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Time for Tanzania to wake up from aviation slumber

Discussion in 'Biashara, Uchumi na Ujasiriamali' started by ByaseL, Feb 1, 2010.

  1. B

    ByaseL JF-Expert Member

    Feb 1, 2010
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    Byase Luteke

    During the first week of December 2009, Tanzania joined the rest of the world to commemorate the 69th Anniversary of the International Civil Aviation (ICAO). This is one of the United Nations organs established under the Chicago Convention to coordinate and regulate all civil aviation matters for signatory countries worldwide. ICAO headquarters are in Montreal, Canada. Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) organized what is known as the “Aviation Week” as part of ICAO commemoration featuring many aviation related activities including a symposium where various aviation issues were discussed.

    However, it was the speech given by the outgoing TCAA’s Director General, Mrs. Margret Munyagi at the climax of this event which caught the attention of many industry observers. Apart from the normal pleasantries in her speech regarding the government’s efforts to develop the aviation sector in Tanzania, Mrs. Munyagi also put the government under the spotlight for not doing enough to develop and strengthen the national airline, in essence Air Tanzania Company Ltd (ATCL).

    In her view a relatively good airport infrastructure coupled with modern navigational facilities, etc are not good enough to propel the country forward in terms of aviation development if not complimented by a vibrant local airline industry. “As long as ATCL remains weak, aviation development in this country will always come short of our targets” cautioned Mrs. Munyagi. In other words aviation in Tanzania remains a Cinderella in so far as its optimal potential remains largely untapped due to inadequate investment and management of ATCL.

    This bold statement coming from the TCAA Czar and one of the most respected aviation professionals in the field was long overdue and sounded like music to aviation pundits, prompting a seasoned aviator Mr.Abdulkadir Lutta of Tanzanair to note “I wish Mrs. Munyagi had made this statement on ATCL at the beginning of her tenure at TCAA rather than at the end”.
    The significance of the TCAA Director General’s comments lies in the fact that TCAA as the sole watchdog of aviation matters in the country has somehow been taking an ambivalent and sometimes waffling positions when it comes to taking the government head on specifically on critical issues pertaining to ATCL. Issues like adequate capitalization of an airline falls squarely within the jurisdiction of TCAA. For example, the authority has legal powers to suspend or even close any locally registered airline on account of inadequate capitalization but when it comes to the national airline, TCAA has been in the habit of turning a blind eye hence the unpalatable situation currently obtaining at ATCL.

    Mrs.Munyagi’s statement came hot on the heals of the Tanzania Airports Authority’s (TAA) CEO, Mr. Tesha’s lamentations to the effect that despite Tanzania having many airports than her neighbours, many of them have actually become unsustainable and therefore uneconomical to run. Lack of commercial services at these airports will ultimately render them superfluous in the long run, Mr. Tesha warned. Gone are the days when ATCL used to provide services almost to all serviceable airports around the country thus keeping them active. Precision Air has managed to spread its ‘tentacles’ to only a few, but airports such as Sumbawanga, Iringa, Tanga, Pemba, Songea, Nachingwea , Lindi and Dodoma to a great extent, are idle save for ad hoc operations by charters. At this rate the “opening soon” Songwe Airport in Mbeya could also join the list of white elephants in the country.

    Tanzania boasts a total of five category one airports including JNIA, KIA, Zanzibar and Mwanza and more than a dozen category two airports compared to Kenya’s four namely, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Mombasa International Airport and Eldoret Aiport while Kisumu and Malindi fall in category two. Uganda has two Entebbe International Airport and Gulu Airport. According to aviation standards, Category one airports are under the watch of Air Traffic controllers and the status of these airports is usually updated on hourly basis.

    This being the case it will not be out of context to call Tanzania a “sleeping giant” given the aviation infrastructure at her disposal but which is economically redundant! As the old Kiswashili adage says “Kwenye miti hakuna wajenzi”. Loosely translated this proverb is akin to alluding that in a timberland there are hardly any carpenters! How can Tanzania with such a vast network of airports have so few commercial flights? Currently, the only “active” airports, so to speak, in the country include JNIA, Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA),Zanzibar International Airport, Mwanza, Bukoba, Kigoma, Arusha, Tabora, Musoma, Mtwara and oh yes, Mafia Airport with Coastal Travel Air Services and Tropical Air providing scheduled services there ( Mafia) from Dar ES Salaam.

    In way it can be argued that instead of this massive aviation infrastructure available in the country turning into a boon, it has unfortunately become a bane in the sense that it is now a liability to the Tanzanian tax payer and as Mr. Temu correctly observed this is a burden that cannot be sustained indefinitely. Time is fast approaching when a decision has to be taken to either close down some of these airports or re-activate them into some commercial activity. There is a school of thought that is of the view that this is the time for the government to intervene and reinvigorate the domestic aviation industry with a long term view of economic benefits to ensue in future.

    While it is true that the main reason some of these airports are currently not served by Precision Air and ATCL is because they are economically unviable, however, there is a very strong case for the government to get involved and subsidize the airlines on these routes so that they can start providing services and in turn generate some income to TAA for the upkeep of these airports. After all what is the rationale of the government to give subvention to TAA to run commercially unused airports like is the case at the moment?

    In this case air transport should be treated like a public good (like roads) and Tanzania will not be unique in doing this. Ethiopia Airlines has for a very long time operated government subsidized, loss making domestic routes which gradually matured and became self sustaining. In this way Tanzania will be able to nurture the aviation potential of these marginalized markets and eventually create a vibrant aviation industry commensurate with the existing ready-to-use aviation infrastructure. Now is the time for our country to wake up from aviation slumber.

    Source: Business Times
  2. Mahesabu

    Mahesabu JF-Expert Member

    Sep 23, 2016
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    Wengine wanataka tuendelee kulala......
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