The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) wants the Public Procurement Act fine-tuned to include a directive that all government employees use Air Namibia as the preferred choice whenever they are travelling.
This directive alone, says the NCCI, could lift the national airline out of the economic doldrums to become self-sufficient and less of a drain on the national coffers.
In a letter to the Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwein, last month, NCCI Northern Region Chairperson Thomas Iindji said they believe that Air Namibia has the potential to reach break-even or even become profitable if it’s properly managed, supported and capacitated.
“We are not saying that everything is good at the airline, we believe there are a lot of improvements required in various aspects of the airline,” said Iindji in the letter dated March 16.
He said it becomes difficult to demand improved performance and complete accountability under normal governance frameworks if the airline is operating without a substantive head of institution.
“From what we hear, the current MD is acting for a period of more than two years, which gets extended at intervals of every six months – how do we expect the person and institution to perform under such circumstances?”
In the five-page letter, Iindji said the sustainability of Air Namibia to remain a going concern needs to be addressed by not only the stakeholders but also key stakeholders like all NCCI members, sister organisations such as the Namibia Airports Company and individual travellers as a matter of urgency.
He said the market potential in Namibia for air travel is massive, but this is choked and limited by poor airport infrastructure. According to him, whilst the airline has aircraft and crew to operate, they can only operate a limited number of flights per day. He said this is because Eros Airport closes at 20h00. He said the airline business requires expanded economy of scale.
“Let us as Namibia enable the airline to operate to its full potential by opening the airports.”
He said it is these same airport restrictions which are preventing travel by air for people between towns in the north and coastal towns or Lüderitz and Oranjemund.
Iindji says many Namibian businesses nowadays rely on airlines for many reasons. “Air travel remains the most effective, efficient and safe mode of travelling.”
“Each year goods worth millions of dollars are flown by air from Namibia to other countries and vice versa,” he said. According to him, this is massive percentage of the value of all Namibian trade towards the country’s GDP.