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A strong Nigerian carrier is in Africa’s best interest – Ethiopian Airlines chief

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam holds a press briefing at the headquarters of Ethiopian Airlines in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday, March 10

The Group Chief Executive Officer, Ethiopian Airlines (ET), Mr. Tewolde Gebremariam, has made case for a strong air carrier for Nigeria, saying it would benefit Africa and help reduce dominance of foreign carriers (non-African airlines) on the continent.

Mr. Gebremariam was in Nigeria to continue discussions with the Nigerian government on the possibilities of Ethiopian Airlines setting up a new airline in Nigeria.

The ET Group CEO said a new airline would provide more advantages than adopting an existing airline, adding that ET had been holding discussions with the Nigerian government and private airlines.

Gebremariam, who spoke to aviation journalists in Abuja yesterday, said; “We have been discussing and exploring opportunities to establish or support a strong airline in Nigeria. I don’t mean that there is no strong airline in Nigeria, but an airline which can satisfy the demands of the local, regional and international market.

He said; “Since the demise of Nigeria Airways, it’s unfortunate we don’t have a strong carrier. So, this concern is part of a continental concern because in Africa, non-African carriers have the biggest share of the market. It is around 80% to 20%. So, about 80% of the traffic in Africa is carried by foreign carriers while 20% is carried by African carriers, this is not fair,” he said.

He said this number might further shrink if big countries like Nigeria don’t have a strong carrier.

“The foreign carriers used to carry 60% some 20 years ago and now it has come down, and still going down. So we are also threatened, all of us in Africa,” he warned.

“We will have to work with all African countries to make sure we have strong indigenous carriers. We have done this with Asky in Togo. We established Asky in 2010. Now Asky is a fairly successful airline operating in West, Central Africa, and South Africa. Very soon they will be flying to Paris and China. We could have done that here in Nigeria and we want to do that in Nigeria. We are also negotiating the Ghanaian government on Ghana Airways” he said.

He noted that the biggest market here (Nigeria) has been a challenge to build.

“To be honest with you, we are discussing with some private initiative but we are also discussing with the Nigerian government. There are promising indications. We have made good progress. But at the end of the day, we want to see a strong Nigerian carrier which can satisfy the demand.”

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