Afriqiyah Airlines: The end of an African Dream

Many Africans gave a lukewarm ,somewhat skeptical response to the fall of Gaddafi  given that the Libyan leader had invested so much on the continent. Muammar Gaddafi was a Pan Africanist, who tried to give form to the surreal aspirations of Africans to build a United States of Africa. On the one hand, it was ridiculous, on the other it was beneficial as the effort put to realize these aspirations were backed by billion dollar investments.

Muammar Gaddafi pumped money into the oil sectors, tourism, telecommunications, mining and transport sectors in the Africa South of Sahara. In true African and Islamic tradition, he shared his prosperity and good fortune with the poorer brothers down South. He cultivated allies across the continent, from tribal African chieftains to the business elite and political elite.

Airbus A320
Afriqiyah Airlines: The "Brother Airline" for Africa

Many Africans were used to the symbols of the Libya's old power and influence on the continent like Laico Hotels, Oil Libya all subsidiaries of the Libyan Arab African Investment Company(LAAICO), an investment vehicle through which Muammar Gaddafi hoped to build, unite and dominate Africa. LAAICO's investments were spread across 25 African countries. Muammar Gaddafi wanted a sort of unified African "co-prosperity sphere", under his watchful and stern revolutionary eye and with Libyan stewardship. He envisioned a future of Libya as "Africa's big brother", protecting the continent from the West that's eager to dominate and exploit.

Gaddafi feared Western domination and saw African Unity as a vehicle to forestall Western domination in the future given that Libya was just next door to Europe. It was Gaddafi's worst nightmare, but his worst nightmares came true when the TNC stormed the Libyan capital with help of the West. For Gaddafi and many Africans still haunted by the horrors of past domination, the unthinkable has happened.

Sirte Declaration
Perhaps hidden from Gaddafi's grand African scheme was a low cost airline, Afriqiyah Airways, with the logo 9.9.99 .  9.9.99 is the date of the Sirte Declaration, a declaration adopted by the Organisation of African Unity on 9 September 1999, at the fourth Extraordinary Session of the OAU Assembly of African Heads of State and Government held at Sirte, Libya that led to the formation of the African Union. It's quite ironic that Sirte, Gaddafi's last stronghold and the place of birth of the African Union is now on the verge of a precipice, the collapse of Sirte(as it inevitably will) will symbolizes the severence of Libya's last link to Africa. Henceforth, Libya will look North, to Europe and Africa will have a lost its "brother nation".

Afriqiyah was to be the "Airline for Africa" with its hub in Tripoli, serving every African city and connecting Africa to the world via Tripoli. By the time of the "revolution", Afriqiyah was serving 17 routes across North and Central Africa, Middle East, Europe and Asia with a fleet of 12 aircraft. A merger was planned with Libyan Airlines to create a stronger carrier but the Afriqiyah brand was to be retained for long haul routes carrying Africa's flag.

It will be interesting watching the growth of Libyan Airlines from now onwards. The rebels that now rule Libya have already indicated that they will move ahead with the merger of Afriqiyah with Libyan Airlines and also do away with the 9.9.99 logo. But this looks like revolutionary talk. Once the war is over, more sober minds will be expected to steer the country in the right direction. For many in Africa, and with the recent killings of Africans in Libya, it's the final break with a country and an airline that once promised the continent a rare commitment to Pan-African solidarity.

The death of Afriqiyah

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