– Girma Wake hands over his post to Tewolde
By Kaleyesus Bkele
As Seyoum Mesfin, former Foreign Minister and board chairman of the Ethiopian Airlines, was appointed Ambassador to China and would be leaving for the south-east Asian country soon, Addisu Legesse, the former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and Deputy Prime Minister, was appointed as the new chairman of the board of directors of Ethiopian Airlines.
To the surprise of many, at a farewell dinner party organized for the outgoing CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Girma Wake, at the Addis Ababa Hilton Hotel on Thursday, it was announced that Addisu would the new chairman of the board of Ethiopian, one of the fast growing airline in Africa.
Nine other new board members were appointed. Sinkenesk Ejigu, Minister of Mines, is among the new board members. There were seven members in the former board – Seyoum, Getachew Mengiste, Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport, Addisalem Balema (PhD), director of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange Authority, Hashim Toffik (PhD), Simret Medaneh (Col.), the first CEO of the airline, Mohammed Ahmed (Capt.), the renowned Ethiopian CEO (known for challenging the Derg officials in defense of the independence of the management of the airline) and Gebremedin Gebrehiwot. Addisu handed over medals and certificates to the outgoing board members. Seyoum served as board chairman of Ethiopian for 10 years taking over from the then Minister of Defense, Seyee Abreha.
“I and the new board members understand that this is a crucial moment for Ethiopian,” Addisu told the new management led by Tewolde and employees of the airline who came to see off Girma, the buoyant CEO. “And I assure you that we will provide you with the required support,” he added.
Seyoum, who repeatedly thanked Girma and the management of Ethiopian as a whole, said that Ethiopian will have a long stretch to achieve. However, he expressed his strong belief that the airline will be more successful. “Ethiopian will be a shining star,” Seyoum said.
Tewolde is also optimistic about the future of the airline. However, he mentioned several challenges that may affect the growth plan of the airline. External shock, global economic crisis, fuel price hike, stiff competition from the Gulf carriers, the brain drain, stringent environmental regulations and protection of skies are some of the challenges which Tewolde listed.
Tewolde seems scared of the competition coming from the mega Middle Eastern carrires that are flexing their muscles in Africa in recent years. Gulf carriers such as the Emirates and Qatar are opening more routes in Africa and increasing their flight frequencies. “They are subsidized by their petro dollar resources,” Tewolde said. However, these airlines, which Tewolde did not mention by name, refute the allegations by saying that they are not subsidiesed by their government.
The outgoing CEO, Girma Wake, expressed his confidence in Tewolde and his new management team with an average age of 40. At the ceremony, Tewolde amused attendees by saying that the current management has a combined experience of 421 years of airline management.