Opin­ion:Zim­babwe's Aerospace In­dus­try

There are high hopes that the aerospace in­dus­try in Zim­babwe is on the mend with a num­ber of de­vel­op­ments cur­rently tak­ing place in the coun­try.

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Inside Issue11 - Words: MARTIN CHEMHERE

de­spite the coun­try’s na­tional ca­reer, Air Zim­babwe, re­ceiv­ing neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity in the last few years, it seems many things are hap­pen­ing in the coun­try and the coun­try could once again ex­pe­ri­ence a vi­brant aerospace in­dus­try that will lead to more peo­ple visit­ing the coun­try from Africa and over­seas.

Dur­ing the same pe­riod, the flag­ship ca­reer re­ceived pub­lic­ity that in­cluded bans to fly to the lu­cra­tive des­ti­na­tion of Europe, re­port­edly over safety is­sues.

Due to the coun­try ex­pe­ri­enc­ing low eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties, it was highly likely there was going to be tur­moil to its aerospace sec­tor as po­ten­tial sources of rev­enue dwin­dled to the main ca­reer Air Zim­babwe. This meant that its debts soared and sources of funds meant to cush­ion the na­tional air­line were al­most in­signif­i­cant or non-ex­is­tent.

The Euro­pean ban as a re­sult of the flag­ship air­line no longer meet­ing the re­quired safety stan­dards, in­clud­ing among oth­ers, pro­longed tech­ni­cal prob­lems to its once re­li­able fleet, af­fected the re­sump­tion of flights to the pre­vi­ously pop­u­lar di­rect flight to Lon­don. This largely af­fected growth of the coun­try’s travel and tourism as well as morale in the lo­cal avi­a­tion in­dus­try.

Flights within the coun­try and to neigh­bour­ing South Africa were main­tained dur­ing the trou­bled years, thereby im­pact­ing the air­line’s dwin­dling rev­enue base,

which ob­vi­ously af­fected op­er­a­tional plans.

Me­dia re­ports say at the turn of the coun­try’s in­de­pen­dence the air­line op­er­ated a strong fleet of 18 planes, such as the Mod­ern Ark (60) planes for its lo­cal routes, among its then ever-grow­ing fleet.

How­ever, there is now a lot of aerospace growth an­tic­i­pa­tion, as the econ­omy prom­ises to turn around. And there is more than just Air Zim­babwe fly­ing to and from the coun­try, giv­ing a huge boost to the coun­try’s ex­pand­ing avi­a­tion sec­tor.

Cur­rently, other air­lines fly­ing into Zim­babwe in­clude Bri­tish Air­ways, Bri­tish Air­ways Co­mair, TAAG An­golan Air­lines, Qan­tas Air­ways, Ethiopian Air­lines, RwandAir, SAA, SA Air­link, Air Namibia, Kenya Air­ways, Malawi Air­lines, Fast­jet and FlyAfrica. The lat­ter two air­lines are low cost air­lines and they are re­port­edly ex­pe­ri­enc­ing good busi­ness, along­side their pre­mium com­pe­ti­tion.

This fol­lows the south­ern African coun­try’s ex­ten­sion and mod­erni­sa­tion in 2017 of the mega tourism and strate­gic des­ti­na­tion air­port of Vic­to­ria Falls In­ter­na­tional Air­port that re­port­edly cost in the re­gion of $150 mil­lion.

Be­fore it was up­graded, the re­sort air­port pre­vi­ously han­dled an es­ti­mated

500, 000 pas­sen­gers and now can eas­ily hold over 1, 5 mil­lion per year. Zim­babwe’s largest air­port is the newly re­named Robert Mu­gabe In­ter­na­tional Air­port lo­cated in the cap­i­tal Harare. For­merly known as Harare In­ter­na­tional Air­port, it is a ma­jor port of en­try for avi­a­tion vis­i­tors to the coun­try. The re­nam­ing last year came with the news that it would also be up­graded to the tune es­ti­mated at over $150 mil­lion.

Other air­ports are the Joshua Nkomo In­ter­na­tional Air­port in the sec­ond largest city of Bu­l­awayo as well as the smaller air­ports sup­port­ing do­mes­tic and re­gional flights such as Kariba Air­port (at Kariba Dam), Buf­falo Range in Chiredzi, Hwange Air­port in Hwange, Masvingo Air­port (Masvingo Town), which is home to the Great Zim­babwe Mon­u­ment which is a his­toric and an­cient dwelling) and Charles Prince Air­port in Harare. Chances are that the rest of these air­ports may get a boost going for­ward.

The gen­eral view is that new air­lines will def­i­nitely lead to the re­duc­tion of air trav­el­ling costs to and from Zim­babwe, a coun­try gifted with count­less glob­ally renowned tourism at­trac­tions.

Zim­babwe has so much po­ten­tial and its econ­omy, through a strong aerospace base, could rise to sur­prise many lo­cals and in­ter­na­tion­als?

How­ever, more good news is ex­pected from the coun­try’s avi­a­tion in­dus­try, es­pe­cially af­ter “suc­cess­fully” hold­ing elec­tions ex­pected mid this year in July. Much aerospace ac­tiv­ity will likely be boosted as na­tional, African and in­ter­na­tional air­line play­ers come into the fold to ex­press in­ter­est to op­er­ate ser­vices around and into the re­source rich coun­try, whose tourism is mainly an­chored on the global strength and sta­tus of the mighty Vic­to­ria Falls, along the mighty Zam­bezi River shared be­tween Zim­babwe and Zam­bia.

In the in­ter­na­tional avi­a­tion world, Zim­babwe (the house of stone in the lo­cal Shona lan­guage and bor­rowed from the fa­mous stone carved Great Zim­babwe Mon­u­ments) used to hold its own in its for­ma­tive years from in­de­pen­dence. There is no doubt the coun­try is on the rise with so much avi­a­tion ac­tiv­ity be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced. This prospect could soon see many more vis­i­tors lin­ing up to ex­pe­ri­ence its never-end­ing flora and fauna.

Zim­babwe’s largest air­port is the newly re­named Robert Mu­gabe In­ter­na­tional Air­port lo­cated in the cap­i­tal Harare. For­merly known as Harare In­ter­na­tional Air­port, it is a ma­jor port of en­try for avi­a­tion vis­i­tors to the coun­try. The re­nam­ing last year came with the news that it would also be up­graded to the tune es­ti­mated at over $150 mil­lion.

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