Why Tshisekedi and Ethiopian Airlines have not yet reached an agreement regarding Air Congo

By Nelly Fualdes

Posted on Wednesday, 13 July 2022 12:16
Girma Wake, the new CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, during a press conference at the airline's headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 24 March 2022. © EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP

DRC’s new airline Air Congo, which was supposed to be launched in July, is stumbling over the terms of its agreement with Ethiopian Airlines.

DRC’s new airline Air Congo, which was initially scheduled to take flight in July, has been delayed by Cherubin Okende, the Congolese transport minister. Discussions with Ethiopian Airlines, which is due to take a 49% stake in the company alongside the Congolese state, are ongoing.

Following the signing of an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the two parties, “the government has yet to finalise the agreement,” Girma Wake, chairman of the board of Ethiopian Airlines, told us on the sidelines of the AviaDev Africa 2022 exhibition. The latter believes that the project can be realised “before the end of the year”, emphasising the “seriousness” of the discussions.

Management contract

Although the president of Ethiopian Airlines says he is interested in the potential of the Congolese market, on which his company could position seven aircraft, he does however intend to remain firm regarding the future of Air Congo’s operating conditions. “It is not only a question of taking shares in the capital, but also of signing a management contract,” says the executive.

As with other Ethiopian subsidiaries – Asky Airlines, Zambia Airways, Malawi Airlines, Chadia Airlines – it wants the key positions, and in particular, the general management, to be held by senior Ethiopian executives. It has also stated that it will not tolerate any political interference when it comes to the company’s operational management. “We will not accept it,” says Wake, for whom the government must also guarantee that no act of corruption can occur within the future company.

With Congo Airways?

While Okende wants Air Congo and Congo Airways to cohabit, Prime Minister Sama Lukonde Kyenge would rather redirect Ethiopian Airlines’ partnership proposal to Congo Airways. According to our information, the Ethiopian flagship has begged the authorities to accept the solution proposed by the head of the Congolese government.

The state and various Congolese public companies created Congo Airways in 2014 to serve the domestic market. But the company is in a difficult financial situation, with very heavy liabilities, and its failed previous partnerships mean that new agreements are unlikely to be concluded. Last March, Kenya Airways did not renew the leasing contract under which it had been providing Congo Airways with two Embraer E190s for six months.

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