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Ethiopia requests US to reopen EXIM Bank
Workneh Gebeyehu (PhD), Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tewolde Gebremariam, Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO, welcoming US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson

Ethiopia requests US to reopen EXIM Bank

The Ethiopian government on Wednesday requested the US government to reopen the US EXIM Bank that provides export finance to American businesses.

The Government of Ethiopia made the request during the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson’s visit to Addis Ababa this week. EXIM Bank’s activities — a major bank that strongly supports American companies— have been terminated.

Ethiopian Airlines has been a reliable customer of EXIM Bank and Boeing for decades. EXIM Bank used to give loan guarantees to Ethiopian Airlines aircraft purchases from the US flagship company, Boeing. Ethiopian also buys aircraft engines from General Electric (GE), the giant American aircraft engine manufacturer. Most of Ethiopian B787 Dreamliner jetliners are powered by GE engines. Following the closure of the Bank the Airlines aircraft order plan has been affected.   

The US and Ethiopian governments have agreed to further strengthen their cooperation in the field of aviation. During the visit to Addis Ababa this week, Tillerson was scheduled to visit the headquarters of Ethiopian Airlines on Wednesday. Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group, had planned to use the opportunity to raise the EXIM Bank issue.  

However, Tillerson could not visit Ethiopian facilities as planned due to his late arrival and tight schedule. He was received by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Workneh Gebeyehu (PhD), Tewolde Gebremariam, and other dignitaries at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport.    

Meles Alem, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, told The Reporter that the US and Ethiopian governments have agreed to further strengthen cooperation in the field of aviation. According to Meles, during his meeting with Workneh, Tillerson mentioned that the US values the existing strong cooperation between Ethiopian Airlines and Boeing. Workneh explained to him that Ethiopia appreciates America’s involvement in the establishment of Ethiopian Airlines.

The defunct American airline, Trans World Airline (TWA), had a management contract agreement with the imperial regime to establish Ethiopian Airlines in the 40s. Executives of TWA established Ethiopian Airlines and managed the national flag carrier until Ethiopian nationals took full control of the airline in the 1970s.

Workneh requested Tillerson’s support in re-opening the Bank. A statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that EXIM Bank was an important financial enabler for growth of African Airlines like Ethiopian Airlines. “Our ability to purchase airplanes and engines from the US has been severely hampered by the unfortunate closure of the EXIM Bank,” the Ministry said.   

Boeing is the major supplier of Ethiopian Airlines but GE, UT, Rockwell Collins, BE Aerospace and Honeywell are also large suppliers of aircraft engines, avionics components, aircraft seats and inflight products.

Ethiopian Airlines has been a dedicated Boeing customer for the last 72 years until it acquired dozens of Airbus and Bombardier aircraft in recent years. Out of its current fleet of 96 airplanes, 69 are Boeing jet aircraft (24 B737, 21 B787, 16 B777, 6 B767 and 2 B757F) purchased at a list price of USD 9 billion. Ethiopian also has 44 Boeing airplanes on order to be delivered in the next five years at a total value of six billion. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopian Airlines import of planes, engines and components worth USD 21 billion has generated 115, 000 jobs in the US.