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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) put a smile on the faces of airline executives around the world this summer, when it forecast a record-breaking net profit of $29.3 billion for the industry in 2015.
A combination of robust economic growth, rising business confidence, and falling fuel prices has delivered a bumper year for airlines – even with uncertainty in cargo markets dampening the mood.
Yet when IATA's profit forecast is broken down by region, the disparities are stark. The industry group estimates that African carriers will scrape by with a collective net profit of just $100 million this year. Indeed, simply staying in the black may prove to be an achievement, with four of the continent's largest carriers – Kenya Airways, South African Airways, EgyptAir and Tunisair – haemorrhaging money at an alarming rate.
All the more remarkable, then, that Ethiopian Airlines, Africa's single biggest carrier by traffic and fleet size, managed to achieve a net profit of $175 million for the 2014/15 fiscal year...