Ethiopia Airlines Offers Shares to African Countries

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    Chinedu Eze

    Ethiopia Airlines has offered to sell its shares to African investors after several years of profitable operation.

    The airline, which was established in 1945 and owned 100 per cent by the Ethiopian government, said it is targeting African governments to buy stakes in the company.

    This was disclosed yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by the Chief Executive Officer of the airlines, Tewolde Gabremariam, adding that the airline should be co-owned by African governments.

    He said Ethiopian government should capitalise 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,” he said.

    Commenting on the development, an industry analyst and Executive Director, Zenith Travels, Olu Ohunayo said the disposition of Ethiopia Airlines is in tune with the political and economic liberalisation going on in the East African nation.

    He said with stakes owned by African governments, the airline will get stronger and all stakeholder countries will tilt their bilateral policies to open their skies for the Ethiopian carrier.

    He said Gebremariam’s bullish statement is reflective of the bold new era in Ethiopia, which also aims to make the airline build stronger capital base and enhance its operations to all parts of Africa.

    Industry observers also noted that since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in April 2018, 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.

    Travel expert and organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Ikechi Uko said Gebremariam’s words are also indicative of the airline’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 per cent 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.

    Uko said 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 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 center in Africa.

    “To attract more than its current 10.6 million passengers, the airline introduced a 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,” Uko said.

    He also remarked that Ethiopia airlines has managed this effectively and successfully even as airline performance in Africa remained weak, load factors remained inadequate, high jet fuel prices, and competition stiffened from international carriers like Emirates.

    Gebremariam said the airline hopes to replicate the past “exceptional year” in the 2018/19 fiscal year.

    “One thing that will aid Ethiopia’s ambition will be the opening by the end of 2018 its China-built terminal upgrade in its main hub in Addis Ababa, which would effectively improve its on-ground customer service,” Uko said.