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Companies show interest in Air Botswana

PAULINE DIKUELO
Mokaila PIC: BOINGOTLO SEITSHIRO
About 17 companies have expressed their interest in buying the ailing national airline, Air Botswana, says the Minister of Transport and Communications, Kitso Mokaila.

When addressing the media yesterday, Mokaila said following the closure of the Expression of Interest (EOI) on February 28, 2017, only 17 companies have declared their interest. “We have closed the EOI on February 28, and about 17 companies have shown interest. We have since asked AITA to assist us assess them with the intention of getting the best model that will work for Air Botswana,” he said.

Mokaila, could not reveal which companies submitted bids or which form of privatisation is dominating adding that they want to get the best model which will help the airline to sustain itself thus contribute to the economy of the country.

In an EOI notice, the ministry invited companies, consortiums or service providers capable of offering efficient air transport services to meet the needs of Botswana’s business and tourism sectors by operating Air Botswana.

However, this privatisation is not the first one as years ago, Air Botswana expressed interest in privatising the airline but it did not work, as they did not approve the interested party’s priorities.

Currently the national airliner has four domestic routes, and in addition provides cargo and air passenger services to South African destinations of Cape Town and Johannesburg from

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Gaborone, Francistown and the tourism hubs of Maun and Kasane.

The carrier operates a fleet of four turbo prop aircrafts, three ATR-42-500s and one ATR72-500. Air Botswana has also leased a single Bombardier jet aircraft, which they use on the Cape Town-Gaborone route that the minister said, does not come cheap but makes business sense.

 “The route is very busy, but leasing that jet is a bit expensive for the national airline. If you can recall we once stopped and introduced our ATR on the same route and customers preferred to go and connect in Johannesburg,” said Mokaila.

He said they have decided to re-hire the jet to keep the route alive especially now that they are considering privatising the airline.

Last year, the national airliner launched a code-sharing partnership with Qatar Airways, a move that chairperson Tebogo Masire is upbeat will boost the country and the airline’s exposure on the international market.

“We have opened the skies for competitors since last year and is a pity that no company has shown interest,” he said.

Meanwhile, Air Botswana as the airline continues to be dogged by financial losses and poor service delivery due to aging fleet and high operational costs.



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