The Zambian Government has formalized its relationship with Ethiopian Airlines (ET, Addis Ababa) following the signing of a shareholders agreement for the Zambia Airways (Lusaka) project.

Under the terms of the deal, the Zambian state will control a 55% stake in the nascent carrier through its Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) with Ethiopian controlling the remaining 45%. Initial capitalisation has been put at USD30 million.

According to an IDC statement, Zambia Airways is now only expected to complete certification and launch on January 1, 2019. Government had originally planned to have the airline start flights on October 24, Zambia's independence day.

IDC chief executive Mateyo C. Kaluba said the new airline will operate 12 aircraft and carry over 1.9 million passengers by 2028.

"As Shareholders, we have a clear sense of the direction we need to take in order to ensure the fortunes and secure growth of the national airline," he said. "We will instil a performance-driven culture through strong corporate governance structures and make Zambia Airways commercially viable."

The IDC statement also said Zambia Airways will launch with domestic and regional routes with intercontinental flights to destinations in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia to be added later.

The confirmation that long-haul services will indeed be operated lends credence to remarks by Zambia's Minister of Transport and Communications, Brian Mushimba, who earlier this month alluded to the acquisition of Airbus widebody jets.