Africa’s most successful airline, Ethiopian Airlines, is building on the legacy of success by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) as it positions Ethiopia as an aviation hub for Africa. Building on the two parties’ seventy years shared history in aviation, the MoU with aircraft maker Boeing aims at positioning Ethiopia as Africa’s aviation hub – “Ethiopia for Africa”.
The airline grew quickly between 2011 and 2019, with the full-service carrier more than doubling in size. It added nearly 15 million seats – over five million more than all of the others in the African top-10 combined. It cemented its position as Africa’s leading airline, helped by significant cuts at others, notably South African Airways because of its continued major challenges, and generally minimal growth across the board.
Africa’s aviation dominance
Last year, media speculation suggested that Ethiopian Airlines had shown interest in South African Airways opened up to the possibility of outside investment. South African Airways has been running on a loss since 2011. It was reported that Ethiopian Airlines considered acquiring a stake in South African Airways. Back then South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the carrier was open to the participation of the private sector. He further emphasized that SAA was also in talks with a few potential investors.
However, Ethiopian CEO Tewolde GebreMariam claimed the two airlines did not have any constructive discussions. It is worth noting that Ethiopian Airlines is no stranger to investments in African aviation. Over the years, it has made strategic investments in ASKY Airlines, Ethiopian Mozambique Airlines, Malawi Airlines, and Tchadia Airlines. This implies that the carrier wants to build a network of feeder airlines covering as much of Africa as possible, with the airline providing the hub and spoke connection to the rest of the world. In this regard, a decision to buy South African Airlines made sense for the carrier. Many argue that Ethiopian Airlines’ decision to invest in South African Airways could be a part of its broader plan to dominate the aviation sector in Africa. Though acquiring SAA is no longer necessary for this outcome.
Partnership on four areas
Boeing recognizes Ethiopian as a global aviation leader in the continent. The MoU is indicative of Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines’ interest to establish a mutually beneficial world-class aviation partnership. (This is in sharp contrast to how things were after the ET302 crash and the latest news may be part of a rapprochement)
To realize their shared vision, Ethiopian and Boeing agreed to work in partnership in four areas of strategic collaboration namely: Industrial Development, Advanced Aviation Training, Educational Partnership, and Leadership Development in a span of three years. Joint multidisciplinary teams have been established to implement the strategic partnership and important milestones have already been registered.
Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam said, “I am very much thrilled not only to sign this historic MoU with our long-standing aviation partner, Boeing but also to the implementation of milestones. We have been working in collaboration with Boeing on different large-scale projects in aviation for more than 70 years to serve the continent of Africa and this partnership expands and builds our capability in multiple fields. I have a firm conviction that with our dedication to its implementation, the MoU will successfully attain its goal of positioning Ethiopia as the continent’s aviation hub. We highly value the critical role of our American partner companies in accomplishing our goals and we will continue to work with key American aviation players like Boeing, GE, Pratt and Whitney and Collins Aerospace etc… in our journey towards excellence in aviation”
Ethiopian and Boeing desire the Ethiopian Aviation Academy to be recognized as a global standard for aviation training. Boeing is committed to developing Ethiopia’s manufacturing capability and aftermarket aviation service.
Through this MoU, Boeing and Ethiopian will partner to advance capabilities to compete globally. They seek to build a 21st-century pipeline for aviation careers in Ethiopia. They will collaborate with highly qualified educational institutions and aviation industry partners to create specialized learning and development programs to meet workforce demands. Boeing and Ethiopian will also work together to develop current and future generations of leaders in Ethiopia for Africa.