THE southern African country has had no national airline for more than two decades now following the close down of Zambia Airways.
Now, a national airline is an airline which is registered locally for a given State or Government and receives some preferential treatment from that government for international operations.
According to experts in the aviation sector the airline could be state-run, state-owned or indeed private but what is cardinal is that it should be designated as a flag carrier.
In Africa, more than 45 countries of the 54 own airlines or have a majority shareholding or minority shares or designated ones as national airlines or flag carriers.
Following the liquidation of Zambia Airways in 1994, Zambia has been among the less than 10 African countries which have had no airline as flag carriers.
The disadvantages of that have been evident for all to see and we do not wish to delve them.
On the other hand, the cardinal question has been whether it is necessary to establish one now or not.
On Monday this week Cabinet approved the re-establishment of the national airline at a cost of US$30 million with the process expected to start early next year.
The re-establishment of the national airline is going to be done with a strategic partner, the Ethiopian Airlines while the Zambian Government will be the majority owner of the operations.
We cautiously welcome this move!
Cautiously in the sense that Zambia Airways closed down and we will return to that towards the end.
Further, we are aware of the cost implications of such a mammoth project but wish to agree with stakeholders who have been calling for it that the project is worthwhile and deserves support.
Yes, the benefits of owning a flag carrier abound.
Historically Governments, world-over, establish national airlines to help lessen the high capital costs of establishing and running one by the private entities.
The direct and immediate beneficiary is the tourism sector which in turn boosts foreign exchange earnings thereby greatly contributing towards the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.
Needless to mention that the growth of the GDP will trigger wealth and job creation in related and other sectors!
In turn this will, surely, help to meet one of the objectives of the current government – job creation.
As at 2011 the aviation sector boasted of an estimated 1.94 billion workforce worldwide.
That is a huge figure and Zambia needs to account for part of it soon.
Truly, the move will place the country back on the world map in the aviation sector as Zambia will be easily identified through the colour of the national airline.
It will stir up a sense of pride and patriotism in Zambians who have had to endure watching and listening to advertisement about foreign tourist attractions while aboard foreign airlines right from the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport or indeed other international airports.
Who would not be glad to fly outside the country on an airline draped in his/her national colours!
But how does a national flag carrier boost tourism?
It does so because most tourists opt to fly on the national airline during their tourism adventure.
For instance, tourism from the United States of America intending to come to Zambia would prefer boarding any airline designated as Zambia’s flag carrier for obvious reasons.
Equally, other passengers – part tourists – heading to Zambia will be more comfortable flying the Zambian national airline.
The re-establishment of the Zambian national airline will enable tour operators and other stakeholders come up with complete packages for attracting tourists.
We, however, wish to urge the government to take precautionary measures to ensure that the new airline does not go the Zambia Airways way.
The airline should be run as a truly corporate entity to ensure its viability or else it would become another drain on the national resources.