Old Indian Law Hindering African Airlines Expansion into India

India has a substantial diaspora in Africa and the trade trade ties between India and the various African countries is quite strong. Several African Airlines have been flying to India for decades amongst them Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Mauritius, Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways amongst others.

India also has BASAs with at least 17 African countries and is currently on a charm offensive to strengthen its old relationship with Africa, which has in been existence since the colonial days. In fact, in the 60s, many Indians fled India to find "greener" pastures in Africa, to join an earlier generation of Indians that had come to Africa during the colonial and even pre-colonial times. It seems with the resurgence of China and China's massive investments in Africa, India would like to exploit this old comradeship to its advantage. African countries have been welcoming India and some have expressed an interest in exchanging some bilateral air services with India to allow the airlines to launch direct flights to India.

However, an old Indian law stands in the way of these African countries exploiting the rich Indian travel market. According to the law, "unless effective control and substantial ownership of an airline rests with either the Government or a national of a country from where the airline is designated, we cannot go in for exchange of flights. In the case of Africa this is becoming a problem." The problem arises because many state carriers in Africa collapsed and have been replaced by privately held airlines, which are owned by people who are not of African descent.

Case in point is Air Uganda, Air Mali and Air Burkina which are owned by the Aga Khan, Fly540 airlines which is owned by the Lonrho Group based in London and other African airlines. The law seems to have been enacted in the true spirit of the Non Aligned Movement but it seems it's hindering flights between the two countries in the new globalized economy.

Many Indians traveling in Africa normally go through the Middle East or Europe to reach their destinations. It's time for some review of old laws to reflect the realities of the 21st Century.

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