ET Eyes RwandAir

Ethiopian Airlines (ET) is in advanced talks with RwandAir’s management and Rwandan government officials to enter into a close tie-up. If both sides should reach an accord, the result could be of major interest also for joint cargo projects.

Air freight is a people’s business! That’s a commonly heard phrase both at home and abroad. No doubt, there is something to it, particularly if “people” grew up within the same culture, speak the same language and have successfully spent most of their professional career in the same industry – in aviation – or even better: the same enterprise. All of this is the case for Ethiopian nationals Tewolde Gebremariam, Yissehak Zewoldi and Girma Wake, who all three received their vocational skills at the Addis Ababa-headquartered carrier, meanwhile Africa’s largest.
Now the three countrymen could lay the foundation for a close partnership, linking-up the networks of Ethiopian Airlines, led by Gebremariam, with Zewoldi who heads ASKY Airlines of Togo and Kigali-operating RwandAir, chaired by former ET icon Girma Wake.


Multiple gateway strategy supplements point-point services
Provided the Abyssinian trio comes to terms and the deal is sealed the result would be a tripartite African service provider offering passengers and cargo clients seamless door-to-door travel arrangements and customer targeted cargo solutions. At least on a mid-term horizon.
Their hub strategy certainly sounds good, with Addis Ababa International as major gateway and Kigaly (RwandAir) respectively Lomé (ASKY) acting as sub-hubs. Thus, ET and its two allies would have strongholds in Northeast, East and West Africa, with networks spanning across the continent.  

ASKY is ET’s trump card in West Africa
A major step to set up a multi-hub system within Africa and consolidate services had already been taken back in 2013 when Ethiopian liaised with Togo’s regional carrier ASKY. Right after signing the contract which includes the lease of eight ET-owned aircraft to ASKY, Ethiopian’s former VP Alliances, Cooperation and Strategic Planning, Yissehak Zewoldi, took the chair at ASKY, linking the Togolese carrier’s network closely with that of ET.
This accounts particularly for the ASKY operated Boeing 737-400 freighter that was providing valuable feeder services on behalf of Ethiopian Cargo by distributing imports brought into Lomé by ET Cargo’s Boeing 777-200F from Belgian airport Liege to regional destinations within West Africa like Douala, Bangui, Niamey or Brazzaville. However, this aircraft was regretfully lost in an accident at Accra Airport last Saturday (see our latest Breaking News).
Next step could be the integration of Lomé into Ethiopian’s transatlantic network by routing flights via Togo’s capital en route from Addis Ababa to South or Central America. 

RwandAir with far reaching growth ambitions
Similar to this basic model the Rwandan plans could work out should ET’s Gebremariam and RwandAir’s Wake finally come to terms and their governments officially rubber-stamping of the deal. However, the Kigali-based regional carrier has no freighter in its current fleet, not yet at least.
In a five year strategic plan handed over to Rwanda’s Ministry of Infrastructure last September the carrier’s management opts for a far reaching growth strategy, encompassing close ties with one or two other airlines, the upping of the fleet and the launch of long-haul services to gateways in Europe and China. Up to this point the Rwandan government, RwandAir’s sole stakeholder, has not commented publicly on the strategic plan.

Juba to become part of ET’s multi-hub system
In addition to its Togolese and Rwandan activities Ethiopian Airline plans to establish a new regional carrier at Juba Airport in South Sudan. Negotiations for setting up a daughter company there started early last year and are about to be finalized, local sources told CargoForwarder Global. According to plans, ET intends holding a 49 percent stake in the newcomer with the government of South Sudan owning 51 percent. Initially, the new airline will serve domestic and regional routes and feed both passengers and cargo shipments to Ethiopian Airlines. Which name the Juba-based carrier will be given has not been revealed by the parties involved to this point.

Heiner Siegmund

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