Ethiopian Airlines and the Boeing 787: A metaphor for Africa’s Bright Future

Today, November 9 marks the start of a twice-weekly direct flight service between Toronto and Addis-Abeba, Ethiopia on Boeing 787 aircraft. The combination of Boeing 787 and ‘Ethiopia’ may come as a surprise to most people. The Boeing 787 is the most highly advanced airliner in the world. Air Canada has ordered some but is not ready to fly them yet. Few airlines in Boeing’s own United States have even ordered them and United started service last week on November 4 – Ethiopian started operating them to Paris last August, making it the second airline in the world to do so after launch carrier All-Nippon Airways (ANA). Ethiopian Airlines, therefore, is one of a very exclusive club of airlines. Ethiopian has ordered ten Boeing 787; it is not surprising, given that the African airline is one of the most advanced, safest and admired airlines in the world, let alone in Africa, where the aviation sector is growing and expected to continue doing so very quickly. Such is the 787’s range, 14,000 km plus, that Ethiopian will start direct services to major South American and Asian cities from Sao Paulo to Kuala Lumpur. Anticipating a veritable boom in the number of passengers as Addis Abeba positions itself as Africa’s main air transportation hub, the airport has been renovated. The airport and airline’s progress reflect Ethiopia’s own progress and economic growth.

Africa, between now and 2016, will witness a massive process of urbanization, with 500 million people, driven by strong economic reasons. African cities with more than a million people will increase. This large and rapid shift in the concentration of population will necessarily bring a shift in social and consumption habits especially in such areas as services and food. The consulting firm, McKinsey expects that the urban consumer economy in Africa will be worth over USD$ 400 billion by 2020, which makes it the “new frontier of global economic growth”. McKinsey said that the consumption sector alone, dominated by food, in the next seven years will grow at a rate of 45%. The drivers and main beneficiaries of this growth phenomenon include Ethiopia, which has been one of the fastest growing economies in Africa in the past decade. Africa, may still fail to generate optimism in the daily news; however, long term observers expect this continent to become one of the biggest attractors of foreign capital and investment of the next decade.

Africa, meanwhile, far from remaining the ‘starving’ continent and poster image for destitute poverty has the potential to vastly increase food production to feed itself and to become a major supplier of food for the world. Africa has as many as 600 million hectares of unused yet arable land. The Ethiopian Airlines to Toronto direct flight on the most advanced airplane in the world is a serendipitous development in relation to this promising agricultural future for Africa. Toronto listed Allana Potash (TO. AAA) is developing one of the most promising new potash projects anywhere and the project happens to be in Ethiopia. The transportation links, development efforts and African continental growth prospects are joining to create an image of Africa that has long been hoped for, one that suggests that a prosperous Africa is within reach.

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Through the Boeing 787, Ethiopian Airlines has also adopted one of the most sustainable practices in the airline industry. The 787 Boeing has established new environmental targets in its operations and product lifecycle. The 787 delivers a 20% reduction in fuel consumption over an equivalent size airliner of the previous generation such as the Boeing 767 range. Boeing Commercial Airplanes is committed to developing cleaner fuels and innovating aircraft that use less and less fuel to begin with. Boeing’s research in alternative fuel has excluded any bio-fuel deriving from a source that may be used for human consumption as food. This suggests the company is paying attention to the growing awareness of the social and environmental risks of biofuels. In social matters, Boeing strongly promotes workforce diversity. Apart from any ethical and moral considerations, the Company sees real business values in the policy because of the international nature of the company’s business, and because there is a shortage of qualified aerospace engineers in the United States, prompting the need to hire technical staff from all over the world


  1. I am one of the airline employees who is serving Ethiopian MRO as aircraft maintenance quality inspector i am always surprised by the growth of the airline as you know Ethiopia was known for long time war and drought but thanks to God things are changed these days as you have tried to explain the reality of the airline and the country above the past image of the nation is changing and Ethiopian airlines is leading the aviation industry in Africa and i, as one of the staff of the airline I am really proud to be part of this great history and would like to appreciate the editor of this web for showing the true image of the nation and the progress of the airline . viva Ethiopian

  2. Amesege’nallo’, Awet!
    Thank you for reading; I am always surprised by Ethiopian Airlines’s progress and technological strength. I have also been surprised by Ethiopia’s tremendous growth in the past twenty years; it is one of the African success stories and one that should get much more attention. Ethiopian is more than an airline; it is the symbol of Ethiopia’s growth, potential and future.

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