ZIMBABWE’S forex coffers are getting extra pressure from the dominance of foreign airlines in the country’s airspace as locals do not prefer the national airline when travelling.
An aviation expert, Nkosilathi Sibanda said with revelations by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) that foreign currency demand has risen drastically over the last few months, the dominance by the foreign airlines in the country’s aviation industry is adding to a widening trade deficit as the little foreign currency available is being used to pay for business and tourist travels to foreign airlines which are more efficient and reliable than Air Zimbabwe.
“Locals are even shunning Air Zimbabwe because it is not reliable. Air Zimbabwe and South African Airways (SAA) take off at almost the same time at the airport but if you get to OR Tambo International Airport, Air Zimbabwe will be empty but you will find even our own government ministers coming from SAA,” said Sibanda.
Latest statistics show that the SAA takes a hefty 30% of the country’s aviation market and carried more than 370 000 passengers between the Harare – Johannesburg route in 2017 alone, making the route its busiest and most profitable in Africa.
“The unavailability of direct flights from tourism source markets in Europe is also a negative factor for the local tourism sector,” added Sibanda.
Tourism is being affected also as tourists do not want to spend 16-18 hours travelling and changing airports.
Other continental airlines servicing the Zimbabwe market include the Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, RwandAir, Emirates and British Airways.
Zimbabwe has experienced a persistent current account deficit resulting from the importation of fuel, grain, and industrial raw materials.
It is important that import substitution strategies be implemented in order save forex and thus create reserves at the central bank.