by Melanie-Ann Feris

Restaurateur Juliet Jekera was a passenger on Air Côte d’Ivoire’s inaugural flight on the quickest route between Abidjan and Johannesburg when it launched in June this year.

Her mission was to come to Johannesburg to  buy meat for her restaurant in Abidjan. It’s been years since she has been able to do so – she was on the last SAA flight to Abidjan before SAA closed the route due to the Covid pandemic. 

“I flew on the last SAA flight to Abidjan. I am happy because now we have Air Côte d’Ivoire and its direct flight between Abidjan and Johannesburg, which will make our lives easy,” says Juliet.

Juliet grew up in Zimbabwe before moving to Côte d’Ivoire, where her uncle worked in a bank and her aunt owned a News Cafe franchise restaurant. It was there that she learned everything about the restaurant business.

In 2008 she opened her own restaurant, Restaurant Espace 777, in Abidjan, where she serves African and European dishes. Her most popular dishes are boerewors and T-bone steaks from South Africa. 

“I wanted my restaurant to be unique, to serve meat that others are not serving. And I think the meat from Southern Africa is tastier.

“My customers will be very happy because we have been without [South African] meat since Covid,” she says, “My customers are Ivorian and international, I have all sorts of clientele.”

Juliet used to fly in to South Africa up to twice a year to buy meat, before SAA stopped its flights between the two countries. Now she can make the trip again. She buys her meat in Kempton Park, close to OR Tambo International airport, and is now looking for other butcheries to buy meat from.

“This [new Air Côte d’Ivoire] flight is just going to make my life easier.” 

The Johannesburg-Abidjan via Kinshasa route, launched on 29 June 2022, is the fastest route – at seven hours and 45 minutes – between South Africa and Côte d’Ivoire offered by any airline in Africa. The airline has introduced four flights per week between Johannesburg and Abidjan, and offers access to 16 West and Central African countries: Congo, Gabon, Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, Liberia, Benin, Senegal, Cameroon, Togo, DRC, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau. 

The Air Côte d’Ivoire agency in Parkwood, Johannesburg, was officially opened on 1 July 2022 and has been hailed as a new era for collaboration between the two countries by further opening up Africa for business.

“This route will mean a lot for business opportunities between Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa. It will bring a lot of new opportunities for others who want to do business between the two countries.

“I love doing business in Africa,” says Juliet.

Please click here to watch a video about Juliet: