Although the African aviation market currently accounts for a small sliver of the global air service market, the continent’s economic and population boom is expected to drive the growth of African air traffic at a rate which outpaces the global market. Furthermore, focusing on meeting air passenger travel demand to, from, and within Africa will be essential to capitalizing on the continent’s economic growth. Of the various carriers operating in Africa, Ethiopian Airlines appears best positioned to be the leader in meeting those needs.
Last year marked a milestone year for Ethiopian Airlines who, for the first time in its 69 year history, became the largest carrier in Africa in revenue and profit according to the annual airlines rankings of the International Air Transport Association. Now the “fastest growing and most profitable airline in Africa,” Ethiopian Airlines has a Vision 2025 strategic roadmap by which it hopes to become “the most competitive and leading aviation group in Africa.” Recent news reports have detailed the impressive progress the carrier has made on three of the Vision 2025 pillars — the fleet, the infrastructure, and human resources — laid out by CEO Tewolde Gebremariam in an interview last year with the International Air Transport Association
Fleet. Already the carrier with the youngest fleet in Africa, Ethiopian Airlines is seeking to continue to modernize and expand its fleet in the coming years. One of the first carriers outside of Japan to receive the B787 Dreamliner, Ethiopian Airlines took delivery of its seventh Dreamliner late last month and expects to receive three more later this year. The carrier also has said that it will decide by the end of this month whether it will be placing an order for thirty Airbus or Boeing jets, an order valued at approximately three billion dollars.
Infrastructure. Funded by a loan from the government of China and technical assistance from the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Ethiopian Airports Enterprise is planning a $250 million, three-year expansion project of the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport including the construction of two new passenger terminals. In addition to installing a new baggage handling system to quadruple the volume of bags that the system can handle, there is work underway to build one of the world’s largest cargo terminals: a 1.2 million ton capacity terminal with both dry and perishable storage facilities. Furthermore, Ethiopian Airlines has decided to establish a hub in each of the four geographic regions of Africa.
Human Resources. Ethiopian Airlines is set to commence an approximately fifty-five million dollar expansion of the Ethiopian Aviation Academy which “trains pilots, technicians, cabin crew and marketing and finance personnel.” With an enrollment that has grown by 400 percent in recent years, the academy is regarded as “a center of excellence developing skilled workforce for operational divisions of not only Ethiopian Airlines but also the wider African aviation industry.” In addition, Ethiopia recently accepted the International Civil Aviation Organization’s request that the country host the African Civil Aviation Training Organization’s headquarters.