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Kwahu Summit 2023: Africa can’t have 54 successful national airlines, says Ethiopia Airlines boss

Mesfin Tasew said the African air transport industry is fragmented and needs consolidation for a successful AfCFTA

Mesfin Tasew, the chief executive officer of the Ethiopian Airlines Group has said it is not possible for every African country to have and maintain its own national airline.

Tasew said the AfCFTA cannot be successful without an efficient, affordable and accessible transportation system. 

“Such a system is needed to transport people and goods through the involvement in the development of trade, tourism and investment in the continent.”

The CEO of the Ethiopia Airlines Group was speaking at the maiden Africa Prosperity Dialogues at the Peduase Presidential Lodge.

He said air transport is the safest, fastest and more convenient means of transport for Africans within Africa.

Tasew said air transport is very important for Africa’s socio-economic development but “unfortunately air transport has seen underdevelopment”

He said “if we believe air transport is an important beacon to bring Africa prosperity to advance our ambition for the AfCFTA creation then we have to identify the issues and the challenges of developing air transport in Africa.

Tasew highlighted some challenges facing the African air transport industry.

“Many African countries are still restricting permits to fly into those countries and inhibiting the free movement of people and goods. This is affecting African airlines; big or small.”

He also mentioned tax as another issue that is affecting the growth of airlines in Africa.

“In Africa, many countries believe that air transport is good for the rich and it has to be heavily taxed. For example, the airfare between Lome and Accra, 50% goes to development and other taxes. This has made air transport expensive to use in Africa compared to the rest of the world. 

He said, African governments must generate taxes for development but those taxes must be reasonable.

He said for air transport to be self-efficient there should be enough airport infrastructure across the continent. “There are a number of infrastructural issues that we have to address across the continent”

Africa has 54 countries, each country wants to have its own national airline. It’s not possible to have 54 successful airlines in Africa. It’s a fragmented industry, it needs consolidation. It needs cooperation among airlines to great very strong regional airlines that connect the communities in every region of the continent.

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