Congo Airways: Chérubin Okende castigates a “bankrupt” company

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“Bad choice of economic model”, “non-transparent management”, “unsuitable tariff structures”… The Congolese Minister of Transport presented the government with a vitriolic report on the restructuring plan proposed by the boss of Congo Airways.

“A bankruptcy that does not dare to speak its name”. Cherubin Okende used the strongest terms to describe Congo Airways’ situation before the September 9 Council of Ministers.

While the President of the DRC, Félix Tshisekedi, warned on August 26 that the company could have to cease its flights for lack of operational planes, his transport minister points out in his report the “lack of coherence” and “the paradoxes” of the restructuring plan presented by the CEO of the company, Pascal Kasongo Mwema. On August 16, the latter had asked the government for aid of more than 92.7 million dollars “in the very short term”: within 60 days.

“Chronic Weaknesses”

The money is to be used to maintain the company’s planes, buy seven more used planes and build working capital. In addition, the strategic fuel stock subsidy would be doubled (from the current $750,000) and penalties on the company’s tax debt, estimated by Mwema at $50 million, would be waived.

In his six-point presentation, Okende denounced the “chronic weaknesses” of a company whose management he described as “neither collegial nor transparent”. He criticized in turn “the inadequacy of the company’s economic model” with the realities of the sector and the country, its “lack of orthodoxy in human resources”… – as well as the “external factors”, including Covid-19 and the government crisis demand lower ticket prices. He said this leads to “recurrent and significant losses”, the “dilapidation of the means of production” and the “poor quality of the services offered”.

New proposals

To “avoid an untimely interruption of air service activities on national territory”, the minister nevertheless proposed that the government adopt “short-term measures” to support the company. This is to release a total amount of just over 50 million dollars: 15.7 million dollars to maintain and redeploy the four aircraft owned by Congo Airways, 22.6 million dollars to pay the balance of a new Embraer 190 still blocked in Brazil for lack of payment, and 12.5 million dollars for the creation of working capital.

For Okende, mentioning the Congo Airways file is also an opportunity to remind Tshisekedi of his plan to launch a new company, Air Congo, in partnership with Ethiopian Airlines. A project that is “on hold today for reasons that are difficult to reasonably support given the situation,” he said. “More than seven months after the approval of this project by the Council of Ministers, I humbly believe that it is time to take a final decision on this subject”.

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