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Cablegate: Congo Express, a New Airline for the Drc

VZCZCXRO1054
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0102 0290717
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 290716Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0102
INFO RWANDA COLLECTIVE
SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RULSJGA/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS KINSHASA 000102

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
DEPT FOR EEB/TRA/AN (DANIEL HUTCHENS)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR EINV ETRD ECON PGOV CG
SUBJECT: CONGO EXPRESS, A NEW AIRLINE FOR THE DRC

1. (U) Congo Express was launched on January 25 in association
with South African Express, part of South African Airways, and will
be based in Lubumbashi, Katanga Province. The new airline will
operate a fleet of CRJ200 aircraft and will initially provide
domestic connections between Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and Mbuji-Mayi,
with future plans for service to Kisangani and additional cities.
Congolese Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) sources confirmed that
Congo Express is already registered with the DRC and will begin
operations shortly.

2. (U) Congo Express will be the first foreign-affiliated carrier
to provide regularly scheduled flights between Kinshasa and
Lubumbashi, the provincial capital of Katanga, the DRC's most
important cobalt and copper mining region and a key driver of
economic growth for the country. Many of the DRC's largest foreign
investors operating in the mining sector, including U.S. company
Freeport-McMoRan, have their mining operations in Katanga. Like
the U.S. and other Western embassies in Kinshasa, many
multinational companies restrict their expat employees from flying
on Congolese-owned and operated airlines. Thus, flying from
Kinshasa to Lubumbashi has required flying non-Congolese airlines,
such as Kenya Airways or South African Airways, both of which
necessitated transiting through a foreign country.

3. (SBU) Belgian airline SN Brussels has also requested permission
to operate domestic flights in the DRC, initially focused on the
Kinshasa-Lubumbashi route. In response, the CAA told SN Brussels
that it would be required to create a DRC-registered company before
permission is granted, according to Article 7 of Chapter 2 of the
Convention on International Civil Aviation of 1944 (the Chicago
Convention). As of January 2010, SN Brussels has still not decided
whether to create a DRC-registered company and has not therefore
received authorization from the CAA to begin domestic service.
(Note: Econcouns was told by a contact at the Belgian Embassy that
SN Brussels would also require infrastructure upgrades to
Lubumbashi airport before they would consider flights to/from
Lubumbashi. End note).

4. (SBU) Comment: The Embassy's prohibition on the use of
Congolese-owned and operated airlines by employees under COM
authority has made more frequent travel to many key provinces in
the DRC difficult. The creation of Congo Express will offer a
convenient solution for embassy personnel who would like to travel
within the DRC. Foreign companies operating in Katanga and other
key provinces will no doubt also welcome this new option for
in-country commercial flights. End comment.
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