How would you describe your current market position?
FlyNamibia is a private airline that was founded six years ago by Westair Aviation. In September 2022, Airlink, which is a major carrier in the region, became a 40% shareholder of the company. This partnership has empowered us to step up to the next level. Our focus was primarily on domestic flights serving the coast and the northern regions, however, we have since commenced flights to Cape Town and plan to introduce more regional flights later this year. We have the support of Airlink’s back office, with all of their expertise available to us. They have a global network through codeshare and interline agreements with virtually all major players, which we can leverage.
Does FlyNamibia have plans to expand to air cargo services?
Our cargo capacity is extremely limited due to the size of the aircraft. However, we plan to explore cargo operations through code-share arrangements with larger operators. It’s definitely part of our long-term vision. In the future, we hope to expand our market to the extent that we can operate larger aircraft.
To what extent is FlyNamibia contributing to local capacity building and training initiatives?
Aviation is a highly specialized field and due to the impact of COVID-19, many aviators left the industry. The rebound was far greater than we initially anticipated, resulting in a global shortage of pilots. We were unable to compete with the salaries offered by larger international players. As a result, we had an exodus of air crews from the country, prompting us to shift our focus towards employing and training Namibians. In collaboration with our sister company, Westair, we launched a training program that offers young individuals the opportunity to pursue comprehensive training either as pilots or aircraft engineers. Our goal is to not only provide training, but also retain the individuals we train. There is a strong drive to train and employ Namibians within our organization.
How does FlyNamibia anticipate its energy needs changing in the next five to 10 years?
In our industry, which involves transporting passengers and cargo from one point to another, we don’t foresee moving away from hydrocarbon-based fuels in the future. While there is a significant push to develop electrical motors for engines and aircrafts, as small Namibian players, we are very far from being able to adopt these technologies. Therefore, we will continue to be dependent on the oil extracted from wells for the next decade or two.
How do demographic shifts like rising industrialization and urbanization impact your planned routes?
We are focusing on three growth areas in terms of our future passenger base. Firstly, with the development of the hydrocarbons industry, there’s a growing demand for transportation towards the coast, where exploration is taking place. Secondly, tourism is a significant component of our business and will continue to develop, not solely due to these discoveries, but because Namibia is a safe, affordable and beautiful destination. Tourism is experiencing significant growth and we are placing a strong emphasis on developing our services to cater to that demand. The third aspect is that despite urbanization of our population, there is still a strong regionalized population that maintains loyalty to their place or origin. Many people return to rural areas to visit family and friends in their own states.
Why should investors enter the Namibian market?
Apart from being a peaceful and democratic nation, there are numerous factors that make Namibia an attractive destination. While we welcome investors, it’s important to note that the cost of doing business in our country, compared to others, is favorable. We offer competitive advantages in terms of labor costs, taxes and real estate prices. Unlocking opportunities, particularly in green hydrogen and oil discoveries and developments, is generating great excitement. As more people become aware of the opportunities in Namibia and realize how accessible they are, we anticipate even greater interest.
This interview will be featured in the upcoming Energy Invest: Namibia 2023 report — the official investment report for Namibia’s extractive industries, renewables, logistics, infrastructure and power sectors — produced by Energy Capital & Power and endorsed by the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Namibia. If you wish to participate in Energy Invest: Namibia 2023, please contact ECP Senior Director, James Chester, at James@energycapitalpower.com