ETHIOPIA…At the 2018 Arabian Travel Awards, Ethiopian Airlines was voted “Best African Airline” as a recognition of the carrier’s impressive expansion into new markets over the past decade. Indeed, to fuel Ethiopia’s growth and its booming tourism industry, Ethiopian Airlines plans to build a new airport with an annual capacity of 80 million passengers.
In addition to connecting Ethiopia to foreign investors and multinational companies, the airline has engaged with impoverished Ethiopians directly by funneling its profits into charitable causes. Here are six things to know about Ethiopian Airlines and its impact on economic development in Ethiopia:
Six Things to Know about Ethiopian Airlines
Ethiopia’s location in the Horn of Africa makes it a prime spot for aviation. In fact, the number of passengers flown by Ethiopian Airlines tripled from 2008 to 2017. In 2015, The United Nations stated that Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s fastest growing and most profitable passenger and cargo airline. On the cutting edge of innovation, Ethiopian Airlines was the second carrier in the world to operate the Boeing 787 Dreamliner back in 2012. As of now, the carrier serves 101 international destination and 22 domestic ones.
Ethiopian Airlines is key for its country’s Vision 2025 framework, under which the government plans to make Addis Ababa the leading manufacturing hub of Africa. The national airline is already helping Ethiopia achieve Vision 2025 by connecting Ethiopia to China and South America. Last year, the carrier launched flights to Chengdu, China, and in 2018, Ethiopian Airlines has expanded into Buenos Aires, Chicago and Geneva.
The airline’s expansive network has helped to transform Ethiopia into a major tourist destination. In 2015, The European Council on Tourism and Trade named Ethiopia the world’s best tourism destination. That same year, 681,000 tourists visited Ethiopia, supporting a tourism industry that makes up 4.5 percent of the country’s GDP and provides more than one million jobs.
Ethiopian has made environmental protection a pillar of its corporate social responsibility. Under its “Plant one tree for every passenger flown” project, Ethiopian Airlines will plant nine million trees all across Ethiopia. Moreover, the airline trains its employees on proper waste management, treating hazardous chemical, monitoring air quality, and sustainable production. At the Ethiopian Aviation Academy, pilots-in-training can now take a course on The U.N. Environment Sustainable Consumption and Green Economy Program. Erik Solheim, the Head of U.N. Environment, applauded Ethiopian Airlines for “raising the bar on environmental responsibility and green business.”
Beyond its commitment to a green economy, Ethiopian Airlines uses its planes to deliver educational supplies to impoverished Ethiopians. For example, Ethiopian Airlines partnered with The African Legal Library Project, a nonprofit organization, to transport 40 boxes, which included 720 law books as well as 101 e-Readers complete with more than 1,000 books each, to Debre Markos University.
The airline has also used its planes to deliver medical aid to impoverished Ethiopians. In 2010, Ethiopian Airlines collaborated with Seattle Anesthesia Outreach (SAO) to deliver 12,000 pounds of medical supplies, mainly anesthesia equipment, to The Black Lion Hospital, Ethiopia’s largest hospital. To supplement the delivery of medical supplies, 20 SAO doctors also traveled to Ethiopia as part of a humanitarian trip. To this day, Ethiopian Airlines fills empty cargo space in its passenger planes with humanitarian supplies.
Rapid, sustained growth is in the airline’s horizon. In May 2018, Ethiopian Airlines accelerated its expansion plans, confirming that it will order 13 additional Boeing 787s and six Airbus A350s. According to The Brookings Institution, the airline plans to invest in start-up airlines across Africa.
It bought a minority stake in Malawi Airlines in 2013 and helped relaunch Zambia Airways in January 2018. Looking forward, Ethiopian Airlines plans to jumpstart national carriers in Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea, signaling its desire to connect not only Ethiopia but the whole African continent to the global economy.