Photo credit: Ethiopian Airlines
In less than two months Singapore will be reconnected with Ethiopia. Ethiopian Airlines, the largest carrier in Africa, says it will restart direct flights between Addis Ababa and Singapore on 25 March 2023. The flights, which will be operated using the B787 Dreamliner, will take place four times a week. The service was temporarily suspended in 2020 following the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic. Ethiopian Group CEO Mesfin Tasew stated that the resumption of the route will strengthen trade and investment as well as tourism connections between Singapore and Africa.
The availability of more direct flight options between Asia and Africa may lead to more competitive ticket prices for business travellers. Direct flights between Singapore and Africa are currently scarce, with only Singapore Airlines operating non-stop routes to Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa. This means that many travellers must transfer in Europe and the Middle East, particularly on Gulf airlines like Emirates and Qatar, which have greatly expanded their African destinations in recent years. However, Ethiopian Airlines, with its hub in Addis Ababa, serves over 60 African cities, significantly more than any of its rivals.
The growing relationship between Singapore and Africa is evident through the increasing number of Singaporean companies on the continent, which has risen from 60 in 2018 to over 100 today. Furthermore, trade between the two has also grown, reaching US$10.9bn in 2021, a 25% increase from the previous year.
Ethiopia, with a population of over 120 million, is the second most populous country in Africa. It has maintained an average economic growth rate of over 8% in the past decade but remains relatively undeveloped, offering business opportunities in a range of sectors, from agriculture and manufacturing to healthcare and fintech. Singapore's major exports to Ethiopia include refined petroleum, machinery and chemicals such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals, while agricultural products are among Ethiopia’s main shipments. In addition to its sizeable domestic market, Ethiopia has been touted as a potential hub for companies to reach surrounding countries due to its strategic location and Ethiopian Airlines' extensive network. For example, a medical diagnostics business could serve not only Ethiopia but also countries such as Djibouti, South Sudan, Burundi, Congo and the Central African Republic, which may lack such facilities. There is potential to partner with local entities in those markets to collect samples and then fly them to Addis Ababa via Ethiopian Airlines for testing. Results can then be emailed back to doctors in those countries for a correct diagnosis, within 24 hours. This is something that India is already taking advantage of. Ethiopian Airlines flies has daily flights connecting Addis Ababa with the Indian commercial hub of Mumbai.
Ethiopian Airlines is the largest carrier in Africa in terms of passenger numbers. In 2021, it transported 7.053m passengers, followed by EgyptAir (4.058m), Royal Air Maroc (3.449m), Air Algerie (1.920m) and Kenya Airways (1.489m).
In a move that will further enhance air travel between Asia and Africa, Ethiopian Airlines this month announced that it will restore the frequency of its flights to China to pre-pandemic levels. Following the lifting of restrictions by the Chinese government, the airline will resume daily flights to Beijing and Shanghai, as well as 10 and four weekly flights to Guangzhou and Chengdu, respectively, starting 1 March.
‘Ethiopia: First-mover advantage for investors with long-term outlook’, How we made it in Africa, 19 February 2021
‘Singapore and Africa: A South-South story’, International Finance Corporation, September 2022
‘Ethiopian Airlines to resume flights to Singapore’, Ethiopian Airlines, 16 December 2022
‘Annual report 2022’, African Airlines Association, 2022
‘Ethiopian Airlines flights to China to return to pre-Covid levels’, Ethiopian Airlines, 10 January 2023
‘Singapore/Ethiopia’, OEC, Accessed 23 January 2023‘World Economic Outlook Database’, IMF, Accessed 23 January 2023