and elsewhere that it is in their respective countries that the Kilimanjaro Mountain is located or can be reached for instance? As enticed, Tanzania is unique in Africa because it is the home of the globe’s most concentrated wildlife. Certainly, this country is one of the most attractive tourist destinations globally.
Fortunately, in the intervening period, last year to be precise, a number of Tanzanian public firms had offered to recapitalize Air Tanzania by having shares in the running of the national airline.
These were the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), Ngorongoro Conservation, the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), the Tanzania Port Authority (TPA), and the Tanzania Investment Bank. Hearing this news, I was very happy and most relieved.
First, who said that government owned firms were “hopeless” only destined to be privatized most of the time? Those reading these lines may remember the pressure brought to bear on this country by external lending agencies to move to privatize government owned or public owned firms.
Where is this country today? Are we better off in terms of industries and factories, in terms of jobs for our people as we were during the Socialist Administration of the founder President of this country, Mwalimu Nyerere?
The firms mentioned above who have offered to recapitalize Air Tanzania are all public firms and one sees no privately owned firm that came along to become a share-holder in Air Tanzania!
This is food for thought for the Magufuli Administration as it is moving towards industrializing this country. The way forward now would be to support President Magufuli’s stance to purchase more planes for Air Tanzania and for us all to see the need for the growth of a robust national flag carrier.
Thus re-capitalized, the airline would be able to attract strategic external investors to partner with the national airline.
Indeed, there is room for growth for a national airline in this country taking into context the growing need for both land and air transport. If Bangladesh or neighboring Rwanda has been able to put in place a strong air transport sector, why not Tanzania? Surely, one can be sure of an efficient and sustainable Air Tanzania.
And this is for the good reason that Tanzania’s domestic market is yet to be fully exploited. Now than ever before, people want to move around faster and comfortably to meet their travel needs and business obligations.
This is not to mention of the potentiality of an external market – what with this country’s unique tourist attractions. Fortunately, the airline, has well trained professional staff such as pilots and engineers like Mr Patrick Itule who has been standing in as Acting Chief Executive of the airline, not to speak of the newly appointed Chief Executive who is also an engineer who had been an expatriate abroad.
Indeed, Tanzania has the potential to graduate into an air travel hub for East Africa – its northern tourism circuit taken into account – not to mention of its sea outlets – which factors should make its Air Tanzania as viable as those airlines in the Gulf and the Horn of Africa.