Walter Muchinguri Assistant Business Editor
Air Zimbabwe’s turnaround strategy is set to receive a major boost this year after the national airline won the right to host the 48th African Airlines Association (AFRAA) annual general assembly (AGA) in Victoria Falls later this year.
The event, which will take place from November 20 to November 22, is expected to attract 400 high profile delegates from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America.
AFRAA secretary-general Dr Elijah Chingosho, who was in the country on an advance visit and also witnessed the unveiling of the logo for the general assembly, yesterday said the general assembly was a unique opportunity for Air Zimbabwe to spread its wings as it is expected to play a major role in bringing delegates to the general assembly and taking them back to their countries.
“As the host airline, Air Zimbabwe is expected to play a pivotal role in the transportation of delegates to and from the country.
“The hosting of this event in Zimbabwe and the Victoria Falls in particular also presents an excellent opportunity to strengthen aviation in the country and the tourism sector because we are encouraging all the delegates to travel with their spouses so that they can sample what Zimbabwe has to offer.
“This is also a chance to show the visitors the business opportunities that exist in the country and to state clearly that Zimbabwe is open for business,” he said.
AFRAA president and Air Zimbabwe’s acting chief executive Mr Edmund Makona said Air Zimbabwe was geared for the challenge.
“The secretary general said the purpose of hosting the general assembly in a specific country and being hosted by a specific airline is meant to maximise benefits for that airline. As Air Zimbabwe we have taken note of that. Within Air Zimbabwe we have also said it cannot be a strategy without the attendant issue of growth and sustainability. So growth and sustainability are at the heart of what we are doing.
“So we really are geared to grow that route network. I do not want to pre-empt other than just to confess that it cannot be an airline without the attendant issues of growth otherwise there is no need for the management at Air Zimbabwe to preside over a still birth airline.
“We will be the host airline and carrier of choice during the general assembly and we cannot do that if we have not spread our wings. We want to assure you that by the time the AGA takes place we would have spread our wings beyond the thin route network that we are currently operating. We have started some initiatives but we would want to under promise and over perform,” he said.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo said hosting the AFRAA general assembly will be the best opportunity to look for partners to boost our Air Zimbabwe.
“We are busy talking to several airlines who want to partner with us to revitalise Air Zimbabwe so that we can come up with one because the shopping list of partners is long since many companies are approaching us from the Middle East, China and from Europe.
“We are expecting that in the next three to four years Air Zimbabwe will be back as a leading airline in the continent,” he said.
He added that the ministry is looking at bigger airplanes and small to complement the airline’s fleet so that it can resuscitate its old routes.
“I am looking at possibly engaging with partners before the end of the year and it’s a process, when you bring somebody to partner in such an industry which a number of countries are struggling to boost.
“We are we are aiming at bringing in new airlines and experts to revitalise Air Zimbabwe,” he said.
Meanwhile the general assembly would see delegates discussing issues on the development of air transport in Africa and development opportunities for African airlines in particular. AFRAA has a membership of 35 airlines that include all major intercontinental African operators.
The members also represent over 85 percent of total international traffic carried by African airlines. This is the third time that the annual general assembly is being held in the country.