Sars customs officials have seized crystal methamphetamine worth R18 million in passengers' luggage at OR Tambo International Airport. File picture: Independent Media

JOHANNESBURG - The national airline of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - Congo Airways - on Wednesday announced that it will launch new flights between South Africa and Congo with immediate effect.

The flights from Kinshasa to Johannesburg will run three times a week, on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, on the two-year old airline which was launched in October 2016.

The new DRC-South Africa service represents Congo Airway's first scheduled flight to South Africa, affording an opportunity to further strengthen relationships, build new economic partnerships, and enhance trade and tourism business between the two countries.

Congo Airways plans to launch flights to Cameroon, Angola and Dubai next. The airline is jointly owned by the DRC government and investors from the private sector.  

The airline has an ambitious plan to operate a low-cost model, which will see it adding to its fleet of aircraft to service more destinations outside the DRC. 

Congo Airways chief executive, Desire Balazire Bantu, said that it was a "proud achievement" for them to have their first international flight to South Africa as the DRC. 

"With Africa fast establishing itself as one of the most promising regions for tourism and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) estimating that Africa will receive 85 million international tourist arrivals by 2020, and 134 million in 2030, representing 6.3 percent and 7.4 percent respectively of international tourist arrivals worldwide," Bantu said.

"My deepest gratitude goes to all of our stakeholders who have supported us towards making sure that our inaugural international flight promotional campaign as Congo Airways is a success. We hope that industry players in South Africa can work closely together with our Congolese partners to make the African Union agenda 2063 regarding the movement of our African people and goods successful."

The launch of Congo Airway's DRC-SA route follows the two country’s adherence to the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) which was launched last month on the margins of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

 African News Agency/ANA