AIR Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) resurgence plans have been given a fresh impetus by an Omani investment consortium which plans to inject 100 million US dollars (about 160bn/-) in the ailing national airline.
The investment, announced last week, is a result of President Jakaya Kikwete's state visit to the Sultanate of Omani in October last year, where he wooed investors from the gulf state.
Mr Kikwete had welcomed Omani business people to come to Tanzania and explore the unlimited, trade, investment and business opportunities which the country has to offer. Commenting on the investment in ATCL, The Chairman Of Al Hayat Development and investment company, sheikh Salim Al Harthy said he believed his company could play a part in turning around the national airlines' fortunes.
"As part of this commitment, we intend to sign an agreement with Air Tanzania to invest 100 million dollars and lead a consortium of other investors that we have close relations with. "Part of the funds will be used to build a training centre, state- of -the art offices for ATCL and engage in other development activities which we are planning to start within six to ten months," he revealed.
Sheikh Harthy added that Omani investors had been encouraged by the friendly investment climate in Tanzania and the commitment of President Kikwete and Oman ruler Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Sultan to enhance ties between the two countries.
The ATCL Acting Chief Executive Officer, Captain Milton Lazaro has noted that the investment would not have come at a more opportune moment and was looking forward to sealing the deal. Captain Lazaro said ATCL had already held initial talks with the imminent investors, who expressed their willingness to pump money into the national airline.
He said President Kikwete had outlined to them, the areas that needed investment and with such money, they were ready to expand the company. According to him, the challenge is to focus on reviving the reputation of the company and plans were underway to buy more planes but also enter into joint-ventures with reputable airlines to increase the ATCL fleet.
So far details about the nature of the partnership between ATCL and the Omani investment consortium remain scanty, pending the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties later this month. The national flag carrier is currently struggling to stay afloat in the wake of cut-throat competition in the local aviation industry.
This is a far cry from the airline's heydays in the early 1980s, when it used to operate international flights from its Dar es Salaam hub to various destinations in Europe and Africa such as Athens, Bujumbura, Cairo, Frankfurt, London, Maputo, Mumbai, Muscat and Rome.
Domestic destinations served included Bukoba, Dodoma, Iringa, Kigoma, Kilimanjaro, Kilwa, Lindi, Mtwara, Musoma, Mwanza, and Tabora. However, all of that is now distant history as the troubled national airline currently only offers a few intermittent domestic services and has to play second fiddle to the likes of Precision Air and newly introduced Fastjet.
Bail out plans for the national airline in the past have mostly ended in failure. Indeed there have been a series of aborted privatisations, alliances and leasing contracts. When the ATCL and the Omani investment consortium finally seal the MOU, many would be hoping that the history of failure does not repeat itself this time around.
"To remain relevant, the national flag carrier must live up to people's expectations by fulfilling its vision and mission which are; 'to deliver customer delight at all times (vision) and to provide safe, comfortable and reliable air services within Tanzania and beyond (mission),'" noted an aviation industry expert who preferred to remain anonymous.
His observation sums up the views of the majority. It goes without saying that the national airline has woefully failed to deliver on any of the above for far too long.