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Why Africa looks up to Nigeria for national airline

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Board member and a former Group Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Ato Girma Wake said the whole of Africa is looking at Nigeria for the setting up of her national carrier, hinting that the airline would help to retain market share for African routes dominated by foreign airlines.

The airline chief, however, stated that Nigeria needs financial discipline to run a very successful airline.

Wake who spoke at the on-going African Aviation MRO convened by Chairman, African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA) and the Chief Executive Officer, African Aviation Services Limited, Nick Fadugba in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia lamented that 80 per cent of the continent’s carriers are losing profit because of the domination of foreign in their airspace.

He disclosed that 50 per cent of Africa’s airline profit is controlled by one airline-Ethiopian Airlines, explaining that Nigeria’s lack of national carrier does not speak well of the nation and continent as a whole.

His words, ‘For me, if Nigeria cannot have a good national carrier, no African country can do it. Nigerians have everything going for them. They have the market; they have money. It is a country of nearly 200 million people. Nigerians fly.”

“You see Nigerians everywhere. It is in the best interest of Nigeria to have a national carrier. Successive governments do not learn from the mistakes of past governments. Ethiopians learnt from their past mistakes to build a world-class and the most profitable airline in Africa.”

The Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam explained that Africa with a huge landmass with 1.2 billion workforces are growing very fast, stressing that Africa ‘is the centrepiece of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from all parts of the world.

He urged the continent to be prepared on how to accommodate the expectant growth.

The numbers suggest that the airlines are managing to capture growing demand for air travel on the continent.

Countries across the continent – including Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania – are hoping to tap into this growth, with plans to revive or launch national airlines in various stages of development.

He frowned at the poor air connectivity in Africa, saying, “Africa is not well connected together.”

According to him, there are thought to be up to 100 African airlines, all competing for the same market. This is dominated by international carriers, accounting for 80 per cent of passenger numbers.

The rest is controlled by a few African airlines including South African Airways, Egyptair, and the continent’s standout success, Ethiopian Airlines. The latter is the only one with the scale to meaningfully compete at this level.

Gebremariam noted that without drastic improvement in how most of the continent’s carriers are run, more cooperation between them, and government support to liberalise and develop Africa’s fragmented aviation market, this won’t change.

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