The AGM of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has been taking place in Miami this week, with a jam-packed schedule covering all manner of issues of importance to airlines, such as safety and, of course, the environment. One of the main advantages of the IATA AGM is that it provides an opportunity for aviation professionals from all over the globe to gather together and discuss current issues and upcoming regulations.

What it also does, though, is provide an ideal opportunity to hear from CEOs of airlines on the fringes of the main meetings. This year, we were able to hear from the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, on the future of aviation in Africa, the role of IATA and the impact aviation has had on the world since IATA was founded 70 years ago.

As you might expect, Mr Gebremariam is very enthusiastic about the role aviation has to play in the development of not only the Ethiopian economy, but that of the continent as a whole. With the infrastructure of other transport modes being in a less developed state than aviation, Mr Gebremariam stresses the vital contribution air travel has made to Ethiopia’s economy and the bright future ahead. With the new airport under development in Addis Ababa moving forward, the potential for economic growth is palpable.

In their ‘vision for 2025’, Ethiopian Airlines see the capital’s cargo hub, which is already the largest in Africa, catching up with the traditional cargo mega-hubs of Amsterdam and Hong Kong in terms of capacity and traffic. This would allow Ethiopia’s expanding export market to really take off. With time-sensitive products like cut flowers and vegetables, which together make up about 15% of the Ethiopian economy, needing to be transported by air the growth of those industries and aviation are inexorably linked. Ethiopian plan to double the capacity of the hub to allow for 1.2 million tonnes of cargo per year and construct a cooled storage space for the perishable goods being exported.     

Of course, tourism is also an area where increased connectivity through aviation can pay great dividends. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism accounted for 4.2% of the Ethiopian economy in 2013 and this is forecast to rise in the coming years. We all hope that Ethiopian Airlines’ vision for 2025 comes to fruition and that the Ethiopian economy will be able to benefit from the increased air connectivity it is working towards.