There are high hopes that the aerospace industry in Zimbabwe is on the mend with a number of developments currently taking place in the country.
Despite the country’s national career, Air Zimbabwe, receiving negative publicity in the last few years, it seems many things are happening in the country and the country could once again experience a vibrant aerospace industry that will lead to more people visiting the country from Africa and overseas. During the same period, the flagship career received publicity that included bans to fly to the lucrative destination of Europe, reportedly over safety issues.
Due to the country experiencing low economic activities, it was highly likely there was going to be turmoil to its aerospace sector as potential sources of revenue dwindled to the main career Air Zimbabwe. This meant that its debts soared and sources of funds meant to cushion the national airline were almost insignificant or non-existent. The European ban as a result of the flagship airline no longer meeting the required safety standards, including among others, prolonged technical problems to its once reliable fleet, affected the resumption of flights to the previously popular direct flight to London. This largely affected growth of the country’s travel and tourism as well as morale in the local aviation industry. Flights within the country and to neighbouring South Africa were maintained during the troubled years, thereby impacting the airline’s dwindling revenue base, which obviously affected operational plans.
Media reports say at the turn of the country’s independence the airline operated a strong fleet of 18 planes, such as the Modern Ark (60) planes for its local routes, among its then ever-growing fleet. However, there is now a lot of aerospace growth anticipation, as the economy promises to turn around. And there is more than just Air Zimbabwe flying to and from the country, giving a huge boost to the country’s expanding aviation sector. Currently, other airlines flying into Zimbabwe include British Airways, British Airways Comair, TAAG Angolan Airlines, Qantas Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, RwandAir, SAA, SA Airlink, Air Namibia, Kenya Airways, Malawi Airlines, Fastjet and FlyAfrica.
The latter two airlines are low cost airlines and they are reportedly experiencing good business, alongside
their premium competition. This follows the southern African country’s extension and modernisation in 2017 of the mega tourism and strategic destination airport of Victoria Falls International Airport that reportedly cost in the region of $150 million. Before it was upgraded, the resort airport previously handled an estimated 500, 000 passengers and now can easily hold over 1, 5 million per year. Zimbabwe’s largest airport is the newly renamed Robert Mugabe International Airport located in the capital Harare. Formerly
known as Harare International Airport, it is a major port of entry for aviation visitors to the country. The renaming last year came with the news that it would also be upgraded to the tune estimated at over $150 million. Other airports are the Joshua Nkomo International Airport in the second largest city of Bulawayo as well as the smaller airports supporting domestic and regional flights such as Kariba Airport (at Kariba
Dam), Buffalo Range in Chiredzi, Hwange Airport in Hwange, Masvingo Airport (Masvingo Town), which is home to the Great Zimbabwe Monument which is a historic and ancient dwelling) and Charles Prince Airport in Harare.
Chances are that the rest of these airports may get a boost going forward. The general view is that new airlines will definitely lead to the reduction of air travelling costs to and from Zimbabwe, a country gifted with countless globally renowned tourism attractions. Zimbabwe has so much potential and its economy, through a strong aerospace base, could rise to surprise many locals and internationals?
However, more good news is expected from the country’s aviation industry, especially after “successfully” holding elections expected mid this year in July. Much aerospace activity will likely be boosted as national, African and international airline players come into the fold to express interest to operate services around and into the resource rich country, whose tourism is mainly anchored on the global strength and status of the mighty Victoria Falls, along the mighty Zambezi River shared between Zimbabwe and Zambia. In the international aviation world, Zimbabwe (the house of stone in the local Shona language and borrowed from the famous stone carved Great Zimbabwe Monuments) used to hold its own in its formative years from independence. There is no doubt the country is on the rise with so much aviation activity being experienced. This prospect could soon see many more visitors lining up to experience its never-ending flora and fauna.
This article was written by MARTIN CHEMHERE.