The ongoing expansion activities of Ethiopian Airlines has the potential to make a significant impact on intra-African trade and in deepening the region’s integration into the global economy.

At between 10% and 12%, intra-African trade lags far behind that of other regions.  A key reason for this trade deficit is the dearth of transportation options within the continent.  Africa’s airline carriers are working steadily to remove this roadblock.  Ethiopian Airlines is in discussions to assist in setting up national airlines in Nigeria, Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.  Establishing a flag-carrier for Nigeria is particularly critical in light of the country’s status as the largest economy and population on the continent.  As a stakeholder in Malawian Airlines and ASKY Airlines of Togo, Ethiopian Airlines already has experience in providing technical assistance to, and investing in, other airlines.  In fact, last year even one of Ethiopian Airlines’ biggest competitors, South African Airways, was considering reaching out to the airline for assistance on establishing a hub in Ghana.

The airline also is making considerable strides forward in increasing air connectivity between Africa and the rest of the world, particularly the continent’s most strategic trading partners.  Earlier this month, Ethiopian Airlines announced that it would be doubling daily operations from Mumbai, adding a second flight from New Delhi, and increasing its code-share agreement with Air India from five to seven countries in Africa.  By expanding its route offerings between India and Africa, Ethiopian Airlines will be well-positioned to benefit considerably should India realize its  potential to quadruple its Africa-based revenue to $160 billion in the next decade.  In addition, Ethiopian Airlines plans to begin flights to Los Angeles and Tokyo in the next few months.  With Japan continuing to deepen its engagement on the continent, introducing flights to Japan is another example of strategic positioning by Ethiopian Airlines.  More broadly, the airline aspires to increase the number of its international destinations from 84 to 120 over the next decade.

Improving regional integration and the region’s connectivity to the global community are key trade and investment priorities for Africa and Ethiopian Airlines is poised to be one of the leading stakeholder in these efforts.