On Friday, the Ethiopian Airlines announced that it had been meeting with the Federal Government and private sector players on plans to establish an international carrier for Nigeria.
According to the airline, the lack of a national carrier in Nigeria that could compete favourably with other international brands was not good for the country and for Africa.
Tewolde Gebremariam, the Group Chief Executive Officer, Ethiopian Airlines, told some reporters in Abuja that the non-existence of an indigenous airline in Nigeria that is fully involved in international operations was a big threat to the aviation sector in Africa.
On his response to a question on why he was in Nigeria, 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 Ghana government to establish Ghana Airways but the biggest market which is Nigeria has been a challenge, to be honest with you. We make sure that when we start something, we start professionally and make sure that it succeeds.”
Gebremariam observed that with the demise of Nigeria Airways, there has not been a very strong airline in Nigeria that has the capacity to compete effectively with other large international carriers.
He explained that non-African carriers had the biggest share in terms of percentage volume on international routes in African countries, as well as across the globe.
He said, “Nigeria is a very large country but unfortunately, since the demise of Nigeria Airways, we are unfortunate that 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 per cent 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.
Gebremariam added, “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.”