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BusinessEthiopian flights to Oslo to bolster Ethio-Norwegian relations

Ethiopian flights to Oslo to bolster Ethio-Norwegian relations

Yara’s investment in Ethiopia would be game changer

The Ethiopian Airlines flights to Oslo, Norway that launched on March 26 in a colorful ceremony is believed to bolster Ethio-Norwegian relations that began more than six decades ago.

First Ethiopian Airlines flight to Oslo was performed by the state-of-the-art Boeing B787 jetliner on March 26, 2017. After cruising for seven hours at an altitude of 38,000 feet carrying packed passengers, tour operators, few Ethiopian tourists (who went there with Ethiopian Holidays tour package), Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam and Norwegian Ambassador to Ethiopia Andreas Gaarder landed at the Oslo, Gardermoen International Airport in the early morning of March 27.

Executives of the Norwegian airport company, Avinor, warmly welcome Ethiopian maiden flight to Oslo (ET714) with a water canon salute and Ethiopian Ambassador to Nordic countries, Woinshet Tadesse received the delegation.

Ambassador Andreas Gaarder told The Reporter that Ethiopia and Norway have a long standing relationship based on common interests in regional stability, development, climate issues and education. “This flight is a symbolic sign of the strengthening relationship between Ethiopia and Norway,” Ambassador Gaarder said. 

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Norwegian missionaries, who came to Ethiopia in the 1940s, started the Ethio-Norwegian friendly relationship. In the wake of the Second World War, Norwegian naval force established the Ethiopian Navy and managed it until 1965. However, the full-fledged diplomatic relation with ambassadorial portfolio started after the down fall of the Derg in 1995. Norway still closely works with Ethiopia on regional peace and security.

Nevertheless, the trade and investment relations between the two countries have been limited. “But there is the potential,” Ambassador Gaarder said. “We can increase the direct investment coming from Norway to Ethiopia. With the direct flight of Ethiopian Airlines we can have more Norwegian tourists coming to Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a fantastic tourist destination undiscovered by many. It is very original in many ways. I came on the first flight to Oslo and it is a modern aircraft and the in-flight service is superb and I hope Norwegian tourists would enjoy Ethiopian hospitality,” he said. 

Ambassador Gaarder said Ethiopia is an important market in Africa adding that it was a good opportunity for Norwegian companies to export fresh produce to Ethiopia. With an annual 1.2 million tons salmon production Norway is a leading salmon producer in the world. “With the launch of Ethiopian Airlines direct flight between Oslo and Addis Ababa salmon could be sold Ethiopia.”

The Norwegian regional investment agency, NorFund, is investing in agri business in Ethiopia while the Norwegian agricultural chemicals giant, Yara International, has been prospecting for potash mineral in north east Ethiopia in the Afar Regional State in the Danakil Depression. Yara International, through its Ethiopian Subsidiary, Yara Dallol BV, spent 100 million dollars on the potash exploration project in the Dallol Depression and discovered commercial potash deposit that could be mined for the coming 30 years with an average output of 1.5 million tons, annually. Yara has applied to the Ethiopian Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas to be given large-scale mining license that would enable it to extract potash deposit, which is mainly used to make fertilizer.

Yara, which has been supplying fertilizer to Ethiopia, awarded the first African Green Revolution Yara Prize to the late Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, in recognition of his contribution to improved security and human nutrition in 2005.

Ambassador Gaarder said Yara International is the biggest potential investor in Ethiopia. “They have been doing for quite a while. Final investment decision has not been made. I hope that will happen. That is an important project for the relationship with Ethiopia. It is also significant for Ethiopia’s export income. With a size of one billion dollars investment Yara’s investment project is a game changer in many ways in the private sector engagement in Ethiopia. When Yara’s investment project is realized other Norwegian investors will come along. This flight will definitely boost the trade and investment relation between Norway and Ethiopia. It will be easier for investors to travel directly to Ethiopia with less time and hassles.”

On March 27 Ethiopian Airlines held a consultative meeting in Park Inn Hotel in Oslo with tour operators, investors, the Norwegian Airport Administration – Avinor – and members of the Ethiopian community in Norway. Ethiopian Group CEO Tewolde Gebremariam made a comprehensive presentation on the profile of the airline and the investment and tourism potential of Ethiopia.

Tewolde said that Ethiopia is promoting tourism with a new logo “a land of origins”. “Ethiopia is a land of many wonders. According to a latest report, Norwegians are the happiest people in world. We are ready to welcome the happiest people to the land of origins. Come and discover why Ethiopia is called the land of origins,” he told Norwegian invited guests.

Tewolde told The Reporter that Ethiopian aimed at transporting fresh flowers to Norway with belly holding capacity. “Already one Norwegian company, which buys Ethiopian flowers, has informed us that it will transport 30-40 tons of flower every week to Norway with Ethiopian. From Norway we hope to transport salmon to Ethiopia and other African countries,” he said.

