ROUTES AFRICA: ASKY Airlines Boss Denies Talks Over SAA Stake Sale

The founder and chairman of West African carrier ASKY Airlines, Gervais Djondo has dismissed recent speculation that South African Airways (SAA) was to open talks to acquire a stake in the Togolese carrier.

The founder and chairman of West African carrier ASKY Airlines, Gervais Djondo has dismissed recent speculation that South African Airways (SAA) was to open talks to acquire a stake in the Togolese carrier.  The businessman, also co-founder of Togo-based Ecobank Transnational, said he was taken by surprise by news stories suggest the carrier could be taken over and told reporters at a London event hosted by Ecobank and the Africa Centre: "I am firmly saying that SAA is not buying a stake in ASKY."

A South African newspaper reported earlier this month that SAA was considering acquiring a stake in the Togolese carrier and reforming the business to Ghana as one possible scenario within its plan to expand its operations in West Africa.  This would have seen the southern African carrier becoming the new business partner for the airline which has an existing management contract with East African operator and SAA’s fellow Star Alliance member, Ethiopian Airlines.

According to the report, SAA is considering the possibility of partnering with Ghanaian investors to acquire part of Asky and then relocate the airline to Accra, a key destination in the region already part of the SAA network.  The formation of a West Africa hub has become the main target in the airline’s Africa Growth Strategy, after it recently considered buying a stake in Senegal Airlines.  It is understood that despite discussions SAA concluded that such an investment was not commercially viable.

ASKY Airlines was established to fill the void following the collapse of pan-African carrier Air Afrique in the early 2000s which resulted in major challenges for cross-border air transportation in West and Central Africa. It was a joint conference of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) in January 2004 that set the ball rolling but it was not until January 2010 that the airline took to the air as a joint venture between private investors and Ethiopian Airlines, which was awarded a technical and strategic management contract for the start-up.

In the London interview, Djondo also hit out at the growing number of new national airlines appearing across the African market, saying they were doomed to fail unless they followed a pan-African network formula.  "If each country wants to have its own airline company, they are not going to survive," he said, predicting that all recently launched national airline companies would "disappear in three to five years".

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