Zambia’s aviation sector is on an upward trajectory, setting impressive records in both passenger numbers and safety standards. As the country positions itself to become a regional airline hub, the recently launched Aviation Strategy (2022-26) by the Ministry of Transport and Logistics is paving the way for sustainable, secure, and reliable air connectivity that contributes significantly to social and economic development.
This remarkable journey is a testament to Zambia’s aviation history, dating back over a century. The first recorded flight in the country took place in the 1920s when pioneering aviators used small aircraft for aerial surveys and exploration.
However, it was during World War II that aviation in Zambia, then known as Northern Rhodesia, took a significant leap as a British protectorate.
After the war, civil aviation began to take root, with the establishment of small airstrips and airfields for passenger and cargo services. It was during this period that commercial airlines started operating in the region, connecting Northern Rhodesia to other British colonies and major cities in Africa and Europe.
As Zambia proudly celebrates its 59th year of independence, it also marks another significant milestone – the 32nd anniversary of Proflight Zambia, the nation’s leading airline.
The historic year of 1964 marked Zambia’s independence from British rule, propelling the nation’s aviation sector into a period of expansion.
Modern airports and infrastructure were developed to cater to the growing demands of air travel, making aviation a critical instrument in fostering economic development and connecting Zambia to the rest of the region and the world.
In the post-independence era, aviation continued to soar as a lifeline for domestic connectivity and international tourism. The entry of private airlines, including Zambia’s own Proflight Zambia, further enhanced domestic travel and opened doors to breathtaking tourism experiences.
The airline’s journey from a charter airline to a prominent industry leader is a testament to its unrelenting commitment to deliver safe, reliable, and affordable flights and services to its customers.
Proflight Zambia Director of Flight Operations, Captain Josias Walubita, emphasized the vital role aviation has played in overcoming geographical challenges. Air travel has become a lifeline for domestic connectivity, providing fast and reliable travel options to remote regions that are otherwise challenging to access by road.
Notably, Zambia has witnessed remarkable growth in passenger numbers, from 1.2 million in 2008 to 1.8 million in 2019, signifying a remarkable 50% growth over a decade. In 2022, Proflight Zambia carried 130,000 passengers, and in the first half of 2023, the airline carried 250,000.
For international tourism, aviation has served as the gateway to Zambia’s iconic destinations, including the majestic Victoria Falls and wildlife-rich national parks. Zambian tourists also have easy access to regional destinations such as Johannesburg and Cape Town, contributing to the country’s hospitality industry and generating revenue.
Despite the sector’s crucial role in national economic development, Zambia’s aviation industry faces various challenges, including the need for state-of-the-art modern infrastructure, managing operational costs, navigating economic constraints, prioritizing safety, and maintaining a skilled workforce. Captain Walubita stressed the importance of addressing these challenges to ensure the sustainability and growth of the sector.
Proflight Zambia has been a driving force in connecting communities, promoting tourism, and supporting business ventures. By operating flights to both local and international destinations, the airline has facilitated increased tourism, generated revenue, and created employment opportunities for local communities. Moreover, Proflight Zambia has invested in the professional development of its workforce, contributing to the nation’s human capital development.
As the aviation sector in Zambia looks to the future, it stands poised for further growth, innovation, and transformation. The 32nd anniversary of Proflight Zambia is not just a celebration of the airline’s achievements but also an affirmation of Zambia’s aviation potential to soar to greater heights.
Initiatives like the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) aim to promote open skies and improve air connectivity across the African continent, fostering social, economic, and political integration and boosting intra-Africa trade and tourism.
With continued support from stakeholders, collaborative efforts between the government and the industry, and the steadfast dedication of airlines like Proflight Zambia, the skies of Zambia remain a realm of opportunities and progress.
As this milestone is celebrated, it is a moment to cherish the rich history of aviation in Zambia, recognize the essential role of aviation in the nation’s growth, and set sights on a future where the skies are limitless, and Zambia takes flight to greater heights.
This information is contained in a statement issued by Gillian Langmead LLB (Hons), MBA, CIPR Accredited Practitioner, CIM Affiliate, AZIM Managing Director.