With various sectors in Nigeria facing brain drain as a result of the ‘Japa’ wave, Esayas WoldeMariam Hailu says when it comes to aviation, Africa does not have the trained aviation expertise to drain. In this interview, Hailu hints that Africa needs to train a lot of aviation experts to boost aviation in Africa. He also takes us through his journey in the aviation sector.
How do you describe the Nigerian aviation environment in your own view as an observer?
It is a very big aviation market by the share, by the mobility, the people are travellers in Nigeria. In Nigeria, it is good to have well-functioning domestic and international Nigerian companies. But the aviation ecosystem in Nigeria, the way I look at it, is a little bit formidable and difficult for the Nigerian authorities. So, my advice and my appeal to the Nigerian lawmakers is that they need to enable the operators in Nigeria to be able to thrive. The market is so big for the international and domestic operators. There is no shortage of market but the government should enable the Nigerian operators by way of good regulation that would create the enabling environment, by way of making them thrive. Making the law, so that they can help them develop the aviation infrastructure, making the law to be very conducive for the local operators so that they can grow up to the task and cover the region and the continent. So this is my appeal. Otherwise, there are a lot of people who are really interested in making aviation work in Nigeria. And also the market is so in demand and saturated and there are a lot of operators in the sector. So my appeal to the Nigerian government is to enable them and push them to grow. That is my simple advice. Of course, the whole aviation ecosystem needs to be built to be an enabling environment for aviation.
What is your high point as CEO of Asky?
Well, the singular high point I have in mind is that Africa needs aviation proficiency. People talk about brain drain from Africa to the developed world, but when it comes to aviation, Africa does not have the trained aviation expertise to drain. So, Africa needs to train a lot of aviation experts. This is a highly skilled intensive industry which requires license, modulated license and other things. So, the high point is that Asky should be bent on developing aviation in the region by way of training aviation professionals. This needs to be done in every country in Africa to train aviation professionals. The more aviation professionals we have, we can help aviation to grow in the continent.
You were formerly a manager for Ethiopian Airlines in Nigeria. You went back and rose all the way to M.D. International Services for Ethiopian Airlines. How do we describe your aviation experience?
Aviation is a very interesting industry. As far as I am concerned, right from a young age, graduating from the university 33 years ago, I joined European Airlines. And my career has been in Ethiopian Airlines, working in different places, both at home base and overseas. My 33 years of aviation experience have made me really specialise in one industry. So, this is quite a rewarding experience to see African aviation grow from the humble beginning to where it is now and African airline operators coming to the global arena. Look at Ethiopian Airlines. So it is a fulfilling experience. It’s a rewarding experience that I had in aviation.
What is your vision for Asky?
Asky has a very big potential as a pan-African airline. It is already connecting many African places, but it wants to widen and deepen in Africa and to link Africa to the rest of the world, especially to Europe and across the Atlantic, to Latin America and North America as well, and also diversifying to the Middle East and even to Asia. So Asky has a promising potential to do all this. So the vision for Asky is to grow from an airline into a complete aviator, having its own maintenance facilities, training facilities, and all other things in the aviation value chain. So, Asky needs to diversify into being a complete aviator. That is my vision for Asky.
Do you see Asky overtaking Ethiopian Airlines as the biggest airline in Africa?
Well, Ethiopian Airlines has been a mentor. Ethiopian has set out with a vision to help African airlines come up to the task, up to the role, so that the majority of Africa’s traffic is being uplifted by non-African airlines, to belong to the African airlines. Ethiopian Airlines is a big mentor. So, if Asky overtakes Ethiopian Airlines, it will be a big CV for Ethiopian Airlines as a good mentor to have brought African Airlines up to that level. So whatever time is going to be, time will tell us. So we just have to wait and see what time is going to reveal.
In one sentence, how do you describe the future of Asky?
Well, Asky as a Pan-African airline is a jewel in African aviation. It has a very, very big potential, so we are very much sure that Asky is definitely going to dominate the African skies to carpet the whole continent with its wings. So that is how I would describe the future of Asky.