Ethiopian Airlines has rekindled its attempt to expand its operations in Nigeria, as the carrier is among several parties that have applied to run the new proposed national carrier. Chief Executive Officer Tewelde Gebremariam disclosed this, according to reports by Reuters.

“We are among a small group with an interest in establishing a national carrier (in Nigeria)…we do not know the results (of the tender), though we are frontrunners.

Only the brave thread

Two previous attempts, the wholly owned Nigeria Airways, and a public-private partnership with Virgin Nigeria both failed. Nigeria Airways, founded in 1958 was wholly owned by the Government but was shut down due to mismanagement in 2003.

Virgin Nigeria, was a partnership between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Virgin Atlantic, owned by British billionaire, Richard Branson.  Virgin Atlantic, however, sold its stake after several disagreements with the Ministry of Transportation, and an alleged breach of an agreement by the Federal Government to operate from the international terminal. Branson also lamented that the country’s politicians were corrupt, and vowed never to do business in Nigeria again.

Third time lucky?  

The airline in August last year submitted a bid for Arik Air, one of two airlines being run by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON).  Ethiopia later pulled out of the discussions, due to what Tewelde described as financial and legal complications.

AMCON took over the airline in February 2017, due to its inability to pay debt running into hundreds of billions of Naira, and also runs Aerocontractors another carrier.

On a Pan African expansion drive

Ethiopia has been on an expansion drive around Africa, with it having stakes in several airlines across the continent.

In July, it disclosed that it was in talks with the Eritrean Government to take a stake in their airline. Relations with both countries have thawed in recent times.

It has also taken up stakes in a Chadian carrier and opened talks with Zambia to start a new national carrier, and taken over CEIBA, an operator in Equitorial Guinea.

Ethiopian Airways was founded on the 21st of December 1945 and is wholly owned by the Ethiopian Government. The airline flies several routes within and outside Africa including Washington and Paris.

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