Sky Mali launches into stormy skies
Sky Mali chalked up a major milestone on July 22 – receipt of its air operator’s licence. The start-up had already taken delivery of its first Boeing 737-500 aircraft in March, configured for 102 people in economy class and 12 in business class. Tom Pleasant reports.
Based out of Modibo Keita International Airport near Bamako, the airline was planning to start scheduled domestic flights in September, flying to Gao, Kayes, Mopti, and Timbuktu. Internationally, it is aiming to serve Malian communities in west and central Africa, in countries such as Cameroon, DRC, Gabon, Ghana, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal.
For capacity on these routes, it intends to introduce a Boeing 737-800, two Embraer ERJ 145s, and two MA60s over the next two years.
More ambitiously, it is hoping for flights to Paris by 2022.
Sky Mali has financial backing from the Emirati investment company, Al Sayegh Group (ASG), based in Abu Dhabi.
The head of ASG, Abdul Jabar Al Sayegh, said he decided to invest in the company due to the strong bilateral ties between the two countries. Abu Dhabi has been providing extensive loans for social and economic development to Mali since 1976. Most recently, the emirate backed the large Taoussa hydroelectric dam, which includes extensive road, agriculture and aquaculture subsidiary projects.
Guiding the airline through its start-up phase is SMFI-Consulting (Stratégie Marketing & Finances Internationales), based in Cotonou, Benin. The company has additional offices in Abidjan and Mali. Its director, Lucien d’Almeida, will be Sky Mali’s chairman. He has 42 years of experience in the airline industry, including 25 at Air Afrique.
The carrier’s general manager, and the man who first floated the idea of the airline, will be El Hadj Baba Haïdara, who directed Air Mali from 2000 to 2002. That airline ceased operations in 2012 due to the northern Mali conflict.
That conflict continues to this day, just one of several external challenges the airline faces – not least the current coronavirus pandemic.
In 2012 the country effectively lost control of almost all of northern Mali, including the large cities of Gao, Kidal, and Timbuktu, to Tuareg rebels, who renamed the region Azawad.
Mali, itself, suffered a popular coup d’etat in August this year, when President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was overthrown following allegations of mismanagement and corruption. The army was angry over pay and the ongoing fighting in the north.