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BusinessEthiopia, Rwanda sign open skies agreement

Ethiopia, Rwanda sign open skies agreement

Establish team to forge partnership between national carriers

The governments of Ethiopia and Rwanda on February 29, 2016 signed an air service agreement that opens the air spaces of the two countries allowing their national carriers to operate without any restrictions.

The open skies agreement was signed by Gobena Guangul, deputy director general of the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and Silas Udahemuka, director general of the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority, in Kigali, Rwanda.

Gobena told The Reporter that the agreement allows national carriers of the two countries (Ethiopian Airlines and RwandAir) to operate between the two countries without limitations. Gobena said based on the agreement all air service operations will be conducted under the fifth freedom arrangement.

Under fifth freedom arrangement an airline has the right to carry passengers from one country to another and from that country to a third country. The agreement allows for the airlines of the two countries to operate per week with unlimited frequencies for passengers and also cargo. The deal is limited only to the national carriers of the two countries, RwandAir and Ethiopian Airlines.

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Ethiopian Airlines can fly as much frequency as it wants between Addis Ababa and Kigali and it can also carry passengers from Kigali to other destinations. Ethiopian Airlines has daily flights to Kigali.

“The exercise of fifth freedom traffic rights shall be subject to approval of the aeronautical authorities of the third country,” Gobena said. According to Gobena, the agreement avoids double taxation and enable the national carriers to enter into code share agreement.  

Ethiopia and Rwanda are one of the twelve African countries that signed an agreement to fully liberalize their aviation market by 2017 under the Yamoussoukro Declaration-African open skies agreement.  

In a related news, Ethiopian Airlines and RwandAir have established a joint team that works on the new strategic partnerships the two national carriers have agreed to forge.

The management and board of RwandAir last month selected Ethiopian Airlines as its strategic partner. Ethiopian will invest on RwandAir and have a 49 stake on RwandAir, represented in the board and management and provide technical assistance. 

In an email response to The Reporter, the public relations department of RwandAir said that the two organizations have put in place a team to discuss the details of the strategic partnership. Asked how much Ethiopian Airlines will invest on RwandAir and if it will take over the management RwandAir said all these will be ascertained during the negotiations.

Last month a Rwandese delegation led by John Mirenge, CEO of RwandAir, came to Addis Ababa to inform the management of Ethiopian Airlines of its decision to partner with Ethiopian.    

“The teams are working on all the modalities. The high-level meeting in Addis was the opening meeting and only the principle was agreed. The rest of the details are to come out of the negotiations,” RwandAir said.

RwandAir would be the third African airline to partner with Ethiopian following ASKY and Malawi Airlines. And Kigali will be Ethiopian fourth hub after Addis Ababa, Lome and Lilongwe.  As part of the 15 year development road map Vision2025 Ethiopian is implementing a multi hub strategy in Africa.   

Based in Kigali RwandAir is a fast growing airline in East Africa. Rwandair was established in its present form in 2009. It existed before as RwandAir Express which was semi government. With only one wet leased twin otter aircraft Rwandair Express was a small airline.

The Rwandese government started RwandAir in 2009 as the sole proprietor and started investing in the airline buying new fleet, and expanding its route structure. Instead of investing in one go in the airline, the government is giving the company financial support yearly to upgrade its fleet and to expand facilities at its hub in Kigali. RwandAir is serving 16 domestic and international destinations with eight aircraft.

Rwanda is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. As the country is land locked the government is paying due attention to air transport development. Paul Kagame’s administration is lauded for transforming the tourism, air transport and ICT sectors. The government is now trying to make Kigali a regional hub.

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