Hundreds of African routes to take and one airline to fly us all

Saturday December 10 2022
A Kenya Airways plane

As a consumer, an airline is only as desirable as the quality of the service they provide: Patriotism has its limits


I heard through the grapevine that East Africa’s biggest airline Kenya Airways was going through some troubles. A pilot strike, something about bankruptcy and a fleet of planes on the ground. I like their livery by the way — aside from the Kenyan Rugby and Volleyball teams, it is the only use of a complicated colour scheme and flag that I have seen working well with African skin tones and brands.

They shouldn’t feel bad. I can’t remember the last time South Africa had anything nice to say about SAA and they have certainly been broke forever. Also, people steal stuff from your luggage when you fly to their hub, which is awkward. The other Big Guy further north Ethiopian Airlines has been faithfully connecting Africa across linguistic zones and beyond to the world for an impressive length of time. I have no idea how they do it, whether it is a sustainable business or not but I do know it is popular and well-respected.

And then there is my own Air Tanzania. Founded on the strength of the single plane we bravely wrested from Kenya’s grip at the collapse of the first East African Community, it did well and then it hit the 1980s and 1990s. Ah, the Wings of Kilimanjaro. I am fond of it for nostalgic reasons and because we had by far the coolest emblem on the tails of our planes with little competition outside of maybe Qantas. That said, like my amour patrie it is a love that is tinged by the sadness of knowing our challenges.

Symbols of sovereignty

When it was resuscitated as Air Tanzania Corporation Ltd, I knew what was up. The modern nation state comes with in-built symbols of sovereignty and Pouvoir, one of which is a national airline. But in the 21st Century? I do not see why, certainly not now that I am on the tax-paying side of things.

So I cannot tell you how excited I was to learn that we are considering, as a continent, having One Airline to Fly us all. My immediate solution for the EAC up until that point is reached, though, is to hand over our planes to Rwanda and let them run things for us on the strength of their reputation for legendary efficiency. Maybe we don’t even need to change the livery of the planes we pool together — diversity is fun, accurate and will save us time and money trying to rebrand ourselves.


As a consumer, an airline is only as desirable as the quality of the service they provide: Patriotism has its limits. Think of all the money we could save and redirect to education or free and fair elections if we just flew together? Think of Kenya’s relief? Think of all those conferences we will no longer miss, the planes that will no longer be grounded for lack of serviced engines, all those smiling African faces from the ground to the cabin to the cockpit! The EAC has pioneered African Unity for decades, let’s conquer the skies as well. We can straighten up and fly right if we Wakanda our situation and show the way.