SAA, Kenya Airways sign strategic partnership as milestone towards Pan-African Airline Group

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In terms of the Strategic Partnership Framework, there will be increased connectivity through passenger traffic, cargo opportunities and by combining assets.
In terms of the Strategic Partnership Framework, there will be increased connectivity through passenger traffic, cargo opportunities and by combining assets.
Gallo Images/Jacques Stander
  • Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has been on a state visit to SA this week.
  • During the visit, SAA and Kenya Airways signed a Strategic Partnership Framework, which they regard as a big step towards a Pan-African Airline Group.
  • A memorandum of understanding on tourism was also signed during the visit.


South African Airways (SAA) and Kenya Airways have signed a strategic partnership framework this week during a state visit by President Uhuru Kenyatta to South Africa.

According to a statement issued on behalf of the two national carriers, it is a milestone towards co-starting a Pan-African airline group by 2023.

The two airlines will work together to increase passenger traffic, cargo opportunities, and general trade in South Africa, Kenya, and the rest of Africa. It is also expected that the partnership will improve the financial viability of the two airlines, while, at the same time, offering competitive prices for both the passenger and cargo segments.

SAA, which was in business rescue from December 2019 to April 2021, started domestic commercial flights again on 23 September. SAA stopped commercial flights in May last year when the rescue practitioners indicated that there were insufficient funds to continue with commercial operations.

Due diligence of SAA's chosen strategic equity partner, the Takatso consortium, is still under way. The consortium, consisting of Global Aviation, which operates low-cost airline LIFT, and African infrastructure investment company Harith, will have to invest about R3 billion in SAA over a three-year period. 

SAA serves regional destinations between Johannesburg and six African destinations - Accra, Kinshasa, Harare, Lusaka, Lagos (from 12 December 2021), Mauritius and one domestic route between Johannesburg and Cape Town. It is a member of the largest international airline network, Star Alliance. Kenya Airways, a member of the Sky Team Alliance and flies to 41 destinations worldwide, 34 of which are in Africa.

The partnership framework follows the Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) that the two airlines signed in September this year "to foster the exchange of knowledge, expertise, innovation, digital technologies, and best practice between the two airlines". The MoC does not, however, preclude either of the airlines from pursuing commercial co-operation with other carriers within their route network strategy.

In the view of the two airlines, the newly signed partnership framework aligns well with the aims of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) of deepening the economic integration and prosperity of the continent. 

The strategic partnership framework will "ignite the Kenya and South Africa tourism circuits, which account for significant portions of the respective country's GDP", according to SAA chair John Lamola.

This ties in with a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed during the state visit between SA and Kenya on tourism cooperation.

"The parties shall promote, develop and increase cooperation in the field of tourism within their respective countries on the basis of equality and mutual benefit," states the MoU.

The two countries plan to organise tourism training programmes, including marketing and sustainable development, develop close cooperation between tourism institutions, and encourage joint capital and entrepreneurship investment in tourism.

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