Tewolde said that there are 100 Norwegian organizations working in different African countries and the new direct flight between Addis and Norway is a good opportunity for them to make seamless connection to Africa. “We also have a large Somali, Ethiopian other African communities residing in Norway and we are ready to take them their homelands at least once in a year. We hope to attract large number of tourists from Norway. According to statistics, Norwegians make 5-10 travels a year and we will be able to take them direct from their home. We will make a strong promotional campaign,” he said.

In her welcoming remark, Ambassador Woinshet pointed out that Ethiopia and Norway share a longstanding relation, through missionary work, development cooperation and politics. “The strong ties between Ethiopia and Norway date back to the 1950s, when Emperor Haile Selassie I visited Norway and later on King Olav V made a reply visit to Ethiopia in 1966. Since then, we have enjoyed a long-lasting relationship between the people of both countries, and many Norwegians call Ethiopia their second home, and vice versa,” Ambassador Woisnshet said.

In recent years, there has been a frequent exchange of visits of Ministers, high-level government officials and parliamentarians between the two countries. According to Ambassador Woinshet, the visit of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in 2011, the visit of former Foreign Minister Tedros Adahanom (PhD) in October 2014 and the recent visit of Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende at the end of last year, moved the partnership and ties of the two countries to the highest level. On the multilateral fora, Ethiopia and Norway are working very closely in promoting peace, stability and sustainable development both at regional and global level. They have been working closely in keeping climate change at the top of international agenda. Norway and Ethiopia with other partner countries took the initiative in setting reform ideas and policy recommendations to the newly appointed Secretary General of the United Nations. “These clearly demonstrate the unity and convergence not only on our bilateral issues but to make the world a better place.”

Ambassador Woinshet said in the area of trade and investment, gradual but positive changes have been observed by the two countries. Norwegians are now enjoying Ethiopia’s specialty coffee from Yirgacheffe, Sidama or Harar, fresh cut flowers, roses or herbs from the highlands of Ethiopia. Recently, big Norwegian companies like, Yara International, Norfund, Mester Gronn, African Juice, Nera, Norplan,  just to mention a few, have engaged in various investment activities in Ethiopia and became part of Ethiopia’s development renaissance.

“Ethiopia has a lot more to offer to Norwegian investors with ecofriendly solutions, importers keen on organic products or best workmanship or tourists, who want to discover their origin,” she said.

The Ambassador said that she has no doubt that Ethiopian Airlines direct flight between Addis Ababa and Oslo will provide a real opportunity for Norwegian investors and tourists to see the enormous potential and great ambition of the government to transform the country.

Fitsum Gezahegn, managing director of Paradise Ethiopia Travel, told The Reporter that Ethiopian Airlines flight to Oslo will enable Ethiopian tour operators to attract more tourists from North Europe. Fitsum, former president of Ethiopian Tour Operators Association, said that he and other tour operators traveled to Oslo to promote Ethiopia as a tourist destination and start working relationship with Norwegian tour operators. “The new flight will be more convenient for Norwegian tourists and tourists from other North European countries to directly travel to Ethiopia and other African destinations. Ethiopian Airlines will announce its new flight to Oslo and that would help us attract more tourists from North Europe,” Fitsum said.

Solomon Seyoum, a veteran Ethiopian navy who migrated to Norway in 1973 was among the Ethiopian community members who welcomed Ethiopian Airlines inaugural flight. Solomon, who used to command Emperor Haile Selassie’s yacht back in the day, told The Reporter that he was delighted to see Ethiopian aircraft with the tri colors in Oslo. “It is a miracle for me. Every year I visit Ethiopia and now it is much easier for me to travel as it has come to our door steps. I am very delighted to see Ethiopian Airlines growing. I am very proud of the airline.”

With 86 young and modern fleet Ethiopian Airlines is now serving 94 international and 19 domestic destinations. Just last week, the national flag carrier inaugurated three international flights to Oslo, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Antananarivo, Madagascar.

It will soon open launch new flights to Chengdu, China, Jakarta, Indonesia and Singapore. Under its 15-year growth roadmap dubbed Vision 2025 Africa’s largest airline plans to serve 120 international destinations with 150 modern fleet.

“We worked very hard to convince the management of Ethiopian Airlines that Oslo is the right place to fly to,” Oyvind Hansaas, managing director of Oslo Airport, said. “That is because we want to open Norway to Africa and because Ethiopian Airlines is the largest carrier in Africa,” Hansaas said.

Manager of Taytu Restaurant, one of the Ethiopian traditional restaurants in Oslo, Demmis, is very delighted with the launch of Ethiopian flight to Oslo. “We managed to import fresh injera aboard the inaugural flight. We are working here not only as businesspeople but we are also promoting Ethiopian history and culture,” Demmis told The Reporter in his spacious restaurant that serves Ethiopian national dishes and coffee.

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