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A new airline in Mali 2005-02-25

Friday, 2005, February 25
Celestair, the regional airline, connects a growing number of underserved destinations in West Africa.

Bamako, Mali, 25 February 2005 - The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), which forms part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), will boost the commercial aviation sector in West Africa with the creation of a new national airline in partnership with the Mali government and private investors.

“The need for an infrastructure to meet domestic, regional and intercontinental air transport requirements is a priority closely related to economic development and to the opening up of the region as a whole,” says Mr Ferid Nandjee, AKDN representative in Mali. “For Mali, a country with strong potential as a cultural and holiday destination, but which also needs help in the fields of healthcare and education, access to its territory and links with other markets are vital objectives.”

Following an international invitation to tender, the Mali government appointed AKFED and its West African subsidiary Industrial Promotion Services (West Africa) - IPS (WA) – to create a new airline, with a capital of CFA francs 3 billion (around US$5.6 million), 51 % of which will be held by a company set up for the purpose by AKFED/IPS (WA), 29 % by private investors and 20 % by the Mali government.

“The population of Mali will derive great benefit in the vital sector of air transport from this partnership sealed today,” said His Excellency Mr Abdoulaye Koita, Minister of Equipment and Transport. “In fact, AKFED will contribute more than technical and management expertise to the development of air transport in the region. It will also bring its knowledge of local conditions and its commitment to go well beyond the simple search for commercial gain.”

Meanwhile, Mr Marc Rochet, head of AKFED’s Aviation Services Division, explained that the new airline will work towards the operation of three distinct networks in order to increase means of communication, as well as domestic and intercontinental passenger and freight transport. From the point of view of rebuilding an internal air network within Mali and renewing the country’s domestic routes so as to facilitate economic development, during the summer of 2005 Mali’s internal network (serving Mopti, Timbuktu, Gao, etc.) will be operated by ATR 42 or DASH 8 aircraft. Next, the regional capitals of West Africa will be linked; then, during the first weeks of the International Air Transport (IATA) winter season 2005, a long-haul Airbus will provide intercontinental connections with Paris-Orly.

AKFED has the advantage of experience in setting up projects in Mali, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Senegal. This expert knowledge of local and regional markets and trade and experience of the challenges facing passenger and freight traffic and transport will be used for the benefit of its airlines in Mali and Burkina Faso (for the record, AKFED took on a major stake in Air Burkina in February 2001). At the same time, relying on AKFED’s record of effective management of human resources, operation of the new airline’s fleet will progressively be taken over by highly-qualified West African crews and ground staff trained in line with international norms, with a significant proportion of Malian air crew (after qualification with the company fleet).

Previous success in numerous sectors enables AKFED’s Aviation Services Division to provide high quality technical advice on airport management and the operation of passenger and freight traffic and services for aircraft on stopover. It will draw on the experience of having developed Meridiana, the regional and international airline which His Highness the Aga Khan founded in 1963 (under the name of Alisarda) and which played a key role in the expansion of trade and tourism in the Mediterranean Basin and Southern Europe. Moreover, it also has the good fortune to benefit from the Aga Khan’s personal expertise as a member of the Committee of Wise Men appointed by the European Union to “study the future of air transport in Europe, which constitutes one of the cornerstones of economic and social development”.

AKFED, which has operated in West Africa since the mid-1960s, is an economic development agency recognised for its talent for creating and sustaining projects in priority sectors and clearly defined geographic areas in the region. Its approach is based on a precise understanding of local conditions and a commitment to the development of human resources, technology and social assistance programmes aimed at increasing economic efficiency and productivity and, in a broader sense, at promoting social development.

At the same time, AKFED’s West African airlines will also be able to draw on thirty years of experience acquired in developing tourism in East Africa, South Asia and, most recently, Central Asia - for example, through carefully targeted investment in the hotel sector to facilitate access to remote spots which nonetheless offer strong potential as holiday and cultural destinations. While respecting the environment, these activities have a definite impact on the regeneration of sites of cultural interest and on the revival of traditional crafts and architectural techniques.

AKFED’s involvement in the management of an aviation infrastructure in Mali continues a series of new initiatives put in place by the AKDN, specifically in the areas of health, education, micro-finance, and cultural and rural development. As part of its cultural activities, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture is at present engaged in the rehabilitation of the Great Mosque of Mopti.

For further information, please contact:

Ferid Nandjee
Aga Khan Development Network ( Mali )
B.P.E 2998
Bamako, Mali
Telephone : +223 222 06 95/222 08 63
Fax: +223 222 34 66
E-mail: ferid.nandjee@akdn-mali.org

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