"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

5.06.2007

africa watch: cameroon/kenya

I have been avoiding blogging about the Kenya Airways plane crash in Cameroon, because there haven't been many details, and because it's 1) sad and 2) a little too close to home. Put another way, I fly Kenya Airways all the time, and I have taken off from the Douala airport (on Air France).

Who knows what happened? Cameroon was part of the American government's Safe Skies for Africa Initiative, which was a Clinton administration initiative to improve airport security and aviation safety in several African states. Kenya Airways is one of the best airlines in Africa (I'd put it second only to South African Airlines). The fact that an AP reporter, South African cell phone company executives, and an Indian manufacturing magnate were on board should tell you that this isn't some upstart African airline with questionable equipment. These guys knew what they were doing. The plane was only 6 months old. And something clearly went horribly wrong.

It took more than a day to find the crash. That's not surprising; southern Cameroon is densely forested. The crash was eventually located in a mangrove swamp, which will make recovery very, very difficult.

What's extra-bad about this (aside from the obvious) is that Kenya Airways' service is one of the few ways to move back and forth within Africa. It's very difficult to fly from country to country within Africa, especially if you need to move from one region to another. In the past, if you needed to get from Nairobi to Abidjan, you usually had to go through Europe. Kenya Airways developed a quality, professional business model that works for those needing to travel within Africa. Although this is a terrible situation, I still have confidence in KQ. I will most likely be on one of their flights a month from Wednesday.

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