Air Namibia Board Chairperson Harold Schimdt believes it is imperative for Airlines in Africa to form code sharing agreements among themselves to improves their flight routes and create competition for the bigger airlines in the world.
His sentiments come as delays continue to dominate the ongoing talk of an African airline integration pact, despite the African Union Commission aiming to establish a single African air transport by 2017.
Up to 44 African states in 1999 signed an agreement known as the Yamoussoukro Declaration, aiming to commit to opening their airline markets to regional competition, but implementation of the agreement has been slow, with most African counties opting to stick to bilateral agreements among themselves rather than open their skies to their European and Middle Eastern counterparts.
Schmidt pointed to the varying size of airlines in Africa as being one of the biggest reasons for the slow implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration.
He said the declaration could not be implemented uniformly because,” Some of us will never be a huge market simply because of the size of the population. We need to double the market, but as a small country our strength is on quality. Five start facilities and reasonable prices with a state of the art aircrafts.”
Air Namibia has already penned code sharing agreements with Kenyan Airways and plans are underway to partner with other bigger and reputable players in the future.
This the airline believes will give them market access to untapped market and also improve revenue inflows.
Before they can forge links with other no-African countries, Schmidt said, African countries must first link with their own African neighbouring countries.
Industry experts have questioned benefits of global alliances, arguing that it leads two or three dominant firms controlling most traffic, usually from developed countries.
Schmidt however argued that airlines tend to benefit from the code-sharing practices of some alliances.
According to a report prepared by the International Air Transport Association last year, if 12 nations were to implement the Yamoussoukro Declaration, an extra 155,000 jobs and $1,3bn in annual gross domestic product (GDP) could be created.
The report stated that Africa’s aviation industry already supports 6.9-million jobs and contributes $80bn to GDP on the continent, so if at least 12 nations including SA, Angola, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and Ethiopia, among others, even greater rewards will be met.
Schmidt attributed the lack of expansion with airlines to limitations and restrictions put in place by government for protections measures, and agreements are pursued through diplomatic channels.
“Airlines are usually positive to expansion, but it is the politics that always get in the way by way of restrictions and limitation. Countries are aware of their products and are very reluctant to open to competition,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt agree that the fear of competition among African countries undercuts national airlines’ ability to enhance their commercial viability, was glad that Namibia was able to sign decent bilateral agreements with some neighboring countries, getting bilateral agreements in viable aviation markets.
Aided by recent improvement in the local airline utility, Air Namibia CEO Stated that the airline is ready for competition and is open to expansion.
“We are not afraid of competition because our product is better than other products in the region,” said Schmidt.