By ANDUALEM SISAY
Ethiopian Airlines is seeking to set up hubs in southern Africa, Central Africa and the Horn that connect neighbouring countries leading to faster trade, investment and tourism within the continent.
“We are working with Malawi and Zambia as southern Africa hubs. Another hub would be in central Africa, covering the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville and Chad. We are also in talks with neighbouring Djibouti,” said Tewelde Gebremariam, the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group.
“We have a successful hub in Togo — Asky Airline — in which we hold a 40 per cent share,” Mr Tewelde said.
“Before we established Asky, the only way to travel to travel from Cote d’Ivoire to Benin was first to go to Paris and then from Paris to Benin,” he added.
He made the remark in Addis Ababa on Wednesday at the launch of an Ethiopian Airlines app that enables customers to make transactions including downloading their boarding pass.
Explaining the significance of having multiple hubs in Africa, Mr Tewelde said: “We are not entering a joint venture with these African countries just for the sake of making money. Addis Ababa is a very successful hub. Out of the around 11 million passengers we transport every year, 70 per cent are not entering Addis. They are transit passengers to other African countries and the rest of the world.
“We are connecting Europe with Africa, the Middle East with Africa and Asia with Africa. We want to expand this and be close to the customers. With a very large landmass and around one billion population, Africa has a high growth opportunity. By expanding the hubs, we will be contributing significantly to intra-Africa connectivity,” he said.
Although Africa is reasonably connected with the rest of the world, the continent is not well connected to itself. Internal transport within Africa has been a major challenge especially because there are no open skies.
Due to financial and managerial complications Ethiopian Airlines recently ceased negotiations with Nigerian government to take over the previously private owned Arik Airlines of Nigeria.
A few months ago Mr Tewelde announced that Ethiopian Airlines was working on getting registered as a local Airline in Mozambique.
In 2017, Ethiopian Airlines added 12 new destinations. “We will be launching flights to 10 new destinations between now and June 2018,” Mr Tewelde said.