Keynote Address: Mr. Samson Arega, MD of Ethiopian Airlines in Canada

To the Prime Minister, Your Excellencies, dignitaries, business leaders and all assembled today from across Canada and the African continent, welcome.

Ethiopian Airlines is proud to be the sole airline partner and sponsor of The Canada-Africa Chamber of Business.

Connecting the continent, our theme today is no mere ambition; it is a reality. For indeed, when it comes air access, Africa is connected, and those connections are deepening every day.

Ethiopian Airlines is the sole airline connecting Canada directly to the African continent, and onward to over 120 destinations from Africa’s capital of Addis Ababa. Africa’s development in trade is driven by Ethiopian’s cargo capacity. So significant is the success that during the COVID-19 pandemic, cargo revenues ensured the airline remained profitable – Ethiopian airlines did not lay off or furlough a single full-time employee and never sought a bailout.

We are proud to abide by conditions of a free and open market economy, always ready to compete fairly on the global stage.

Ethiopian’s accomplishments reflect Africa’s potential. The region can be the world's biggest free-trade zone by area with a potential market of 1.2 billion people and a combined gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion by 2030.

The year-on-year growth of Ethiopian Airlines reflects its ability to not just keep up with Africa’s growth potential - but to serve as a key driving force of Africa’s development. This is vital, for it is my argument today that Africa is the world’s future growth engine.

  • As Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba reportedly stated "Consider where some parts of Asia were in the 90s; Africa’s growth and potential are far beyond it."
  • $5.6 trillion in African business opportunities by 2025, rapidly rising to overtake the ‘Chinese growth story’ with $30 trillion GDP in Africa by 2050.
  • Strong population growth: a current median age under 20 years old.

Is it any wonder the National Post last month ran the following headline: ‘Forget Asia — businesses that dare to venture into Africa are poised to reap the rewards.’

Before COVID, Africa saw a rise in tourism of 7%, making it the second-fastest growing market. With more routes from destinations in Canada and elsewhere, in addition to more regular flights, Ethiopian Airlines can also unlock a resurgence in tourism that secures Africa the position of fastest growing market, as the world restarts after COVID.

Ethiopian Airlines has always been at the forefront in Africa – the first African airline to order Boeing 767, with delivery in 1984; and many more firsts in the African aviation history.

After subsequently being named the most profitable airline on the continent, we launched a 15 year strategic growth roadmap, titled the ‘Vision-2025.’ Beyond just being best and largest in Africa, it aimed to increase passenger volume to 18 million and more than double its fleet to 120 aircrafts.

Brothers and sister, things did not go according to plan in a manner of speaking. For we needed to revise the targets upward to be even more ambitious, reaching 150 aircraft as we succeeded in most parameters even before 2025. Ethiopian Airlines is now the world’s fourth largest airline by number of countries served, ensuring every market in Africa is within easy reach, with onward connections to every part of the world.

We seek first place globally. But we know that will be achieved when we both drive and enable the next chapter in global economics, enabled in the context of a new era of Canada-Africa trade and investment collaboration – on both economics and public policy.

Canada and its people played a key role in the drafting of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and can continue in its implementation.

Like Canada, Ethiopian Airlines commits to being a partner in Africa’s development, succeeding and operating in markets with incredible growth rates, including six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies before COVID - all of which were in Africa.

We were honoured to arrange part of Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit to the continent last year to the African Union Heads of State Summit and ensure as an African carrier that we delivered much needed COVID-19 resources to Canada, when this great country called on us in Africa in the two-way relationship of equals that is our Canada-Africa bond.

Prime Minister Trudeau, as I noted at the Chamber’s event in Ethiopia where we first met, we are here to further the trade and investment objectives between the people of Canada and African markets.

As Africa stands to reach unprecedented development as the world’s next global growth engine I commit today on behalf of Ethiopian Airlines to guarantee that trade and investment logistics are secured through equally unprecedented air connectivity and aviation excellence.

From world leaders in governance and multilateralism to the business leaders from Canada who are our trusted partners driving economic development in Africa, we stand with you. 

Ethiopian Airlines is a world-class leader and member of the Star Alliance network that many Canadian business leaders know well.

Finally, let us never forget – numbers and profit margins don’t lie: we know time is money for business; I can stand here today and attest that the African continent and Canada have been brought together in an unprecedented way through Ethiopian Airlines. Ethiopian Airlines has brought people, deals and businesses all within same-day reach.

At the furthest point, Cape Town, you can enjoy lunch at the southernmost tip of Africa, fly out in the mid-afternoon and arrive in Toronto the next morning in time for breakfast.

No longer is the perception of long-haul travel an issue for even the furthest destinations. A new era that some thought impossible is now a reality and one that is ever more dynamic month-on-month.  

We have been the best airline in Africa 2021 for the 4th consecutive year, with the top African performance for business class, economy class and the Best Cabin Crew. Ethiopian sets global benchmarks from within Africa to which its peers worldwide aspire. The Skytrax 2021 World Airline Awards named Ethiopian Airlines as the number one airline in Africa, based on over 13 million surveys collected over 23 months - combining normal travel and pandemic travel.

Based on the track record of success, Ethiopian Airlines is not only the best in Africa, as has been said, we are globally; connecting the world to Africa – a continent that is the global growth engine of tomorrow, being built with visionary business leaders on-the-ground today.

So when we speak of Africa as a leader and growth engine, it is no mere ambition ladies and gentlemen. It is in full swing and together the Canada-Africa agenda convened by this esteemed Chamber of Business will unlock unprecedented prosperity for the nations of Africa and the great people of Canada.

May God Bless Canada, Africa and all their children.

Forward we go.

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