This will be an interesting one to watch.
Ethiopian Airlines is almost unarguably Africa’s most successful airline. They’ve built a global route network and have grown profitably and sustainably. This is in stark contrast to many other major airlines in Africa, which are perpetually on the brink of liquidation (like Kenya Airways, South African Airways, etc.).
One of the cool things that Ethiopian Airlines has done is that they’ve invested in some other African airlines and have also created strategic alliances. They act as a great mentor to some other airlines in the region.
There are now rumors that Ethiopian Airlines is considering investing in what’s possibly Africa’s most troubled airline, Air Zimbabwe.
This allegedly came about when Ethiopian Airlines’ CEO contacted Zimbabwe’s president during a recent visit to Addis Ababa.
As Zimbabwe’s Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister explains:
“There is movement on that front and we are expecting a team from Ethiopian Airlines next month where we are going to have meetings with regards to how the deal can be undertaken. We invited them so that we can talk and chart a way forward.”
Now, for those of you not familiar with the recent history of aviation in Zimbabwe, let me briefly summarize:
- Zimbabwe’s national airline, Air Zimbabwe, was about $300 million in debt (despite being a tiny airline, which is sort of unbelievable)
- Then Zimbabwe decided they’d launch a new national airline, Zimbabwe Airways, so they acquired some 777s, which never ended up operating a single commercial flight
- $140 million went missing
- The government of Zimbabwe decided that it made sense to merge the two national airlines
- As of today there’s no airline and no planes flying, so suffice to say that the plan wasn’t exactly a huge success
So yeah, if there’s an airline that has the expertise to turn around aviation in Zimbabwe, it’s Ethiopian Airlines… but even this may prove too much of a challenge for them.
I’ll be curious to see if any sort of a deal is reached. While there’s obviously big potential for aviation in Zimbabwe, I question to what extent Ethiopian Airlines could come in and actually lead the airline without interference.
(Tip of the hat to Chad)