The black clouds that have been hanging over the aviation industry thanks to the pandemic seem to be lifting, revealing at least chinks of clear blue sky in the horizon.
Starting September 10th, budget carrier Jambojet will start twice weekly flights to Goma, a city on the shores of Lake Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In subsequent weeks, the airline plans to increase the frequency to four flights per week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The flights to DRC present good news to the region’s growth prospects, especially traders who now have better means to gain access to the country of 87 million people.
Jambojet’s foray into Goma, the capital city of North Kivu Province, is part of the airline’s move to tap growing demand in Africa’s air travel market.
“There is a growing demand for air transport across the continent, with the International Air Transport Association projecting that Africa will become one of the fastest growing aviation regions within the next 20 years, with an average annual expansion rate of almost 5 per cent,” said Vincent Rague, Chairman, Jambojet Board of Directors.
Over the years, trade between Kenya and DRC has been hampered by among others poor transport besides clashes in the mineral rich country.
The future, however, is looking up following DRC’s request in 2019 to join the East African Community bloc a move that could rev up trade and possibly promote peace and stability in the region.
Admitting the DRC to the EAC presents a huge potential for businesses such as airlines to tap into the emerging trade opportunities in the new market.
A report by the East African Business Council (EABC) released in August last year showed that commerce among EAC countries and the DRC is on the decline owing to disputes and political tensions within the region, impact of COVID-19 as well as transport woes.
By streamlining air transport into DRC, Jambojet offering will likely give thousands of businesses hope and a chance to fight for a share of the huge market in the new trade corridor.
Since assuming office, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi’s top objective has been promoting commerce and connectivity across the Great Lakes region.
Improved trade relations and connections with the EAC are especially critical for eastern DRC, which relies on ports in East Africa to import goods due to logistical bottlenecks experienced with using the country’s distant western ports.
In April, this year, Kenya set out to open diplomatic offices in Goma and Lubumbashi in eastern DRC, a move that President Kenyatta said would ease consular services for traders and investors of the two nations.
In bilateral talks between Presidents Kenyatta and Tshisekedi, Kenya said it’s keen on improving her trade with DRC from last year’s Kes1.8 billion, 70 per cent of which were goods sold in eastern DRC market.
At the moment, the Port of Mombasa processes just under 15 per cent of the share of merchandise shipped to the DRC, with the ports of Dar es Salaam and Beira in Mozambique benefitting with the giant share.
Kenya and DRC have a Bilateral Air Service Agreement and, although they had prior arrangement on the transportation of air cargo, stiff non-tariff barriers have been a major undoing for players.
Tobacco, iron and steel products, sugar, soap and aluminium are some of the main exports from Kenya to DRC.