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National Carriers Across Africa are Going Through the Same Turbulence

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, offers flights to over 56 destinations in 39 countries. This should be a remarkable feat in these waning days of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Kenya Airway’s losses tripled to $333 million in the 12 months to December 2020 as COVID-19 containment measures cut passenger levels to their lowest level since 1999. Kenya’s national airline isn’t alone in its struggles. Over the last two decades that I have been studying the sector, national carriers have gone to the wall in ever greater numbers. In recent years, Kenya Airways has received a series of government bailouts, and is reported to be seeking further government support due losses linked to COVID-19. It even sought to raise funds by requesting permission to run the profitable Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. This request was blocked by Parliament, citing possible loss of jobs and public revenue. Previously, the Kenya government’s decision to bring a strategic investor on board, in 1995, paid off with short-lived profitability before the airline plunged back to losses.