Botswana to privatise national airline

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Botswana put its national airline up for tender on Monday, as part of its latest drive to privatise loss-making state companies.

Air Botswana would be the second such sale after the government sold 49% its telecoms firm in a stock market floatation in 2016.

The transport department said in a notice inviting expressions of interest that it was open to proposals on various forms of privatisation including joint ventures, ownership, franchising and concessions. As well as four domestic routes, Air Botswana provides cargo and air passenger services to Cape Town and Johannesburg from Gaborone, Francistown and the tourism hubs of Maun and Kasane.

Financial losses, blamed on a large workforce and an aging fleet, have prompted a five-year turnaround plan that includes cutting costs and cancelling unprofitable routes.

The airline, which recently discontinued routes to Harare and Lusaka from Gaborone, halved its operating losses to 83million Pula ($8 million) in the 2016 fiscal year.

Previous offers from Comair, South Africa’s Airlink and Air Mauritius have fallen through.

Botswana, whose main source of wealth is diamonds, has more than 30 state-owned enterprises, most of them loss making, in industries ranging from tourism and power to housing and finance.