Friday, November 16, 2018
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By Divine Ntaryike Jr

“Buy one, take two!” is a widespread advertising catchword across Cameroon.  Apparently, the customer-cajoling tactic, usually practical in emptying stocks that have outlived their welcome on market shelves is not unique to Cameroonian traders.

Chinese merchants are also into the sweet-talking ploy, and on a far bigger scale.  AVIC International Holding Corp, a Chinese civil aviation import and export company, is giving Cameroon three planes for the price of two.  In other words, one of the aircrafts worth several billion FCFA is a gift!

The news was made public last July 3, after government officials and representatives of the 30-year-old AVIC inked the deal in the capital Yaoundé.   The agreement stipulates that the Cameroon government will expend 61 billion FCFA for the three 60-seater MA60 turboprop planes manufactured by AVIC in China.

They are due delivery in September this year and will be used to bulge the fleet size of the national carrier, CamairCo [Cameroon Airlines Corp] hatched in September 2006 on the carcass of the defunct Camair.   CamairCo currently counts three planes including one Boeing 767 inherited from the defunct Camair and two Boeing 737-700s.

According to AVIC representative Xu Bo, the Yaoundé deal additionally obliges the Chinese company to furnish spare parts and training to CamairCo personnel.  The aircraft acquisition comes amid slothfully effected promises by the state-run carrier to multiply domestic and sub-regional flights.

In 2011, the government disbursed 32 billion FCFA worth of taxpayers’ money to enable the takeoff of the company.  But at a news conference in Douala last March, the company officials acknowledged the skies were still too hazy for the company to attain desired performance results and begin reaping in profits.

In fact, reporters were informed that the inability to fill up seats, repeated flight delays and annulment, the selection of uneconomical destinations among others were responsible for financial deficits said to be dangling in the neighborhood of 20 billion FCFA.  The company deputy managing director Emmanuel Mbozo’o pointed out then that renting aircraft was proving to be increasingly costly. 

The acquisition of the Chinese planes is thus regarded as a huge leap for the carrier.  The move follows the adoption by Parliament in June of a bill authorizing the Head of State to ratify an open skies agreement with China signed in Beijing in April 2011. 

“When promulgated by the Head of State, the accord will establish direct air links between both countries.  Chinese planes will be able to land directly in Cameroonian airports, and vice versa for Cameroonian planes in China,” Transport Minister Robert Nkili remarked.

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