Ethiopian Airlines is in talks with the governments of Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Uganda with a view to assisting them in establishing new national carriers. The Star Alliance carrier's chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam says it has submitted formal proposals to all four countries and that some of these “are at an advanced stage”.
Gebramariam says the discussions are heavily influenced by the strategy being adopted by each government such as “what type of airline they want, what type of routes, and what type of co-operation, joint venture, equity”. He adds: “So in our case we are open to all kinds of cooperation because we really want them to develop their national airlines."
Ghana, Uganda and Zambia do not currently have state-owned airlines, while Zimbabwe is served by Air Zimbabwe which began operations in 2013. Ethiopian Airlines already has strategic stakes in Malawian Airlines and Togo's ASKY. Gebramariam says the Addis Ababa-based airline is also at an advanced stage of discussions for co-operation with Congo Airways. “We are discussing for any kind of bigger co-operation, but at the moment we are supporting them technically," he says. “They [the government] have not made a decision to allow foreign investors in the airline, I think they want to grow domestically between the government and domestic investors, but as soon as they make that decision we will be there to agree our co-operation”.
The airline boss says that airlines in which Ethiopian does take a strategic stake do not operate solely as feeders for the carrier’s hub at Addis Ababa. He gives the example of ASKY’s hub at Lome in Togo, which he describes as a “traffic collection point from all over West Africa and Central Africa east to Asia and the Middle East and also crossing the Atlantic to New York”. “It is a major hub now, not only feeding the main hub in Addis [Ababa] but also its an out leg to connect West Africa and Brazil and later on Europe,” he adds.