Pause: Congratulations to Ethiopian Airlines

__Africa’s most successful airline adds airplane #100!

Last month I spent two days in Addis Ababa at the invitation of the new Prime Minister, His Excellency Dr. Abiy Ahmed. As I have said many times before, Ethiopia is a quiet champion of Africa’s economic transformation. It has managed to grow at the rate of over 10% over 10 years (and 7% over twodecades!)

With a population of 102 million which is increasing at the rate of 2.2mn per year, it is the second largest country in Africa by population size.

Under Ethiopia’s new leadership, change is happening at a breathtaking pace! The excitement was palpable. The young entrepreneurs I met are very hopeful.

I had the opportunity to participate in a proud @AfricaMoment! Ethiopian Airlines had just added the 100th airplane to its fleet, the largest in Africa!

This is an amazingly successful business in one of the toughest industries in the world. One of Africa’s oldest airlines at 72 years old, Ethiopian Airlines has survived times of extraordinary upheaval in the country’s and even Africa’s history.

This airline has seen everything: war, famine, bad governments, fuel price shocks and so on… But still it has thrived!

It has survived despite the worst of conditions…

# Remember: A good soldier learns to fight in the conditions and not the conditions.

I met Ethiopian Airlines’ Chairman Abadulla Gemeda, Vice Chairman Dr. Arkebe Oqubay, and award-winning CEO Tewolde GebreMariam who began work there more than 30 years ago in the cargo traffic handling department, rising up the ladder and gaining experience in all parts of the business. I discussed with them why it has been successful.

Guess what… the three “Ps”!

# Product: For them, moving people in the air is not just their product. It is the unique mission in which they are constantly innovating. Even whilst I was there, they were starting a new direct route to Chicago the next day, and also a new destination, Geneva, that same week! This week they became the first African airlines to fly direct to Indonesia and there was more…

# People: Amazingly dedicated and highly skilled professional staff at all levels. The CEO and his team are humble and entrepreneurial. These guys could work anywhere in the world. They have a reputation for being corruption-free. This is probably why they have succeeded where many other state-owned enterprises failed.

# Process: They understand every aspect of modern business practice. This is a very serious business, let me tell you.

Being a good entrepreneur does not mean you have to own a business. Some of the most successful businesses in the world are run by entrepreneurs who don’t own the business!

Confused? It’s a #MindsetThing!

Well done, Ethiopian!



by 8 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

8 thoughts on “Pause: Congratulations to Ethiopian Airlines

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.

    The government of Ethiopia plans to sell part of this airline business to private players to raise capital. As good a business as it is, I will not be buying because this is not my core business. As for the telecoms privatization, you know my golden rules:

    # Don’t discuss your plans in public!

    # If you see a bandwagon, it is already too late.

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.

    I’m so excited by what is happening in Ethiopia. As an entrepreneur, I will show my support the only way I know:

    #1. Since I left the country, I have sent several key delegations of my own executives. These are the guys who will eventually make investment decisions.

    #2. I will share my observations with those I meet. I will encourage them to take a closer look for themselves. Already some of my own friends have started to look cautiously at the country.

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Kgomotso writes,

    I am Captain Kgomotso Phatsima, I am the Ambassador of Youth in Aviation and Aerospace in Botswana, one of the first female military pilots in Botswana Defence Force. An Obama Foundation Africa Leadership Fellow .

    The Goodwill Ambassador for Aviation and Aerospace for the African Region. Africa is heavily pregnant with amazing potential! We use the power of flight to spread the message of Goodwill across the African Continent.

    To ignite dreams, to impact Communities and change lives, we leave no child behind for African development, we travel far and deep in rural areas to give our upcoming generation a sense of purpose in their education!

    I have a dream. A dream to be the First Female to own an Airline in Botswana! To revolutionalize our aviation industry, to enable that any motswana can afford to enjoy the beauty of flying more especialy domestic flights.

    To give Air Botswana healthy competition!Though it seems like a far fetched dream for a little village girl from very humble beginnngs to own such; I know impossible is nothing!

    We are the ones! We are the ones we have been waiting for! Strive Masiyiwa I wish they could have invited you for the Obama Foundation Africa Leadership Program, we need more batsadi like you to inspire us that despite the odds it’s possible!

    My reply,
    Kgomotso you are a real inspiration, and you have EVERYTHING its takes to fulfill this dream.
    For someone who has the courage to fly a combat aero plane, this is nothing for you!
    “KP Aviation” does not have to start with an aero plane that you actually own , but you can easily lease your first plane.
    Read the story of how Richard Branson started Virgin Airlines, with just a small leased aero plane, on a tiny Island in the Caribbean. KP should also have a vision to expand across Africa, and eventually the world.
    The work you are doing on philanthropy is also excellent, and will benefit greatly when you have your own business to help fund such initiatives.
    I was invited by President Obama to attend the meetings in Nairobi and Johannesburg but unfortunately [as I told him] I had to get back to London before he arrived because of prior commitments in Europe and the USA.

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Cosmos Writes,

    Ethiopia has always been the country in Africa I desire to visit. One day I’ll step my feet on that beautiful nation.

    My reply,
    I have three regrets:
    #1. I have not yet visited every single African country. I recently met an American who has actually visited every single African country, and I felt quite ashamed!
    Given my current duties, it is very difficult to find the time, but for many of you this is an important thing to accomplish.

    #2. When I visit most African countries, I don’t get the opportunity to leave the capital cities. This is a huge regret for me. When I was young, we would just hire a car and go somewhere else other than the capital.

    #3. The regret that embarrasses me the most is that I have been to less than 10 African countries as a tourist. I want to be able to visit a country for no other reason than to just see it.
    Every country has something interesting and unique to see. When you see people of any race or nationality that don’t respect others, usually they have never travelled much either, even within their own country.

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Sampson writes,

    what is wrong with my country NIGERIA. We have nothing to proud of.. This situation is giving me thoughts. Ethiopia Ride on.

    My reply,
    There are good things and bad things in every country. It is always important to maintain a proper perspective about what you CHOOSE to see. It’s important to see both.
    Whenever I come to Nigeria, I see a lot of good things, and lots, and lots of opportunities. You cannot miss opportunities if you are looking for them but don’t turn a blind eye to what is bad, particularly if you can CHOOSE to help change it.

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    “Hard things are hard” [Barack Obama].

    I once worked for a state-owned enterprise [parastatal]. In my early business career I also served on the boards of many state-owned enterprises in my country.
    I long ago concluded that making such an enterprise successful is extremely difficult.
    It almost does not seem to matter where in the world it is, including some of the most developed economies.
    The observation is the same:
    It’s hard for a government to run a successful business enterprise. Governments will keep trying, believing that they will be an exception and get it right, but most of the time it just does not work. And when it does not work, it pumps up public debt, leading to inflation across the entire economy. Many countries like the US, will not permit such enterprises, because they are so difficult to run.

    So when I see something like Ethiopian, I naturally salute such an exception. It is a remarkable exception.

    Well done..

    Now let’s move on to other topics.

  7. Bion solomon

    I am very encouraged when I read this articles and the after thoughts. Dr. Strive I have read you book, and my suggestion is that your write another one.
    I am young entrepreneur from Kenya who deals in motorbike spare parts, the ideal I picked from your book of a PAN AFRICAN enterprise is burning RED HOT.


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