The Botswana government has begun the process of privatizing loss-making national carrier Air Botswana (BP, Gaborone).

In its call for Expressions Of Interest (EOI) issued last week, the Ministry of Transport & Communications (MTC) said it was looking for suitable entities, companies, consortiums, or service providers capable of offering efficient and reliable air services to the needs of Botswana's business and tourism sectors through Air Botswana.

The EOI, it said, is to determine the level and type of interest there is currently on the market. As such, the MTC says it is open to receiving proposals for privatization including ownership, joint-ventures, franchising, concessions, partnerships or any other arrangement with commercial air carriers or investors able to competently manage and run the airline.

Air Botswana has suffered from a crisis of management in recent years with Botswana's former Minister of Transport and Communications, Tshenolo Mabeo, having sacked its entire board in 2015 citing their failure to devise a clear turnaround strategy for the ailing national airline. Since then, a revised interim leadership lead by Agnes Khunwane has crafted a plan although its longterm success is dependent on outside investment.

"While Air Botswana has not been profitable in recent years, it has developed a Five-Year business plan to address this and has already taken some necessary actions by restructuring, reducing staff numbers, and ceasing operations on its worst performing routes," the communique said. "During the financial year ended March 31, 2016, Air Botswana reduced its losses by nearly 50% and continues to operate efficiently with the year to date unaudited results, showing a 44% improvement on prior year's performance. The airline has a good base of knowledgeable and experienced people."

Submissions are due by February 28.

As it stands, the carrier operates three ATR42-500s, one ATR72-500, and one CRJ-100 (wet-leased from CemAir (5Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo)) on flights serving Kasane, Francistown, and Maun locally and Johannesburg O.R. Tambo and Cape Town regionally.

Recent efforts to sell off two mothballed ARJ-85s - A2-ABG (cn 2303) and A2-ABH (cn 2304) - and two mothballed BAe 146-100s - A2-ABD (cn 1101) and A2-ABF (cn 1160) - have met with limited to no success given all four aircraft are still on the ground in Gaborone two years after they were advertised for sale.