Botswana’s government is budgeting for the sale of national carrier Air Botswana (BP, Gaborone), according to a recent disclosure to the country's parliament by Transport Minister Eric Molale.

A budget has been put in place through the Transitional National Development Plan (TNDP) for the financial years 2023/24 and 2024/25, he said, which will ultimately result in the sale of the ailing airline, The Sunday Standard newspaper reported.

While the sale would not be immediate, Molale said the government, in the meantime, had directed that a strategic partner be sought for Air Botswana.

He reiterated that the national carrier was implementing a restructuring plan aimed at operational excellence, recovery, growth, and financial sustainability. “While the immediate plan is for the airline to get a strategic partner, these strategic objectives are still aligned with its privatisation agenda,” he said.

As part of its restructuring, the technically insolvent carrier has been looking at measures to become more efficient and competitive, including introducing new regional routes, maintaining international safety standards, and improving its on-time performance (OTP). It has been looking at diversifying its income through a strategic focus on increasing its cargo revenue, growing its domestic route network, and operating more charters.

“In the medium to long-term, the airline is working on restructuring its operations to commercialise other divisions and, where possible, make them subsidiaries or autonomous entities,” Molale disclosed.

The Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatisation Agency (PEEPA), a statutory body mandated to sell state-owned enterprises, is reported to have been engaged in the search for potential buyers/partners. It submitted recommendations on the review of Air Botswana’s operating model for consideration by the Ministry of Transport and Communications in August 2020.

In May 2022, Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi re-confirmed the government's plans to enter into "a strategic partnership with the private sector to revitalise Air Botswana". The government previously promised that a legal framework for the privatisation would have been in place by April 2022. Earlier attempts by provisionally-liquidated Comair (South Africa), Airlink (South Africa), and Air Mauritius to buy a stake in Air Botswana did not yield results.