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Ethiopian Airlines To Set Up African National Carriers

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Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise, East Africa’s biggest carrier by revenue, is considering proposals to help set up national airlines in Nigeria and three other countries to expand its operations on the continent. 

The state-owned company, which has stakes in Malawian Airlines and ASKY Airlines of Togo, has been approached by the Nigerian government about a new carrier for Africa’s biggest economy, Chief Executive Officer Tewolde Gebremariam said in an interview on March 20. Ethiopian Airlines is also in discussions with the administrations of Uganda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, he said, without giving further details.

“We have been invited to participate and we’ve given a strong expression of interest” to Nigeria, he told Bloomberg T.V. on a private plane from Dublin to London, where he was promoting a new route to Los Angeles via the Irish capital. “As soon as the process allows then we will submit a business proposal.”

Ethiopian Airlines is competing with South African Airways and Kenya Airways Ltd. as they expand routes outside their home markets to tap greater demand for travel within the continent. SAA, also state-controlled, is seeking a hub in West Africa that would also be a stop-off point on the way to the U.S. London-based FastJet Plc is trying to add routes as part of an effort to become the first pan-African discount airline.

Ethiopian Airlines plans to quadruple annual revenue to $10 billion over the next decade and increase the number of international destinations to 120 from 84, Tewolde said. The company will start flights to Tokyo next month and Los Angeles in June. The airline also hopes to expand its fleet to 140 planes from 80.

South African Airways had revenue of 30.3 billion rand ($2.6 billion) in the year ending March 2014, while Kenya Airways Ltd., the continent’s third-biggest carrier, generated 106 billion shillings ($1.2 billion) over the same period.