Ato Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines was given the African CEO of the Year on Tuesday this week (November 20th) at a meeting of African CEOs in Geneva.
He was given the award for the stellar performance that Ethiopian Airlines had registered over the year. Ethiopian made an operating profit of 1 billion birr (US$55 million) and a net profit of 732 million birr (US$40 million). It now has flights to 43 African countries and a growing international network including 28 flights a week to China. Despite reduced demand overall in the airline industry due to the economic recession in Europe, Ethiopian managed to produce a 25% increase in passenger numbers. Its expansion is continuing in accordance with its 15 year development plan. In a speech at the meeting, Ato Tewolde attributed the success of the airline to good cost management, efficient aircraft utilization, good route network, good corporate governance and institutional independence. In particular, he emphasized managerial autonomy as a key to success, noting that "the fallacy is that whatever government owns is a failure. It is not." In fact, he underlined that it was the full managerial autonomy of Ethiopian that had made it successful while the airline was still fully owned by the state.