How one of Africa’s oldest airlines is plotting a comeback

Sudan Airways has walked the proverbial journey to the top and back. In December 2011, the national carrier had 1700 employees, but fast forward today it only has one operational aircraft, an A320-200, formerly operated by Comoro Islands Airline.

Unlike most African airlines that suffered their demise due to rampant corruption and chronic mismanagement, Sudan Airways woes are linked to the ban by the European Union in March 2010 and U.S. terrorism related sanctions imposed in the 1990s.

But now the airline is eyeing a comeback. German carrier Lufthansa is in talks with Sudan’s government over a role in restructuring the airline

“If not through a joint venture, they can help to restructure Sudan Airways so that it can be competitive,” Sudan’s Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim said in an interview with Bloomberg. He didn’t give more details or say at what stage the discussions were.

A delegation from Lufthansa Consulting, an independent subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, will travel to Khartoum in June to continue talks with Sudanese authorities, a representative for the company said in an emailed response to questions.

Lufthansa Consulting provides consultancy for airlines, airports and other related industries. Founded in 1998, it has worked on projects including the turnaround of Mexicana de Aviacion, the restructuring of Saudia and the expansion of Air Astana.

The group has experience in Africa too, having been involved in the development of Ouagadougou International Airport in Burkina Faso, restructuring at Air Madagascar and upgrading operational processes at Kenya Airways. As such, it is in a good position to assist Sudan in the revival of a national carrier it can be proud to host.

The Sudanese Ministry of Transport has been working to restructure the $6 million of debt owed by the airline. And just a few weeks ago, EgyptAir, Egypt’s national carrier, was reported to have signed a strategic partnership, which included Egyptian training of the Sudanese airline’s personnel.

Attempts have been made before to revive the airline though they proved futile. In 2017, it was announced that former Sudanese President Omar al Bashir signed several cooperation agreements with King Salman of Saudi Arabia during a visit to Riyadh. Among the agreements was a pledge from the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation to restructure $6 million worth of debt.

In addition, provisions for fleet renewal at Sudan Airways were also made. It was reported Saudi Arabia may equip the Sudan Airways with fourteen aircraft including three B777s, three A320-200s, six Embraer Regional Jets, and two A330-200s.

Unlike then, Sudan is free from the sanctions baggage hanging over its neck. In October, Sudan agreed to make the payment of $335 million to U.S. victims of militant attacks and their families, allowing for the lifting of sanctions.

Earlier this year the Eastern African nation received a $330 million bridge loan from Britain to help clear its more than $400 million in arrears to the African Development Bank.

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