Too much politics in skies over Africa

03 November 2015 - 02:11 By Bloomberg

Airline FastJet has said its ambition to become the first discount airline spanning sub-Saharan Africa is being held back by government protectionism and unprofitable state-owned carriers that resist new entrants. "Liberalisation has to come within Africa," FastJet CEO Ed Winter said in an interview in Harare."We could have increased our network a lot more rapidly and brought safe and reliable travel a lot sooner if it wasn't for the level of protectionism in Africa," he said.FastJet started flying an Airbus Group SE A319 plane in 2012 from Dar es Salaam, its main Africa base. It now has six aircraft and services eight destinations from the Tanzanian commercial capital, including Johannesburg."The continued policy in some countries about protectionism of state airlines surely can't make sense," Winter said."Why would countries put so much money into an airline when that money will be far better spent on roads, health, all those things that the people need?"State-owned SAA is surviving on government-guaranteed loans and has appointed six permanent or acting CEOs in three years. Kenya Airways, which is 30% owned by the government, posted a record full-year loss earlier this year and might need a bailout of as much as $600-million (about R8.2-billion)."Governments can't run airlines, it has been proven," Winter said. "Let private enterprise take its course. You will get a much better aviation landscape."Competition is good for everybody. It drives out the inefficient."Winter was speaking ahead of the company's first flight between Harare and Victoria Falls, a popular tourist destination.The company's plan to have bases in Ghana and Angola were put on hold last year.FastJet is waiting for Zimbabwe and South Africa to agree to further routes in the region.

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