Ethiopia is doing everything right and reaping the dividend. Forward Keys, a big data, IT and business intelligence consultancy, reports that Addis Ababa has grown its volume of international transfer passengers to Sub-Saharan Africa since 2013. In fact, the international bookings for Ethiopia, for November 2018 to January 2019 are ahead by 40% for the same preceding period (November 2017 to January 2018. Something beautiful is cooking in the horn of Africa.
The sharp increase for this year has been attributed to reforms Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been carrying out. Forty-two year old Ahmed assumed the position after the resignation of beleagured Prime Minister, Hailemariam Delasegn in February. He has released political prisoners, welcomed people in exile and lifted the state of emergency in the country. Foreign Affairs has called the speed of changes "dizzying", with a sharp contrast between his leadership and the previous government's conduct, which Ahmed has branded "a form of terrorism". Key among the reforms is the peace deal with Eritrea, a long overdue development in the region. Forward Keys therefore says, the new-found confidence in the wake of these reforms has spurred travel in the region.
Ethiopia is however not just depending on political optimism; real structural reforms have been implemented in the travel industry itself. The country introduced electronic visas access to all visitors and tourists in June 2018. The visas are available on arrival at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport to avoid any possible security threat. Relaxation of visa regimes has been deemed key in improving the fortunes of the tourism industry.
According to Olivier Ponti of ForwardKeys, "Sub-Saharan Africa is a market of opportunity. Across the region, carriers are increasing seat capacity on international flights by six percent on average; that is an encouraging sign. If more governments follow the go-ahead example set by Ethiopia, including reducing conflict and taking advantage of the benefits that can flow from more relaxed visa policies, I would expect to see a health grow in tourism in 2019." The continent is standing on the verge of something big but Ethiopia has boldly stepped into it.
Ethiopia leads the way in the adoption of Regional Integration towards a united Africa.
Header Image: Alan Wilson