ET CEO urges African na­tions to take stake in Air­line...

Zambian Business Times - - FRONT PAGE -

ETHIOPIAN Air­lines is undis­put­edly Africa’s largest air­line by rev­enue and profit. Yet the state-owned car­rier just doesn’t want to dom­i­nate the con­ti­nent’s skies: it’s also look­ing to boost Africa’s frag­mented airspace through in­creased con­nec­tiv­ity, form­ing strate­gic al­liances, be­sides launch­ing or re­viv­ing new sov­er­eign African air­lines.

ETHIOPIAN Air­lines is undis­put­edly Africa’s largest air­line by rev­enue and profit. Yet the state-owned car­rier just doesn’t want to dom­i­nate the con­ti­nent’s skies: it’s also look­ing to boost Africa’s frag­mented airspace through in­creased con­nec­tiv­ity, form­ing strate­gic al­liances, be­sides launch­ing or re­viv­ing new sov­er­eign African air­lines.

Ethiopian’s lat­est pitch is that it shouldn’t just be Africa’s top air­line in pas­sen­ger num­bers and des­ti­na­tions but also in its own­er­ship struc­ture. The com­pany’s head Te­wolde Gabre­mariam, sug­gested the air­line should be co-owned by African gov­ern­ments. Te­wolde said Ethiopia’s gov­ern­ment should cap­i­tal­ize on the air­line’s stature to con­sol­i­date its place in the African con­ti­nent. “As a Pan-African air­line, I don’t see any rea­son why we should not sell the mi­nor­ity shares of Ethiopian Air­lines to African coun­tries if they are in­ter­ested in buy­ing.”

More than any­thing, Te­wolde’s bullish state­ment is re­flec­tive of the bold new era in Ethiopia. Since prime min­is­ter Abiy Ahmed came to power in April, he has over­seen rad­i­cal re­forms that have changed the coun­try’s tra­jec­tory. These in­clude in­tro­duc­ing a ma­jor pol­icy aimed at loos­en­ing the gov­ern­ment’s mo­nop­oly on sev­eral key eco­nomic sec­tors, in­clud­ing avi­a­tion and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions. Te­wolde’s words are also in­dica­tive of ET’s record suc­cess in im­prov­ing its fi­nan­cial, op­er­a­tional, air­craft fleet, and an­nual pas­sen­ger num­bers. In the fis­cal year end­ing July 2018, the car­rier an­nounced it bought a 45% stake to re­vive Zam­bia Air­ways, which went into liq­ui­da­tion way back in 1994. To spread its re­gional foot­print, it also kick started ne­go­ti­a­tions to es­tab­lish new hubs in Mozam­bique, Chad, and Equa­to­rial Guinea in ad­di­tion to the ones it al­ready op­er­ates in Malawi and Togo. And as part of its ef­forts to launch and man­age new African haulers, the com­pany re­cently said they were the lead con­tes­tant in a ten­der aimed at set­ting up Nige­ria’s con­tro­ver­sial new na­tional air­line.

Look­ing to tap into im­prov­ing in­tra-African travel, ET in­creased its African net­work to over 58 out of its over 100 in­ter­na­tional des­ti­na­tions, in­tro­duc­ing flights to Kaduna, Nige­ria; Kisan­gani in DR Congo, and Nosy-Be in Mada­gas­car. In late July, the air­line an­nounced a deal with DHL to build the lead­ing cargo lo­gis­tics cen­tre in Africa.

To at­tract more than its cur­rent 10.6 mil­lion pas­sen­gers, the air­line plan en­abling trav­ellers to dis­cover and ex­pe­ri­ence the many his­tor­i­cal, cul­tural, re­li­gious and nat­u­ral trea­sures of Ethiopia. As of June, Ethiopia in­tro­duced an e-visa ser­vice to all in­ter­na­tional visi­tors, eas­ing ac­cess for pas­sen­gers with lay­overs to en­ter the coun­try. Ethiopian has man­aged this even as air­line per­for­mance in Africa re­mained weak, load fac­tors re­mained in­ad­e­quate, jet fuel prices rose, and com­pe­ti­tion stiff­ened from in­ter­na­tional car­ri­ers like Emi­rates. Te­wolde says they hope to repli­cate the past “ex­cep­tional year” in the 2018/19 fis­cal year. One thing that will aid Ethiopian’s am­bi­tions will the open­ing by the end of 2018 its China-built ter­mi­nal up­grade in its main hub in Ad­dis Ababa, ef­fec­tively im­prov­ing its on-ground cus­tomer ser­vice.

Ethiopian Air­line land­ing at Ken­neth Kaunda In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

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