By Ndalama Lwando

The long absence of a national airline has left very few aviation technocrats and experts in Zambia; most migrated to foreign countries after the demise of Zambia Airways. The few that are left are either beyond their prime and soon to retire, or very young and lacking experience in modern aviation nitty-gritties. The technological advancements in global aviation may also render most indigenous engineers unqualified to work on modern aircraft. The way forward therefore would be to quickly expand the pool of aviation personnel. Expatriate managers and engineers come at a very high cost.

There must also be a deliberate policy to establish maintenance bases across the nation to eventually handle all aspects of fleet maintenance locally. But first, Zambia must be clear on the business model the airline shall adopt. There are several prominent business models in the airline industry, and Zambia shall adopt one or several. The name of a business model may differ depending on the source material, but the idea remains the same. Since Zambia is partnering with Ethiopian airlines, which has recorded a success story spanning several decades, it will be prudent to learn from them. The right move might be to start regionally as a low cost carrier, and invest heavily in human resource training. The fleet must also be kept young.

Zambia must at all costs refuse to accept old aircraft. In the aviation industry, the older the fleet an airline operates, the higher the operational costs, and the higher the risk of aviation incidents and accidents, resulting in loss of customer confidence. The airline should avoid over-employment and budget overruns. The business model should not include government as its pillar to subsidize losses and cash bailouts because of resource mismanagement. Qualified and deserving personnel must fill all managerial positions, without undue government influence, nepotism and favoritism. The airline industry is a cutthroat business: no airline can cut corners in its operations without facing the repercussions of those ill-made decisions.

In the long run, local fleet maintenance should be prioritized. This will creative employment for Zambians, and also bring about the much-needed technological transfer in the aviation and related industries. The infrastructure and equipment required might cost a lot on the drawing board, but with IDC being the investment wing for government, suitable MOUs can be entered into with aviation maintenance equipment manufacturers and suppliers. Further, let the Ethiopian-Zambian MOU be made public: there must not be hidden agendas or unfair obligations on either parties. Ethiopian airlines have stood the test of time mainly because of a very strict code of ethics and conduct. The way forward is to draft necessary document to guide this partnership in both good and bad times. The aviation industry is dynamic; it is therefore imperative that all permutations of the advantages and disadvantages of the partnership are catered for.

It is common knowledge that many airlines have filed for bankruptcy due to the pursuit of careless expansion programs. Zambia must fully ascertain the risks involved in partnering with a multinational airline. The resulting relationship must not be that of dictatorship. Currently, Ethiopia and Zambia’s objectives in this joint venture are very different: Ethiopian airlines want to capture the bigger share of the global and African market in particular, while Zambia only wants to make its baby steps in the industry. Initially, it might be inevitable to bring expatriates to fill up managerial positions. A rigid timeframe must however be set so that Zambians can be trained to fill up all local airline vacancies.

The partnership must create equal opportunities for both Ethiopians and Zambians. One big question must also be answered: is the joint venture going to share profits only, or will be revenue/loss share based? In other words, will the two entities share losses equally? This element is very important since set-up costs might gobble up all profits of the airline. This means that the airline might make losses for a period of times as fleet acquisition and human resource development is underway. Such losses, compared to its revenue, can be very negligible to giant airlines like Ethiopian. On the other hand, these initial operational costs may overwhelm the Zambian balance sheet, especially that the airline will be under strict scrutiny by both parliament and the general public. Zambia must also fully utilize the industry’s supply chain. An international airline’s supply chain is as vast as its destinations.

Once an airline is in operation, Zambian business entities have business opportunities beyond borders. Zambia remains one of the biggest African suppliers of flowers to Europe. It is in the public domain that ZEGA was formed out of the development of the floricultural and horticultural industry in Zambia.Today, Zambia’s potential supply chain to the aviation industry goes beyond flowers. The hotel and hospitality industry must fully engage in order to get the market share in the soon to open airline. The food industry must come on board to supply onboard local meals and drinks which many passengers will find fascinating. The insurance industry must fully participate in the new airline. If Zambia acquires its own fleet, it must be mandatory that all liabilities insurances be locally managed. The aviation industry has one of the most lucrative insurances since very rare do aircraft accidents occur.

As a landlocked country, Zambia can utilize the airline to supply all its natural resources directly to recipient customers on time. While bulk transportation of goods and services remains mainly on rail and roads, Zambia must focus on opening up trade opportunities for locally produced items by air. The dice is cast; Zambia has committed to opening a national airline.

