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Now Ethiopia is set to cut it as a part player

Posted 19 March 2019 · Add Comment

Morocco, Tunisia and South Africa already have successful aerospace manufacturing industries. Now Ethiopia is about to establish its own aerospace cluster in east Africa. Kaleyesus Bekele reports.

According to a White Paper on the African aerospace industry, launched by Airbus recently, the global aerospace industry is valued at $838 billion.
Three African countries – South Africa, Tunisia and Morocco – are among the 45 largest aerospace manufacturing nations in the world as measured by the value of components produced largely for export.
The rise of Tunisia and Morocco in the past two decades has been powered largely by their proximity to key European aerospace powers.
Airbus’ paper outlines that the key benefit of the aerospace industry in Africa is the number of highly skilled jobs it creates – both directly and indirectly.
South Africa’s aerospace sector directly employs around 15,000 highly skilled engineers and is estimated to support at least 60,000 further skilled jobs in the economy.
In Tunisia, aerospace manufacturing directly employs more than 9,000 people, while Morocco’s aerospace manufacturing cluster, which consists of more than 110 companies, directly employs around 11,500 people.
South Africa and Morocco are ranked 33rd and 36th respectively in terms of the total size of their aerospace industry. Morocco has more than 100 aerospace facilities dedicated to aero structures components and wire harnesses. In Tunisia there are around 70 export oriented aerospace companies that employ about 13000 people.
Morocco’s push for international investment in its aerospace sector may serve as a template for emerging nations seeking to develop an aerospace industry.
The country has seen a rapid growth of its aeronautical sector. Official figures through 2016 said the industry had seen export sales grow tenfold to $1 billion. Revenue has risen 17% per year, on average, since 2009.
The size of aerospace manufacturing sectors in South Africa is valued at $1.8 billion, Morocco $1.1 billion and Tunisia $0.43 billion.
Inspired by the success stories of the three African nations, Ethiopia is planning to develop its own aerospace manufacturing industry. Its national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, is working on a plan to nurture an aerospace cluster in collaboration with global aircraft and engine manufactures.
Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam, said that, pursuant to the Ethiopian Government’s industrialisation policy embedded in the country’s growth and transformation plan, his organisation is working in partnership with aircraft manufacturers and other aerospace suppliers to establish and develop a labour-intensive manufacturing industry with a wide portfolio of products.
Ethiopian MRO has long years of experience in maintaining aircraft and engines. “Using that experience, we want to establish an aerospace industry in Ethiopia that designs and manufactures various aircraft parts,” he said.
Ethiopian has been operating a small wire harness kit manufacturing facility at its main hub in Addis Ababa. Opened in 2009, it supplies seat-to-seat wire harnesses for all Boeing commercial aircraft programmes. The airline is now planning big to incorporate a full-fledged aerospace manufacturing plant in Addis Ababa.
According to Gebremariam, Ethiopian is in talks with Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and others, to jointly incorporate an aerospace manufacturing company in Ethiopia. “We are holding discussions with these global aviation giants on the possibility that we can incorporate the company together. We not only want to manufacture and supply the products but we also want them to have a stake in the planned project,” he said.
Mesfin Tasew, Ethiopian Airlines chief operating officer, noted that, in line with the Ethiopian Government’s industrialisation strategy, the airline is planning to develop the aerospace manufacturing industry that would employ young university graduates. Tasew said Ethiopian would establish the aerospace manufacturing industry as a new business unit in partnership with aircraft and engine manufacturers.
“It is at an embryonic stage now. But we are in discussion with several manufactures including Boeing, Airbus, Honeywell, and Bombardier. Today we have small wire kit manufacturing facility. It is an aerospace manufacturing facility, though it is at micro level.”
According to Tasew, Ethiopian has agreed with Airbus to start manufacturing certain aircraft parts. “It is under discussion,” he said.
Ethiopian is also in the process of manufacturing an aircraft heat shield blanket that is installed at the aircraft fuselage exterior and the cabin. It is used to maintain the cabin temperature. “We are going to start manufacturing the blanket here in Ethiopia in partnership with Boeing.”
Ethiopian and Airbus have agreed to manufacture certain aircraft parts in Ethiopia. Ethiopian is also planning to manufacture some aircraft parts like sheet metals, machine parts and wire kit for Bombardier, the Canadian aircraft manufacturer. “We are planning to do this in partnership with Fokker, a company that supports Bombardier,” Tasew said.
Ethiopian has signed a memorandum of understating with South African aerospace engineering company, Aerosaud, to cooperate in manufacturing aircraft parts in Ethiopia. “Aerosaud is not a manufacturer but it is an engineering company that brings in technology to assist us. The original equipment manufacturers do not only support us to develop the capability but also buy our products,” Tasew said. “The aerospace manufacturing industry requires special care, design and quality control. And we are going to do the job in partnership with aircraft manufacturers,” he added.
The manufacturing facility will be approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and be certified by aircraft manufacturers.
The Ethiopian aerospace manufacturing industry will recruit young university and technical school graduates.
There is currently no aeronautical engineering department in any of the universities in the country but Ethiopian hopes to work with the Addis Ababa University Faculty of Science and Technology and other universities and technical schools. “We will hire young engineers and train them in our aviation academy,” Tasew said.
Ethiopian recently signed a partnership business agreement with ACM Aerospace of Germany that would enable it to set up a facility in Ethiopia to manufacture and supply aircraft seat covers, safety belts, carpets and many other interior parts to ACM.
According to the agreement, the facility will have the EASA part 21G certified production facility (POA) certification, which is a core requirement to be met in the industry.
Gebremariam said the partnership agreement is a big milestone in realising Ethiopia’s plan to set up an aerospace manufacturing industry. “The project will surely create significant job opportunities for the young, educated taskforce and will support and synergize with the textile and leather manufacturing industries being developed in the country.”
ACM Aerospace specialises in aircraft seats and other interior parts. Seat covers, carpets and other cabin interior parts are manufactured from special fabric and leather materials that are certified and meet the strictest requirements set by aviation regulators. Accordingly, the facility will, in the beginning, import such raw materials.
However, it will shortly have the capability to certify the leather and fabrics that are produced in Ethiopia and use them in the production process, thereby supporting the textile and leather manufacturing industries of the country.
According to Ethiopian, the facility will generate a considerable amount of foreign exchange and create job opportunities for more than 100 people.
Arash Noshari, managing director of ACM aerospace, said his company was looking forward to setting up a very strong partnership with the Ethiopian Airlines Group; one that could grow together with aircraft interior products made in Ethiopia. “I am very proud to cooperate on a high-quality level with the largest carrier in Africa and I’m pretty sure that this is a great step into the future,” Noshari said.
The aerospace manufacturing company would be a subsidiary company of the Ethiopian Aviation Group, which now has eight profit centres.
The group will transform into a holding company comprising nine subsidiary companies including aerospace manufacturing, Ethiopian International Airlines, Ethiopian Express (regional airline), cargo and logistics, catering, MRO, aviation academy, Ethiopian Airports, ground-handling, and hotel and tour.
“We have seen that the opportunity is there,” Tasew said. “We want to do the same as what Morocco Tunisia and South Africa are doing.”

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