China Southern Airlines has become the first Chinese carrier to operate a scheduled service to Africa.
China Southern last week launched a thrice-weekly service from its Guangzhou hub to Lagos in Nigeria via Dubai. Lagos should be the first of several African destinations served by Chinese carriers given growing trade between China and African countries. China Southern says China-Africa trade has been growing in recent years at a 23.6% annual clip. Three African carriers - Air Zimbabwe, EgyptAir and Ethiopian Airlines - already serve this fledging market with services to China from their respective hubs.
"China's second largest trading partner and exporting country in Africa, Nigeria is of great importance to China," says China Southern chairman Liu Shaoyong.
He adds that 30 Chinese companies now have operations in Nigeria with total accumulated investment of over $100 million.
Liu was on China Southern's inaugural flight to Lagos. During his subsequent visit of Nigeria he met with Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo (see picture).