It is understandable that each and every Zambian has a right to question the rationale behind the move. The fact is that aviation will remain the most influential industry in global travel and trade. Zambia must therefore come on board and fully understand the not-too-obvious benefits of the aviation industry. The rule is to keep to the ethics of the aviation industry: prudence, time management and efficiency. The aviation industry never sleeps, as it operates in all known time zones. Management of an airline must therefore keep abreast with global trends around the clock.

Political influence must also be non-existent: company positions must be filled on merit. Employee remuneration must reflect company revenue and loss aspects: it is not right to emulate global airlines who pay hefty amount to pilots and engineers: a model for salaries and remuneration suitable to Zambia must be adopted.

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17 COMMENTS

    • Even me who was speed reading …developed high BP after doing it…I wish the dull author was sitting next to me and I had a red pen and a board duster to wack him on the head every time I circled or highlighted something in his silly article

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    • Ndalama – this is a poorly written hack job of an article. It reeks of copy and paste and doesn’t really go anywhere. Please either improve your writing skills or pass the sticks. That’s constructive criticism for you brother!

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  1. This dolt Ndalama Lwando never gives up he has even penned Part 2 …..some people are just thick as porridge!!

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  2. Who is this utterly dull Ndalama Lwando? I have google the name and nothing comes up …next you will hear that this dull chap is Managing Director of this pointless Airline. I doubt he has gone further than year 2 in University as the critical analysis is very poor..in fact the chap is wishful thinking….must be a daydreamer!!

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    • Its like asking a Grade 9 pupil to list the basic advantages of having a National Airline…without s/he knowing the economics behind the sector. These people think having aircraft is like owning buses where they park at Intercity and wait for it to fill up then fly off….they have never booked one before and if they think EA will let them operate on their profitable routes they are having a laugh. They have no idea that when you book on Sky Scanner or Kayak you (tourists) book the cheapest flight and Zambia is adequately serviced even the floral and horticultural industry development development doesn’t depend on having a National Airline unless you are thinking of subsidies …I can go go and on but its just re-capping what I have already mentioned in the past as some fooooolish…

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    • fooooolish proponent will post another very similar article next week without carry out basic research again.

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  3. Zambia Airways will never take off. This is day dreaming. The current oil price and the PF debts do not favour the project and makes it completely economically inefficient. .

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  4. Guys I never developed migraine or high BP. Reason? Can’t let this Lwando spoil my wellbeing…. I just read the first paragraph and parked the rest of the grade 7 stuff……

    Brian Mushimba of Sharp Curve, Thabo Mbeki road, decided to commit our country to another horrendous debt, a national airline, but the economic and technical analysis is only being made now as an after thought … and by Ndalama Lwando!!

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  5. @upnd cadre
    Lwando ndalama is Hon Brian Mushamba. Their shallow articulation trajectory on matters of national concern highly correlate.

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  6. Patriotic Zambians have little patience for entrepreneurs with no realist sense of the value of Zambia Airways to be, & no clue about how they’re going to capture even just one percent of a multi-billion-dollar industry (individuals like Mr. Lwando often claim they will do). Let the Board of directors give us numbers to justify profitability of Zambia Airways. I understand we will buy a 100-passenger plane (s), compare to Ethiopian 787 Dreamliner & Airbus 350 with variants seat 242 to 350. 787 come to Zambia. Technical considerations are lacking in the article, which will lead to waste tax payers’ money. Advertising by flying Zambian Airliner will profit us nothing, but loss, into winding up the Airline. Everything about Zambia is on internet. How many Zambians fly locally? Mr. Lwando…

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  7. ..Mr. Lwando should come up with substance, not with immaterial reasons. what has been discussed in the article is like just ranting for the sake of having a National Airliner and workers to “eat” tax payers’ money. Eventually, the Airliner will close. Examples: ZR, ZAMTEL, NCZ are supposed to be profitable companies, but the government continue to pour more tax payers’ money instead of creating new industries to depopulate unemployment. Every Zambian would love and like to have a National Airliner if it is profitable. We should look in the national interest.

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    • I think author the only submits articles to LT and doesn’t bother to read the the comments, otherwise he would have answered questions such as yours. He’s too full of himself something akin to most educated people in the country who think they know it all.

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  8. Where is minister of transport lately?let us hear from him on the latest….did they buy those Brazilian aeroplanes already? quick recovery honourable…

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  9. You can not apply local Economics and local Business to an airline that travels all over the globe.It is that same narrow minded thought that have black Nations not selling to the whole world.And making billions of dollars out of international trade.Peter Carlos Hinds.

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  10. What do you mean by”expatriate managers and engineers come at a very high cost”.There are many foreigners That would”under cut”(accept a lower pay of) these so called experts.Only if you were international enough to look for them.At the same time it is obvious that a global airline would have to be staffed by an international crew.(This is called poetic license).Peter Carlos Hinds.

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