Air France (AF) has re-launched plans for a partnership in a new airline in the Ivory Coast, which would make it a regional hub. The carrier, Air Côte d'Ivoire, could begin operations at the end of April with two leased Airbus A319s, La Tribune reported, citing AF CEO Alexandre de Juniac who was in the West African country last week to discuss the venture.

The Ivory Coast government would hold a 51% stake and the AF KLM Group would hold a 35% stake with partner Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development of the Ivory Coast. Local investors would hold the remaining 14% stake.

For AF KLM, the move is part of a strategy to maintain its strong position in Africa and fend off increasing competition from Emirates Airline and Star Alliance carriers Turkish Airlines and Brussels Airlines.

AF’s goal is to build Abidjan Port Bouet Airport (ABJ) as a regional hub and secure a regional feed in West Africa. 

“Abidjan has a very privileged location in the area,” de Juniac said. AF’s plan is to build a strategic partnership in the region. He said the venture has what he called a defensive component and said it would be “risky not to take part.”

Last summer, Ivory Coast’s Transport Minister Gaoussou Toure told Bloomberg the government planned to start a new airline to replace Air Ivoire with AF KLM Group holding a minority stake.

AF operates a daily Paris Charles de Gaulle-ABJ service.

Photo: Air France CEO Alexandre de Juniac