As international travel to the African continent blossoms—visitation was up 6.5 percent in 2017—getting to Africa is becoming easier than ever. A number of carriers are increasing or expanding international service to their African hubs.
While getting to the continent may be easier than ever, moving around Africa often times remain a challenge.
Ethiopian Airlines, however, is seeking to alleviate some of that pain. The airline has announced it is looking to establish new hub airports in southern Africa, Central Africa and the Horn, in order to better connect neighboring countries, and further develop trade and tourism within the continent.
“We are working with Malawi and Zambia as southern Africa hubs,” said Tewelde Gebremariam, the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group, as reported by The East African. “Another hub would be in central Africa, covering the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville and Chad. We are also in talks with neighboring Djibouti.”
“We have a successful hub in Togo—Asky Airline—in which we hold a 40 percent share,” said Tewelde. “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.”
The remarks were made at a press event for the launch of a new Ethiopian Airlines app.
“We are not entering a joint venture with these African countries just for the sake of making money,” said Twelde. “Addis Ababa is a very successful hub. Out of the around 11 million passengers we transport every year, 70 percent 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,” he said. “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.”
The remarks come on the heels of a Nigerian Tribune interview with Esayas WoldeMariam, Managing Director, International Services of Ethiopian Airlines, who also echoed the airline’s vision for the future as it plans an expansion into Nigeria.
“One of Ethiopian Airlines’ strategies is to have multiple hubs in Africa connecting it with our main hub, Addis Ababa, as well as a hub to hub connections,” he said. “Next, to the main hub, Ethiopian Airlines has established its second and third hubs in Lomé [Togo] in partnership with ASKY Airlines. The third at Lilongwe, Malawi with Malawian Airlines.”
He also noted that creating a “more efficient intra-Africa network” was in line with the airline’s strategic roadmap, known as Vision 2025.
WoldeMariam also spoke of the challenges in expanding the airline’s network within Africa, including high fuel costs, high taxes and navigation fees, and poor infrastructure.
“Despite the challenges,” he said, “[Ethiopian Airlines] managed to remain successful, being the fastest growing airline in Africa.”
He also noted that the airline, in tandem with the African Union, AFCAC, AFRAA and other African carriers, is pushing for a comprehensive adoption of an African Civil Aviation Policy known as the Yamoussoukro Declaration [YD], which would reform industry in Africa and help nations and carriers uniformly develop a continental open skies agreement.
Discussions of a universal adoption of the YD come just as some African nations also contemplate creating a borderless Africa, lessening the need for visas for intercontinental travel.
For Ethiopian Airlines, it’s all about establishing a “missing link.”
“As a Pan-African Airline, serving our beloved continent Africa has always been a source of pride for Ethiopian Airlines,” said WoldeMariam. “With this commitment, Ethiopian has been able to create a missing link, availing easy movement of Africans from one corner to the other.”
In 2017, Ethiopian Airlines added 12 new destinations with another 10 new destinations planned by June 2018. In North America, the airline serves Washington D.C., Toronto and Los Angeles.