A new regional air carrier called Senegal Airlines will begin flights this month to neighboring countries in West Africa.
A boisterous crowd gathered at the international airport in Senegal's capital, Dakar, for an official ceremony to inaugurate the country's newest regional carrier, Senegal Airlines.
The airline will begin flights on January 25 to other West African countries, including Mali, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.
Company CEO Edgardo Badiali says he eventually hopes to expand to include flights to Europe and North America.
“I think the geographical position and the stability of the country will help us to build what we would like to build, which is basically to have a hub in the sub-region in West Africa,” Badiali said.
The new airline replaces the now defunct Air Senegal International, which suspended operations in 2009 due to continued money problems and a public falling out with its controlling partner, Morocco's Royal Air Maroc.
The government hopes to avoid a repeat of its mistakes. It owns only a minority share of the new Senegal Airlines, with the majority held by a broad group of private investors, including Senegalese-American rapper Akon.
Dubai-based Emirates Airlines provided training and technical help for Senegal Airlines staff. The airline has purchased six Airbuses for its fleet.
At the ceremony Wednesday, the airline showed off two of its planes, with bright green, yellow and red stripes on the tail representing the national flag.
Badiali says his goal is to capture 40 percent of the Dakar market.
Senegal is building a new airport outside Dakar to handle more flights to continue its emergence as a key entry point to West Africa. The airport is expected to be complete by 2012.