SA’s embargo on Ethiopian Airlines hurts Botswana

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Botswana may not benefit fully from the Ethiopian Airlines’ new direct flight from Addis Ababa to Gaborone en route to Cape Town due to restrictions imposed by South Africa. SA barred the airline from picking up passengers in Gaborone.

From Addis Ababa, the airline can only drop passengers in Gaborone and then proceed to Cape Town without picking up passengers here. Observers noted that the decision taken by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has dealt a blow to Botswana as the country has hoped that the new route would play a critical role in the expansion of trade, tourism and investment, facilitating mobility and connectivity for businesses and leisure travellers.

Economists at Econsult, a private economic consultancy firm based in Gaborone, said although Ethiopian Airlines has started direct flights from Addis Ababa to Gaborone, Botswana may lose out on the economic benefits due to the restrictions.  They noted that the coming of the airline marks a significant expansion of air connectivity, which should benefit both local tourism and business services.

“For Botswana to benefit more fully from these additional flights, the government of Botswana needs to take this up with that of South Africa,” said the economists. The Minister of Transport and Communication, Tshenolo Mabeo has confirmed that the SACAA has refused the Ethiopian Airlines to take any passengers from Gaborone.

“The reason for this is that when we signed the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) with Ethiopia, we did not include the fifth freedom rights,” he said. The fifth freedom allows an airline to carry revenue traffic between foreign countries as part of services connecting the airline’s own country. It is the right to carry passengers from one’s own country to a second country and from that country to a third country (and so on).

Mabeo also indicated that this is detrimental to the economy of the country, adding that it inconveniences business people and investors who might want to board Ethiopian Airlines from the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport to Cape Town.

“They (business people) may have to wait for another airline, which might come at an inconvenient time,” said Mabeo.

The minister, however, noted that negotiations are ongoing with the SACAA to allow the Ethiopian Airlines to take passengers from Gaborone to Cape Town. He was hopeful that the issue would be resolved soon.

 He said the presence of Ethiopian Airlines in Botswana would open the country to the world.If allowed to pick up passengers in Gaborone, Ethiopian Airlines will become a direct competitor to Air Botswana.

Ethiopian Airlines has become the fourth airline to start operations in Botswana and it joins Kenya Airways, South African Express and Air Namibia, which are amongst the 23 countries that have signed BASAs with the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana.

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