February 26, 2001
Posted to the web February 27, 2001
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Though it was in the red until recently, Air Burkina is making a fast turnround that would soon give the company a higher profile as a regional carrier in West Africa.
Thanks to its privatisation this year, the company is aiming at a 3.5 billion CFA francs business turnover this year.
Set up in 1966, Air Burkina took off the following year with a 35 million CFA francs share capital of which 56 percent was held by the state, 17 percent was owned by SOGETRAF (a subsidiary company of Air France) and 17 percent by the private sector in Burkina Faso.
The airline purchased its first aircraft, a 'Banderaute', in 1978 at a cost of 270 million CFA francs. In 1983 it added a Fokker F28 to its fleet and extended its wings to the capitals of neighbouring countries.
According to the Treaty of Yaounde, which founded the multinational Air Afrique, a national airline can only cover neighbouring countries.
With somewhat limited ambitions, the company focused largely on chartering its planes to individuals and organisations while it shared some passenger and freight traffic with Air Afrique.
In addition to its domestic Ouaga-Bobo route, "Air Burkina fulfils its mission of "an airline of good relations" and of a tool for opening up the sub-region", said Marobi Bamba, who was in charge of the company's restructuring.
According to statistics provided by the Ministry of Transport and Tourism, freight accounts for over 500 million CFA Francs revenue annually and the airline controls 80 percent of the market in the capitals covered with up to 45,000 passengers a year.
Though servicing of Air Burkina planes during transit is carried out by Air Afrique, problems experienced by the latter may lead to stopping the exchange of tickets and passengers due to non-payment by Air Burkina.
By 1992 Air Burkina had an accumulated deficit of one billion CFA Francs which prompted authorities to adopt a redress plan the following year.
Implementation of the plan, however, was beset with many obstacles as the company's total debt soared after the devaluation of the CFA Franc.
Partial privatisation of the airline aims at maintaining the level of its competitiveness while minimising running costs.
According Bamba, measures taken as part of the restructuring have led to reshaping the management set-up and redesigning the flow of passenger traffic.
In view of the difficulties brought about by devaluation of the CFA franc, the World Bank had suggested a total privatisation of the company.
The privatisation agreement of Air Burkina and the airline's takeover on 21 February 2001 by the Aga Khan Group as the principal shareholder should extend its business horizon.
The Aga Khan Group now controls 56 percent shares in the company, with the government retaining 14 percent shares while local operators and the company's staff hold the remaining 30 percent shares.
Under this agreement, Air Burkina will retain its 103 permanent employees. Currently, management intends to acquire a bigger aircraft and widen the airline's network to include Dakar, Accra and Libreville among other regional destinations.