opinionBy Tunde Rahman
A recent visit to Ethiopia left Tunde Rahman enthralled by the magnificence of Addis Ababa Bole International Airport and the frenetic pace of aviation activities there.
Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia is unarguably one of the busiest airports in Africa. It is said to be the third busiest in the continent, handling over 3 million passengers per year.
It's a massive international aviation centre with flights throughout Africa, Europe and Middle East. At this airport, international flights compete for landing spaces. As one airplane lands, another follows in quick succession. The airport offers one of the shortest and seamless links to Asia, and some parts of Europe.
My recent visit to Addis Ababa (November 18 to 21, 2012) was not the first time I was visiting Ethiopia. I once had a stopover and even slept over at one hotel in Bole area of the capital Addis Ababa during one of my many visits to China and India, during which I was enthralled by the magnificence and sheer beauty of Bole International Airport (airport code ADD). That was in 2005, three years after Ethiopia had taken a loan from Kuwait to upgrade the airport. The result: a ravishingly beautiful edifice and astonishingly efficient airport that is Bole International Airport. The airport itself is about three kilometres away from the city centre. Up till that 2005 there were two terminals, domestic and international, but a third one was added last year.
Powered By ET
Bole International Airport is powered by Ethiopian airline; I mean the industry and entrepreneurship around the airline. ET is the national carrier of Ethiopia and its main foreign exchange earner. With no oil, the airline and, of course tourism, offers the lifeline for that country. Both are the oil with which the Ethiopian economy is driven. Ethiopian Airline, according to information made available to this writer, flies to over 37 destinations in Africa alone. It's the first in Africa to acquire that state of the art plane, the Dreamliner, Boeing 787, in which we flew to Addis during my last visit.
Since that 2005 stopover, nothing seemed to have chipped away from the beauty of Bole airport.
But I noticed the infrastructure at the airport is being overwhelmed now ostensibly by the ever-increasing international passenger flow. This is more evident in the number of toilets available for use by the passengers particularly in the check-in area, where you wait after checking-in to board your flight.
Meles Zenawi Lives On
Ethiopia was still in mourning when we arrived Addis on Sunday November 18. We, I mean delegates from the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Nigeria attending the three-day 2012 Road Safety Workshop in that country. FRSC Corps Marshal/Chief Executive Osita Chidoka led the Nigerian delegation to the conference. The country was still mourning the death of its Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Zenawi died on August 20. Yet the Ethiopian people have continued to mourn him.
The people of that country haven't forgotten him. In fact, they seem to love him more. I think the Ethiopian people must genuinely love their former prime minister, who was an activist and guerilla fighter. He was the leader of the rebels that ousted Communist leader Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. Sensing this seeming undying love was easy. Giant-sized portraits of the late Ethiopian leader are still standing erect in strategic parts of the capital city Addis Ababa particularly the city centre. The portraits bear such stirring words like "We will continue to love and adore you our leader," "We will not allow your philosophy to die," etc. I was moved by these portraits and the words they convey so much that on some occasions I stopped to seek the views of some locals about their beloved leader. On one occasion on my way to the hotel from the Conference Centre in Addis where the road safety workshop was held, I asked the driver taking me why they so loved Zenawi. "Meles did so much for us. We all love him," he muttered, still referring to the late leader in the present tense as if he was still alive. What precisely did he do? I asked. He couldn't really give much details, except to say, "Both the rich and the poor love him." On another occasion, while taking a stroll across the streets around Harmony Hotel in Bole area of Addis where I stayed, the people I spoke with were also effusive in their love for Zenawi. How he really affected their lives they did not say clearly.
But the news coming out of Ethiopia while Zenawi held the forte until he took ill and later died, at the age of 57, in a Brussels hospital in Belgium was very positive and encouraging. Meles was credited with spearheading the economic developments in Ethiopia. Ethiopian economy seems to be booming at present.
Big Construction Zone
As I indicated earlier, the Bole International Airport is a beehive of activities. Tourists continue to troop in and troop out. The country also continues to bask in its success in aviation. Ethiopia is brimming with international visitors. The growing economic developments in that country can also be gauged in a way in terms of the huge construction work going on.
Overnight, Addis has turned into a big construction zone. Wherever you turn, high-rise buildings are either being completed or just springing up. The government, however, needs to invest more in infrastructure, particularly roads. Most of the inner roads are appalling as they are untarred and dusty.
One of them is one of the roads leading to the Conference Centre where the road safety workshop was held and where the United Nations' House and other world bodies are located. But I should point out that the centre is huge with many conference halls and meeting rooms. It would easily compare favourably with what you find at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Road Safety Conference
As I indicated earlier, I was in town for the 2012 Road Safety Conference. At the conference, the FRSC under Osita Chidoka made Nigeria proud. The FRSC received kudos from the World Bank and the Sub-Saharan African Transport Programme for the superb execution of road safety activities in Nigeria. The country was put forward as a shining model other African countries should emulate in terms of road safety. SSTAP's Transport Specialist Per Mathiasen said the increase in road traffic crash data in the country was due to good reporting by the FRSC. Mathiasen told the whole conference in Addis that his data were properly verified and his conclusions arrived at independently.
Chidoka's presentation on Road Safety: The Nigerain Example, which came the day before the World Bank and SSTAP's recommendations were lucid, straight forward and encouraging. It goes to show that some good news is coming out of our FRSC and the organization needs to be supported by all of us.