Astral Aviation (8V, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with China's HNA Group in which the Chinese group's Hainan Airlines (HU, Haikou) subsidiary will become a shareholder in the Kenyan cargo specialist.

Signed by Astral Aviation's Chairman, Anwar Majid Hussein, Kenya's Consolidated Bank CEO Japheth Kisilu, HNA chairman, Chen Feng, and vice president of the China-Africa Development (CAD) Fund, Lu Qingcheng, the agreement will see Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta developed into a regional East African hub employing five E145s on flights to neighbouring countries. The fleet may be expanded and air routes extended to West and South African air transport hubs, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

At the recently ended World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) in Abuja, Nigeria, Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, announced a China-Africa regional aviation plan aimed at aiding development on the continent while creating jobs for Africa’s unemployed youths.

"Africa has seen its aviation express demands growing rapidly, but it lacks airport, air routes, especially regional operating capacity. China has huge experience and capacity in the construction and management of airports. We will promote the regional aviation industry in Africa. China will provide financing technical and human resourced support,” he noted.

Hainan Airlines is already involved in West Africa through its subsidiary, Africa World Airlines (AW, Accra).