Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Air smiles at Ethiopian

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Articles about African aviation almost always pay heed to two inescapable truths. The first is the continent's undisputed economic potential, stemming from its vast natural resources and youthful, aspirational workforce. The second, less encouragingly, is the near-insurmountable challenges that prevent airlines from unlocking this potential.

Most politicians concede that civil aviation will play a key role in igniting and sustaining pan-African prosperity. In practice, however, a toxic mixture of bureaucracy, corruption and protectionism keeps much of the industry grounded. African governments still regard flying as a middle-class luxury deserving of heavy taxation. They are also in no hurry to liberalise regulations and bilateral restrictions that protect the status quo for privileged operators.

But there are some exceptions to the rule. State-owned Ethiopian Airlines has grown its turnover by 700% since 2005, and it plans to expand another fivefold by 2025...