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Senegal is searching for a strategic partner to relaunch its state carrier Senegal Airlines ahead of the opening of a new international airport next year as it seeks to become a hub for air travel in West Africa, President Macky Sall said on Tuesday.
In an effort to revive its tourist industry, hit hard by a rise in airport taxes and the Ebola outbreak in neighboring countries, Sall also said his government was analyzing whether to ditch visa requirements for foreign visitors.
Sall said Senegal Airlines has accumulated considerable debt and needed to be restructured. The company has some 250 employees, with some executives earning 10 million CFA francs ($16,150) a month, but owns almost none of its planes, he said.
Reporting by Daniel Flynn and Diadie Ba, editing by David Evans
“We have a new airport that is going to open next year and we need a working national carrier when that happens,” he told a news conference.
Tourism and Air Transport Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr said last week that Senegal Airlines had accumulated debt of 45 billion CFA francs ($72.68 million) and needed restructuring.
Sarr said there were talks taking place with a company from the United Arab Emirates to act as a strategic partner, without providing further details. Sall did not elaborate on this.
“We are in discussion with some partners and soon we will able to say whether this company is being reborn or will die definitely,” the president said. “I am optimistic that it can be taken in hand.”
Sall said his government was working on reducing high levels of airport tax and surcharges that were making Dakar uncompetitive as a regional hub.
“We must not allow taxes and bureaucratic procedures handicaps Senegalese tourism and the destination,” he said. “By the end of March we will decide on specific measures to ease this.”