Nigeria: Govt, Ethiopian Airlines, Others Plan New National Carrier

Ethiopian Airlines.

Abuja — After the initial flop, Nigeria is exploring another opportunity of owning a national carrier in partnership with local and continental airlines.

Under the new initiative, private investors, local airlines and the reputable Ethiopian Airlines will partner with the federal government to set up and manage the proposed national carrier.

The federal government's fresh attempt at establishing national carrier was disclosed by Ethiopian Airlines, which said that it was in talks with the federal government, private sector and airline operators in Nigeria to set up a separate carrier for the country.

The company, however, said that the latest move has nothing to do with the botched plan.

Ethiopian Airlines Group chief executive officer, Tewolde Gebremariam, revealed the new move in Abuja at the weekend. He said that the failure of Nigeria to own a carrier was a big threat to the industry in Africa which could displace indigenous carriers in the continent.

Gebremariam said: "We have been discussing and exploring possibilities to establish or support a strong airline in Nigeria. I don't mean that there is no strong airline in Nigeria, but we want an airline that can satisfy the demand of the domestic market, the regional market and international market.

"We are also in talks with the Ghana government to establish Ghana Airways but the biggest market which is Nigeria has been a challenge, to be honest with you.

"We are discussing at all levels. We are also discussing with private and local carriers in Nigeria and the government but we are making it abundantly clear that we want to start a new one because starting from a clean slate or paper is advantageous because we won't have any legacy or baggage to carry.

"There is a strong indication and interest from both sides and I am very hopeful that very soon, we will have a strong base to start with and from our track record; we have established Asky, Malawi, Mozambique and now Chad. We make sure that when we start something we start professionally and make sure that it succeeds," he said.

On the importance of the project, the Ethiopian Airlines' boss said that "Nigeria is a very large country but unfortunately, since the demise of Nigeria Airways, we don't have a strong carrier. So, this concern is part of continental concern because in Africa, non-African carriers have the biggest shares. It is around 80-20 ratio. 80 per cent of the traffic between Africa and the rest of the world is carried by non-African carriers.

"The homegrown carriers have only 20 per cent of the market. This is not fair and it used to be 60 per cent some years ago but now, it is coming down. We are also threatened because all of us in Africa are only 20 per cent of the market.

"So, in a declining trend, there is a possibility that the market share can be zero. So, they will wipe us out. We have to make sure that we work together with all African countries to ensure that there are strong homegrown indigenous carriers. We have done this with Asky in Togo and we want to do it in Nigeria," he said.

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