NAC dreams of new national airline

Tujoromajo Kasuto

Leake Hangala, chairperson of the Namibia Airports Company Board of Directors advocates for the resurrection of Air Namibia, saying that we should follow in the footsteps of countries such as Uganda, Zambia, Malawi who believed that it does not make commercial sense to have a national carrier but are now bringing them back.

He asserts that the aviation industry should consider how the country can resurrect a national airline that is financially viable, operationally efficient, and contributes to domestic and regional competition.

Hangala notes that while recognizing the role of the private sector in Namibia’s aviation industry, he says there is a need to relook the role of the State in the sector.

‘’The loss of Air Namibia has also resulted in a reduction in domestic competition. Its demise has resulted in the loss of many of our people’s jobs, as well as the loss of the country’s national flag carrier. National flag carriers, for whatever reason, evoke emotions and national pride in the same way that Brave Warriors or Rugby national teams do. As a result, I am urging this Forum to consider how we can resurrect a national airline that is financially viable, operationally efficient, and will contribute to domestic and regional competition, giving consumers a choice,’’ he said.

According to him, having more than one player in the domestic market will result in aviation being affordable and accessible.

‘’Of course, some will argue that ours is a small market, but I am convinced that the development of our oil and gas industry, as well as the development of other sectors such as tourism, will require a competitive and vibrant aviation sector. Such a national airline can be built on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) principle, and we have some PPP success stories to look at, such as NAMDEB or MTC,’’ said Hangala.

Furthermore, he said they are currently engaging Government, through the line Minister, to see how infrastructure improvement at the airports can be undertaken including looking at the apron and taxiways at Hosea Kutako and Ondangwa airports, respectively, as well as building new terminal buildings at Katima Mulilo and Rundu airports.

The Namibia Aviation and Connectivity Forum was officially launched today by Minister of Works and Transport John Mutorwa.

It will serve as a platform to showcase projects and investment initiatives that have the potential to stimulate growth in route development, tourism, open skies, regulation, financing, and infrastructure development, among other things.

“This forum is an opportunity to offer renewed hope for the country’s next generation of industry professionals. The aviation and travel sector is a major employer in this country and supports the addition of unique skills in the country’s economy. I am confident that this initiative will help create new pathways for future aviation professionals and support the development of human capital in the country,’’ said Mutorwa in his keynote address at the launch of the forum.

He further said that achieving the long-term goals of this project will require concerted efforts and crucially will need sustained support across the board.

After experiencing the challenges brought on by the pandemic and the demise of key aviation players, Bisey /Uirab, chairperson of the Forum Steering Committee, stated that the industry was in desperate need of a unified approach to survival and growth.

‘’In conceiving the idea for the Namibia Aviation and Connectivity Forum, we felt that the resuscitation of the industry would only serve as a step in a longer term journey to boost Namibia’s economy and align the aviation ecosystem with the country’s long-term economic agenda.

The task ahead will require close cooperation and coordination and we are confident that the forum will serve as a platform for constructive engagement and for the development of policies and reform actions that will ultimately serve the growth of Namibia’s aviation industry,’’ said /Uirab.

This comes after High Court judge Kobus Miller in March last year pronounced the official liquidation of Air Namibia after converting its provisional liquidation into full liquidation.

NAC, which was the biggest client of Air Namibia applied for the liquidation, as the airline was in arrears of close to N$714 million.

Air Namibia had also owed Challenge Air EURO 9.8 million (N$175 million), an amount which the airline then has failed to pay over the years. The airline’s precarious financial position saw it breach a settlement agreement resulting in lawyers representing Challenge Air serving it with a writ of execution.

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