World’s largest producer of cocoa, Ivory Coast has begun talks with three African airlines to operate the first direct route to the United States, by early 2018 in a bid to attract more investors.
The air carriers being considered include: Ethiopian Airlines, which is due to send a team to Ivory Coast before the end of the month to firm up talks; Kenyan Airways; and South African Airways, the country’s Transport Minister, Amadou Kone has said.
“I’m pushing for it to happen, that we have a flight at the end of the year or in January 2018,” Mr. Kone is quoted as having said, adding: “That’s my objective. I’m not saying it will be easy but I’m working on it.”
The move by one of the fastest growing economies in the sub region fits with the strategy of Ethiopian, which is looking to consolidate its lead as the continent’s biggest airline with new hubs and already flies to Ivory Coast and the U.S.
On the other hand, South African Airways is counting on a government-led recapitalization to remain in operation and has had two bailouts this year to avoid defaulting on debt.
With regards to Kenya Airways, which is about 27 percent owned by Air France-KLM, it has said it’s seeking a partner in the United States to start transatlantic flights as it looks to expand its operations.
A direct route to a city such as New York would attract more investors to the West African nation and help Ivory Coast’s capital, Abidjan position itself as a regional hub, Kone said. Ivory Coast’s economy has expanded by an average 9 percent per year since 2012, while the government has introduced a number of incentives to lure companies including Carrefour SA to the country and initiated several infrastructure projects, including an Abidjan urban railway.
Currently, over 400,000 passengers fly from the West African sub-region, with the exception of Nigeria, to the United States every year.
Air carriers such as SAA already flies from Accra, the capital of Ghana, to Washington D.C. while Delta Air Lines Inc. of the U.S. operates a route from the same city to New York.