What Happened to Air Afrique, the Pan-African Airline from the 60’s?

From 1961 to 2002, one Pan-African airline connected eleven West and Central African countries. They left an undeniable mark on the memories of a generation of flyers. Air Afrique took to the sky, making history.

The Beginning of Air Afrique

A significant political shift happened in 1960, after World War II. Seventeen African nations, starting with Guinea, declared independence from colonizing rulers. Specifically, thirteen of those African nations broke free from France.

Of these, eleven ex-French colonies in West and Central Africa, united their limited resources to create a notable aviation company. It stood for reputability, self-reliance and unity. The countries of Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Niger, the Congo Republic, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, and Gabon, founded Air Afrique. They sought to connect their major cities and express pan-African solidarity. Unfortunately, colonial-built transportation routes did not connect or sustain Africa. Instead, they were used for trade and exploitation. Therefore, Air Afrique not only connected capital cities from Africa with Asia, Europe, and the United States of America, but created travel routes through their countries as well.

Photo Credit: Air Afrique/ Republicoftogo.com<br><br>
Photo Credit: Air Afrique/ Republicoftogo.com

Air Afrique Impact

On August 1, 1961, Air Afrique began operating. Later down the line, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Togo joined their union. Air Afrique undoubtedly became one of the region’s largest and most reputable air carriers. Ensuring to display and promote Africa and African heritage with pride. The airline began an in-flight magazine called Balafon. The in-flight magazine, spotlighted artistic work from across the diaspora, producing collections of West African creativity and optimism.

In the fashion of the airlines in-flight magazine, a new publication, Air Afrique, commemorated them with a magazine and collective of the same name. Production of the publication was done by an arts collective of the same name. The contemporary magazine’s first issue launched on June 23 in Paris. With a mission to inspire and encourage a new generation of creatives from across the global African diaspora, their website states they are “a publication dedicated to contemporary Afro-diasporic arts, knowledge and conversations. The magazine is in line with the cultural aspirations of the airline that paved the way for our cultural endeavors and is the heir to its in-flight magazine Balafon.”

Photo Credit: Air Afrique/ air-afrique.com
Photo Credit: Air Afrique/ air-afrique.com

The Airline’s Inspiration

Air Afrique’s first issue is stunning. It captures cultural moments of pride and freedom. Amandine Nana, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, directs the publications content. Furthermore, alongside the magazine’s original work are replications of archival pages from Balafon. Significantly emphasizing the connection the magazine has to the airline and the inspiration it sparked. At its peak, the airline had over 5,000 employees and served over 22 nations and international stops. Unfortunately, in 2002, the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the downturn of the aviation industry negatively affected their business. The aviation company also had significant debts and suffered from fraudulent management. They went out of business that same year and were never revitalized.