Nigeria selects Ethiopian as strategic partner to establish new national carrier

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By Kaleyesus Bekele

The Federal Government of Nigeria has selected Ethiopian Airlines to jointly establish a new national carrier for the West African economic giant.

Mesfin Tassew, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group, told Origins Business that Ethiopian participated in a bid floated by the Nigerian government inviting airlines interested in partnering with the government in establishing a new national airline. After evaluating the proposal the Ministry of Aviation has picked up Ethiopian as a preferred strategic partner. “They have sent a letter to us informing us of their decision,” Mesfin told Origins Business.

A Nigerian government delegation led by the Minister of Aviation Mr. Hadi Sirika came to Addis Abeba and held a meeting with the executive management team of Ethiopian Airlines Group on Monday September 12, 2022.

According to Nigerian officials, the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air, would be driven by the private sector. The Nigerian government would retain 5 percent stake while Ethiopian will have a 49 percent stake and 46 percent of the airline will be owned by Nigerian investors. The Nigerian government anticipates raising 250 million dollars from the private sector.

“We plan to have some stake and work with them to establish a successful national airline,” Mesfin said.

Ethiopian Airlines is the largest aviation group in Africa registering a 20-25 percent annual growth. It is one of the most profitable airlines in the world. In the 2021-2022 budget year the national flag carrier made a net profit of 937 million dollars. The airline generated 5 billion dollars revenue, a whopping 79 percent growth from the previous year.  The airline marked its 76th anniversary last April.

Nigeria is the leading oil exporting country in Africa. With 441 billion dollars GDP Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa taking over from South Africa in recent years. However, the West African economy giant does not have a national airline.

In the 1970s and 1980s Nigeria Airways was a well-known airline in the continent. Unfortunately, it went bankrupt and ceased operation in 2003. Virgin Nigeria and Air Nigeria were also ushered into the dust bin of history. In the past years various attempts by the Nigerian government to reestablish the national carrier could not be successful.

This time, the Nigerian government seems to be on the right track by selecting Ethiopian as its strategic partner. Ethiopian has been serving Nigeria since the 1960s-few years after Nigeria declared its independence.  Currently, it operates scheduled flights to Abuja, Lagos, Enugu and Kano. It has also been providing technical support to some Nigerian airlines.

Ethiopian is a Pan African Airline which invested in startup airlines in Togo, Malawi, Zambia, DRC, Chad and Mozambique.

“As the leading economy in Africa, Nigeria deserves an illustrious national carrier,” an African aviation expert told Origins Business.

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