The Africa Report - - CONTENTS - Te­wolde Ge­bre­mariam Chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Ethiopian Air­lines

Te­wolde Ge­bre­mariam, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Ethiopian Air­lines

De­spite be­ing sta­te­owned, Africa’s largest air­line by rev­enue and profit has long been free from gov­ern­ment med­dling. This is one rea­son why Te­wolde Ge­bre­mariam, Ethiopian Air­lines’ CEO since 2011, has sur­vived the coun­try’s re­cent po­lit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion. New prime min­is­ter Abiy Ahmed has purged se­nior staff from other state-owned en­ter­prises, but Te­wolde’s team and vi­sion re­main in­tact. An­other rea­son is that un­der his stew­ard­ship the com­pany has made ex­tra­or­di­nary progress. Its net profit in the 2017/18 fi­nan­cial year rose to $233m, from $229m the pre­vi­ous year, while its op­er­at­ing rev­enue rose by 43% to $3.7bn – fig­ures un­matched by any other car­rier on the con­ti­nent. Vi­sion 2025, a 15-year strat­egy drawn up in 2010, has been so suc­cess­ful that Te­wolde is al­ready work­ing on a scaled-up suc­ces­sor for 2030. The fleet is only 20 planes away from its tar­get of 120 by 2025, which would make it the con­ti­nent’s largest. “It is a re­mark­able suc­cess,” Te­wolde told The Africa Re­port in his of­fice next to Bole In­ter­na­tional Air­port, which is fast be­com­ing one of the con­ti­nent’s busiest hubs. “Some of the tar­gets we set in 2010 to be achieved by 2025 we achieved by 2016.” Te­wolde, who joined the air­line in 1985, at­tributes its suc­cess to long-term plan­ning. For in­stance, in 2008 the com­pany put in an early or­der for a fleet of Boe­ing 787 Dream­lin­ers; in 2012 it be­came the first air­line in the world out­side Ja­pan to fly them. “To suc­ceed in the avi­a­tion busi­ness […] you need to plan for a long­time hori­zon,” he says. To­day, the com­pany is busy ex­port­ing its model across Africa, buy­ing stakes in ex­ist­ing air­lines in Dji­bouti, the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, Eritrea and Equa­to­rial Guinea, as well as set­ting up new ones in Chad, Ghana, Guinea, Mozam­bique, Nige­ria and Zam­bia. He brushes off crit­i­cisms that such rapid ex­pan­sion risks a crash land­ing. “We are very con­scious about that,” he says. “We don’t want to do it too fast and too far.

The air­line boss talks to The Africa Re­port about Ethiopian’s new stakes in African trans­port com­pa­nies across the con­ti­nent and the chal­lenges of plan­ning for the long term

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