Two months before Routes Africa 2012 taking place in the Seychelles capital of Victoria, African countries are facing challenges in their respective aviation sectors.
Media and aviation sector reports show great demand for more airlines in the African continent, need for aviation professionals, low-fare carriers and modern airports.
Tanzania is facing a serious demand for air transport and expects to participate in this crucial and important aviation Forum that will highlight and bring together airline executives from all corners of the world.
Boastful of rich tourist attractions in Africa, Tanzania ranks fourth among countries south of Sahara with good opportunities in domestic air transport, but lacking reliable airlines to fly in and out its airspace.
Airline and aviation reports put Tanzania in a good position to utilize its airspace, because of its open skies policy that allows competition between airline companies within and outside its borders.
Aviation experts are looking forward to see smooth growth in airline business, but worried over the current situation which makes Tanzania go without a vibrant airline company or a national flag carrier after its national airline failed to perform profitably.
The World Bank report said Tanzanian air business grew as a result of the country’s policy of allowing competition in its domestic air transport market.
Tanzania has also made a significant progress with institutional reforms in the sector by establishing an independent regulatory body, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and allowing private air companies to compete with the state funded Air Tanzania Company Limited.
Growth of the domestic air transport has been stimulated by the growth of tourism as well poor road and rail infrastructure that make air transport necessary. It takes more than 12 hours to drive from Dar es Salaam international airport to southern or northern tourist sites, while a light aircraft can fly there in less than two hours.
Important and institutional reforms with regards to Civil Aviation Authority and airports authority still lack the overall technical capabilities for full oversight compared to Tanzania’s neighbor, Kenya.
Aviation experts see Tanzania as a country blessed with ample opportunities in travel trade and tourism but lacking a good vision in running travel business, while a big part of this country remained excommunicated though rich with tourist attractions.
Ruvuma area near the beautiful beaches of Lake Nyasa is not accessible by air though rich in tourism, wildlife, beach and historical attractions. Except for the private presidential plane, no aircraft flies there. A small charter plane was recently launched to try its luck.
Mbeya, Rukwa regions and Katavi region are totally isolated from the rest of Tanzania. These areas are as well, rich in wildlife, nature and beach recreations, but lack quick and reliable schedule airlines.
These areas are located in the southern and western parts of Tanzania, neighboring Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states of Malawi, Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo; which all give good business chances to Tanzania. Rich South African tourists pass through these areas when entering the East African states while on tourist safari excursions.
Official data show that about 17 licensed air operators are not providing services. One air operator, Safari Express Cargo Limited, is operating under a short term license and another, Super Skies Aviation Services Ltd, only provides flying instructions.
Challenges that hinder the growth of the domestic air transport include poor airport infrastructure and lack of airports in potential destinations, including those regions mentioned above.
Tabora and Kigoma regions in western Tanzania are counted as tourist hot spots due to their historical attractions and the presence of chimpanzees there, but lack air transport infrastructure.
These two regions have small and poor quality airports that only allow certain types of planes to land. Last month 35 passengers and four crew members aboard a Dash 8-300 aircraft cheated death when the plane skidded off the runway at Tanzania’s Kigoma airport while taking off.
The aircraft belonging to Air Tanzania Company Limited swerved off the runway, causing extensive damage to one of its wings and the engine. It was en-route to the commercial capital Dar es Salaam via Tabora.
Tanzania as well lacks skilled labor in the aviation sector, forcing airline operators to hire pilots from outside, hence increasing operational costs. Higher airline operation taxes and over-taxed aviation services make Tanzania an expensive destination.
Over-taxed air services result in high air fares and constrain the development of the low cost airlines.