The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged the Ethiopian government to promptly release USD 95 million in blocked airline funds to ensure the country’s air connectivity is not threatened. Airlines have a right to repatriate revenues under international agreements, but IATA says Ethiopia needs to follow the global rules it benefits from.
Ethiopia has long struggled with a hard currency shortage as the modest growth in its foreign exchange earnings has failed to match the surge in payments for imports and other external expenditures, widening the country’s current account deficit.
While the East African nation has seen some increase in hard currency inflows from exports, remittances and other sources, the inflows have failed to keep up with the rapid climb in necessary outflows for essential goods and services, exacerbating the shortage of dollars, euros and other international currencies.
The hard currency squeeze has strained Ethiopia’s economy for years, hampering its ability to grow and develop—a situation now reflected in the aviation sector.
The Ethiopian government and central bank have allocated too little dollars to the aviation industry, blocking USD 95 million in airline funds in the country, according to Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. “It is time for the government to work with the industry to resolve this situation quickly,” said Walsh.
Ethiopia’s blockage of airline funds risks undermining the economic and social benefits of Ethiopia’s aviation sector, which supports the country’s development. IATA has called on Ethiopia’s government to work with the aviation industry to resolve the situation.
“While our operations and milestones continue to be persistent, we still have challenges repatriating our accumulated funds in various countries. As of today, we have more than $180 million stranded in several countries. Repatriating funds remains a critical challenge for airlines,” said Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Mesfin Tasew.
Ethiopian Airlines registered six billion dollars in revenue in the 2022/23 fiscal year, including a 12-month budget estimate. It is a 20 percent annual increase, reflecting strong growth at Ethiopian.