Ethiopian in talks with DRC to establish a new airline in Central Africa

Tewolde GebremariamAddis Ababa - Ethiopian Airlines is holding negotiations with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on the establishment of a new start up airline in Central Africa.

Ethiopian wants to jointly establish a new regional carrier in the DRC with the government of the DRC. Ethiopian has been eyeing the DRC for the establishment of a regional carrier in Central Africa. According to aviation experts, the Central Africa market is underserved. Coincidently, the DRC Parliament recently passed a resolution that states the necessity of establishing a new national carrier. The management of Ethiopian wants to invest in the planned regional carrier.

CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, and members of the airline’s senior management team two weeks ago visited Kinshasa and met senior DRC government officials. Tewolde told The Reporter that his management has a keen interest in partnering with the DRC government to establish the planned regional carrier. Tewolde said Ethiopian delegation expressed its commitment to jointly establish the regional carrier in DRC, adding that the negotiation is progressing. The DRC has also received expression of interests from European carriers.

The management of Ethiopian is implementing a multi hub strategy.  Ethiopian has so far invested in two regional carriers in Africa. It has already established a second hub in Lome, Togo. The national flag carrier invested in ASKY Airline, a Lome based airline established by the private sector in West Africa. Ethiopian owns a 40 percent stake in ASKY and a five-year management contract.

Ethiopian has also recently partnered with the government of Malawi in establishing a regional carrier in Lilongwe. The airline dubbed, Malawi Airlines Ltd, was formed in of July last year. Ethiopian has a 49 percent stake in the startup airline which plans to serve the Southern African market. The regional carriers are feeding passengers to Ethiopian.

“We want to replicate our success story with ASKY and Malawian in DRC. The DRC officials know our success stories in Lome and Lilongwe and we hope that they will agree to work with us,” Tewolde told The Reporter.

International carriers are traversing the most turbulent times in aviation history. Most of the international carriers including Lufthansa, Qantas, and Air France-KLM are registering losses. Last year Ethiopian’s archrival, Kenya Airways, reported USD 92 million. South African Airways (SAA) and Royal Air Maroc (RAM) are operating with losses as well. RAM laid off more than 1500 employees. The South African government is bailing out SAA.  Last year the South African government allocated five billion Rands to save the airline. Precision Air of Tanzania recently asked the government to bail it out asking for 32 million dollars of funding.

At a time when the global aviation industry is hard hit by soaring fuel prices, Ethiopian has managed to make profits in the past successive years. Last year Ethiopian reported a two billion birr profit.

Source: The Reporter

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