Government’s recent decision through the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) to drastically open up the Namibian sky to international airlines could be the beginning of Air Namibia’s actual decline from international aviation routes.
Whether intended or not, this decision will definitely and directly affect the medium to long term operation and the subsequent survival of the company.
In retrospect, this decision was either smartly intended to eventually discard Air Namibia or someone up there made a very terrible mistake to open up the Namibian sky for competition, knowing very well that it will have a direct and negative financial impact on the company.
I, however, sincerely hope that an impact assessment was done on the implication of opening up the Namibian sky to airlines such as Qatar, KLM Royal Dutch, Ethiopian and Condor airlines among others relative to Air Namibia’s dismal yearly financial performance.
With that said, Air Namibia should either adapt to the new playing field or drastically downsize its operations to key domestic and regional routes. I hope we all know what downsizing is and the impact it will have on our already depressing economic environment.
This decision to open up our sky to international competitors however needs to be further analyzed with the hindsight that a lot of public funds have already been spent on Air Namibia and that the nature of this industry will going forward still require continuous deep financial pockets to competitively remain in the sky.
Let me pause for a moment to sincerely acknowledge the excellent safety flying record of Air Namibia over the years and the fact that it is due to the Namibian government’s direct support that it is able to remain in the sky despite the many challenges that come with the industry.
The international aviation industry is extremely competitive, very diverse, highly complex and sensitive to global affairs such as terrorism, negative weather patterns, just to mention a few. Air Namibia operates in this highly competitive and unpredictable international aviation environment and just like other struggling national airlines will continue to depend on the Namibian government’s financial support which in this case does not make sense anymore due to the opening up of the market to competition.
To put things a little bit into perspective, Air Namibia has a very long and interesting history which needs an in-depth understanding of the changing nature of the company’s aviation background to present day challenges.
Modern day globalisation coupled with geo-political changes has unfortunately made the industry extremely unpredictable and very risky for Air Namibia to compete in. Air Namibia (previously known as South West Africa Transport or SWAT for short) has been in existence since 1946, and has gone through various phases of transformation and ownership over this period until its final christening in 1992 into what it is known today. The company was once upon a time very successful with a very good management in place, had great growth prospects and a bright future but has over the years since independence become a huge financial burden to the Namibian government and to society at large.
Taking into account this long history and the national importance of the company, the Namibian government has since independence spent over N$5 billion on Air Namibia with the main debatable reason that it brings tourists into the country despite available facts that there are various other ways or options to enter the country. This love and pride for Air Namibia has unfortunately exposed the Namibian government that it does indeed have the necessary financial resources at its disposal which it could have otherwise used on many other deserving pressing socio-economic developmental areas such as massive employment creation, housing and sanitation, among others.
And despite this huge financial investment in the company, the Namibian government without any warning decided to open up the sky to major international airlines which whether intended or not will have catastrophic consequences for the future existence of Air Namibia.
The key question to ask in this regard is will the Namibian government have the necessary financial resources to keep the bird in the sky despite the many social challenges and problems that are facing the nation. And if it will have the necessary funds to keep Air Namibia in the sky despite simultaneously opening up the sky to vicious competition – then this decision to open up the sky does not make any business sense as if in times of less competition Air Namibia incurs huge financial losses how about when the sky is open to more vicious and deep pocketed competitors.
However, with patriotic national love, nothing can come in-between, despite the obvious.
• Pendapala Hangala is a socio-economist commentator as well as an entrepreneur and this article is written towards the aims and objectives of Namibia’s Vision 2030. firstname.lastname@example.org