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Tanzania Buying New Planes for Troubled National Airline to Boost Tourism

FILE - Tanzania's President John Magufuli addresses a news conference during his official visit to Nairobi, Kenya, Oct. 31, 2016.

Tanzania plans to revamp its cash-strapped national carrier by buying new planes as part of plans to boost tourism and transport sectors, Tanzanian President John Magufuli said on Monday.

Home to the famous Serengeti National Park and Africa's highest mountain Kilimanjaro, Tanzania relies heavily on revenues from tourism - its biggest foreign exchange earner, bringing in around $2 billion a year.

Magufuli said his government wants to increase direct flights between Tanzania and Asian and European markets in a bid to boost annual foreign visitor arrivals beyond current levels of around 1 million.

"Tourists have to use several connecting flights to come to Tanzania ... this is because we don't have our own [strong] airlines," he said in a statement.

"We haven't even reached 2 million tourist arrivals a year, while a country like Morocco gets more than 12 million tourists each year."

FILE - A vehicle drives past Mount Kilimanjaro in Hie district, Tanzania, Dec. 10, 2009.
FILE - A vehicle drives past Mount Kilimanjaro in Hie district, Tanzania, Dec. 10, 2009.

In power for just over a year, Magufuli has made the overhaul of troubled Air Tanzania Company Ltd (ATCL) one of his flagship infrastructure development projects in a bid to transform the country into a regional transportation hub.

Last week, Tanzania signed a deal with Canada's Bombardier Inc. to buy two CS300 jetliners and one Q400 turboprop aircraft at a cost of $200 million.

The country received delivery of two other Bombardier Q400 planes in Sept. at a cost of $62 million.

Magufuli said his government has also made initial payment for the purchase of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which is expected to be delivered on June 18 and would boost Air Tanzania's fleet to seven planes. He did not say how much the plane would cost.

The state-run ATCL, which has suffered from years of under-investment and mismanagement, had just one plane on its fleet when Magufuli took office in Nov. last year.

Magufuli appointed a new CEO and board for the airline in Sept. and ordered the restructuring of the company, including staff retrenchment, as part of a turn-around plan.