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Mr. Esayan WoldeMariam Hailu is the Managing Director, International Operations of Ethiopian Airlines. In this interview with OKORIE UGURU, he talks about the airlines’ operations state-of-the-art cargo facilities aimed at increasing business into Africa. Excerpts:
Recently one of the CEO’s in the Nigerian aviation industry said that African airlines are paying quadruple of whatever European or American airlines are paying as insurance on their aircraft even on the leasing of aircraft. What do you have to say on this and how does insurance premium affect your operations?
You know insurance companies are always there assessing their own risks.  Risks are based on their past experiences and the safety standards and what have you. So, for any African airline operator to have a palatable insurance expense, we Africans we need to build our capability of safety records by way of safety assessments, safety avoidance  our aviation facilities and safe equipment needs to be of world standard. Once it is done, then people will be comfortable to cover us with acceptable insurance expenses. That is what Ethiopian Airlines is doing, because the safety area of aviation is over regulated.
There are a lot of safety establishments which are regulating safety. For all of them, they come every year in Ethiopia, they review our facilities and renew our safety licenses, but that has not come easily because we have to live safety everyday.  It is not only for audit purpose once in a year. We just have to live it. So, it all boils down to meeting the safety requirements because aviation is very safety-oriented. Once the aircraft leaves here and up into the sky, it has to land safely with all the souls on board. It is for a purpose that safety is given big emphasis. So, insurance, it all depends on our safety capability and safety records, the better it is, the lower we will pay. All we need to do is safety oversight training.

Our aviation academy gives a lot of trainings as far as aviation training and cargo logistics is concerned, especially for African students, we have a discounted price for all the African students in our aviation academy.
What is your vision for the cargo facilities in the light of your new cargo facilities?
Africa has a lot to export to the rest of Africa, including fresh produce. If there is a guaranteed supply, we are ready to carry it to the Gulf, Middle East, Asia, China and Europe. So, we are also ramping up our cold facilities. By way of import, Africa imports a lot of things like mobile telephone equipments, computer parts, automotive parts      and the rest of it. For those, we are trying to attract a lot of foreign direct investments like LG, Samsung and the rest of them, to have their regional logistic hub in Ethiopia because geography allows them to come directly here because we have the largest African network in the history of aviation, with more than 55 destinations in the continent,   cargo, as well as freighters. We have a lot of freighter aircraft-100 tonnes capacity Boeing 777 and so on.
With that, we want to distribute from those regional distribution hubs from here to the rest of Africa and also take Africa’s produces and broadcast them to Asia, Middle East and Europe. That way, Africa will not only be an importer, it will also be an exporter so that the trade balance will be okay. With that,Ethiopian Airlines   wants to play its role as the new spirit of Africa. It wants to take Africa’s product to the rest of humanity and also bring the rest of the world here.

So, for that, we need to have 800,000 tonnes of cargo capacity per annum with electronics transport vehicle, cold storage and the rest of it. That is why we did those facilities.
You have almost achieved 80 per cent of your Vision 2025 goals, what is the secret?
The number one contributor to the success and attainment of our own goals and even beating them is having a clear strategy and clear marching order. There is nothing vague about what we have done. For example, where we are going tomorrow, we are planning for it today-infrastructure, fleet planning, human resource management, system and procedure; whatever we have to plan for tomorrow, we do those things today. These are our four pillars. In terms of human resources, we have been recruiting. We have opened the largest aviation academy in Africa that is recruiting pilots, flight engineers, cargo logistics, aviation finance, marketing and sales, and what have you. Under systems and procedure, Ethiopian Airlines is adopting system integrator. Also we have clear policy and procedure and everything to reach that Vision 2025.

Number three is flight planning. We have been planning our fleet much earlier and we have been doing negotiation with Airbus and Boeing and bringing the right size flight lounge, to all the destinations we are planning to go. Also, the human resources management, training, fulfilment and all these things are intact. We have more than 12,000 employees. As I said earlier, there is a strict corporate government which disallows any kind of mismanagement, and the government is not in any way intervening in any of the things we are doing. Although, it is 100 per cent owned by the government, it has given 100 per cent autonomy to the senior management of the Ethiopian Airlines to conduct the business without any interference.

So, those things have been factors for us to be able to achieve and beat our goals and plans for the future.
You are a top player as far as African aviation industry is concerned, what is the length of success for open sky for Africa, that is looking at those who are reluctant to abide by the new principle?

Africa is one continent. People are talking about African Union (AU), being so free skies for African carriers. This has been ratified and agreed by all individual

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