The Reporter (Addis Ababa)

17 May 2014

Ethiopia: ICAO to Support Ethiopian Airport Development Projects

"Poor Africans are subsidizing reach gulf countries" Ethiopian CEO The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) this week announced that it would provide technical assistance to airport development projects in Ethiopia.

Secretary General of ICAO, Raymond Benjamin, who came to Addis Ababa for a two day visit upon an invitation from the Ethiopian government, assured President Mulatu Teshome (Ph.D.) that the ICAO would provide technical assistance to the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport expansion project and the gigantic international airport that the Ethiopian Airports Enterprise is planning to build outside of Addis Ababa.

The Ethiopian Airport Enterprise is under preparation to expand the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport's passenger terminal at a cost of 250 million dollars. The enterprise is also planning to build a mega hub airport outside the capital. Three locations have been identified for the mega hub project-Modjo, Dukem and Teji towns. The enterprise seeks technical advice on the site location. Benjamin told The Reporter that the ICAO is willing to provide technical advice on the airport expansion project as well as for the new airport construction. Bejamin said he would send a technical team to Ethiopia once he returns to his office in Montreal, Canada. "Based on the recommendations of the technical team we will sign a technical cooperation agreement."

Accompanied by Meshesha Belayneh, regional director of ICAO East and South Africa, and Tefera Belayneh, Ethiopia's representative in ICAO, Benjamin visited the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA,) the Ethiopian Airports Enterprise (EAE) and Ethiopian Airlines.

Director General of ECAA, Colonel Wossenyeleh Hunegnaw, said that ECAA was closely working with ICAO. "We are working hard to ensure safe and reliable air transport in Ethiopia. We are training our professionals and procuring and installing radar and ADS-B equipment. And we are getting the support of ICAO," Col. Wossenyeleh said. He said that ECAA was audited by ICAO in 2006 and scored 67 percent, way above the world average.

"We have been rectifying the findings of ICAO and trying to be fully compliant with ICAO's regulations," he said. Benjamin visited ECAA's training center. ECAA's training center is a candidate member of ICAO's training center dubbed "Trainer Plus." Wossenyeleh said the training center is working hard to be a full member of Trainer Plus. Benjamin added that ECAA's activities were totally aligned with ICAO's regulations. "I would like to congratulate you for your achievements.

You are in good shape," Benjamin told officials of ECAA. He said that ICAO through its regional office will assist ECAA. Benjamin was briefed about the airport development projects in Ethiopia. Tewodros Dawit, CEO of EAE, said that there are 18 airports and 50 airstrips in Ethiopia. Fourteen of the airports are domestic while four are international airports. Tewodros said that to cope with the fast economic development of the country and the growth of Ethiopian Airlines EAE is building new airports and upgrading the existing ones.

He explained the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport expansion project and the mega hub planned to be built out of Addis Ababa. Dawit revealed that EAE seeks the assistance of ICAO on both projects. Benjamin assured Tewodros that ICAO would render neutral advice to the enterprise on the realization of the projects. Benjamin's next stop was the headquarters of Ethiopian. CEO of Ethiopian, Tewolde Gebremariam and his top management team welcomed Benjamin.

The milestones in the 67-year-young airline was presented to Benjamin. Tewolde complained about the brain drain problem that hard hit African carriers. Tewolde said that African pilots and aircraft technicians are being poached by Gulf carriers. "We spend a lot of resources to train our pilots and technicians and mega carriers in the Middle East lure them away. Poor Africans are subsidizing rich Gulf countries countries," he lamented.

However, he said, no one can stop talent movement in the 21 century. To mitigate the brain drain problem, Ethiopian is heavily investing in its aviation academy. "We have invested 55 million dollars in only three years and boosted our intake capacity from 200 to 1000 per year."

Tewolde added that air transport could play a key role in the African economic development. "There is poor road and railway network in the continent. So air transport has a paramount importance. It takes thousands of kms to connect two countries. But by building only three kms of runway you can connect a number of countries," Tewolde said.

However, he states that African states are not giving due attention to the air transport industry. "Cumbersome tax and fuel prices are negatively affecting the growth of air transport in Africa." He asked Benjamin to collaborate with African Airlines Association (AFRAA) and African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) to lobby with the AU in creating awareness among African governments on the importance of the air transport sector and bringing about a change in policy. Benjamin acknowledged the problem and assured Tewolde that the ICAO would do everything in its capacity to assist AFRAA and AFAC towards the goal of creating and enabling an environment for air transport in Africa.

At the end of his visit, Benjamin met the Minister of Transport, Workneh Gebeyehu, and and other officials at the ministry. They discussed technical cooperation between Ethiopia and ICAO. Ethiopia is one of the 52 countries that established the ICAO in 1944 in Chicago, US. On Tuesday night Benjamin left to Tanzania for a similar visit. He will also visit Mauritania and attend ICAO's conference on safety to be held in Dakar, Senegal.

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