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Ethiopia Expands Aircraft Parts Manufacturing To Tap Into A Multibillion Dollar Market

State-owned Ethiopian Airlines is to start the large-scale manufacture of aircraft parts to tap into a multi-billion dollar market driven by changing aircraft technology and a rise in commercial air travel.

By Conrad Onyango, bird story agency

In a joint venture with Boeing the biggest carrier in Africa will initially invest US$15 million to build a facility in the country’s Kilinto Industrial Park to produce the parts, the government’s investment agency recently announced.

“The airline in collaboration with the international aircraft manufacturer, Boeing will produce various aircraft parts such as aircraft thermo-acoustic insulation blankets, electrical wire harnesses and others,” said the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) in a statement.

According to the investment agency, the project, which is seen creating 300 local jobs, forms part of an Ethiopian Airlines manufacturing plan that started in 2009.

Between 2009 and now, the carrier has been  producing seat-to-seat wire harnesses for all Boeing commercial aircrafts.

In September 2022, Ethiopian Airlines partnered with Geven-SkyTecno to inaugurate a facility for the manufacturing for export of Insulation Blankets for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes.

The state-owned carrier has targeted 2025 as the year by which it will have restructured its maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) division into a strategic business unit with expanded capabilities, signifying its intention to play a big role in the aircraft parts business.

US-based Research and Consulting firm, Polaris, projects in its Global Aerospace Parts Manufacturing Market 2023 that this global market will grow in value from US$ 888 billion in 2022 to US$1.4 trillion in 2032.

A growing demand for commercial air travel, increasing defence expenditure and the rising adoption of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) and space exploration missions have been listed by the research firm as key growth drivers in the market.

“The aerospace parts manufacturing is anticipated to experience growth due to the increasing demand for lighter, more innovative, and fuel-efficient airplanes, driven by the need to reduce carbon emissions,” according to Polaris.

In Africa, the market is being driven by local airlines‚Äô quest to expand or replace their old fleets as they fully  resume routes closed during the pandemic or open new ones to bolster their bottom lines.

Ethiopian Airlines tops the list of African carriers that have announced fleet expansions in 2023.

Operating the youngest and most technologically advanced fleet in Africa, the carrier is looking to increase its fleet size from 140 aircraft to 271 by 2032, with a mix of  narrow-body and wide-body planes. It has its eyes firmly fixed on Boeing‚Äôs bigger aircraft.

The airline in June reported it had slightly surpassed 2019 passenger numbers, to reach 13 million. It also announced plans for Australia flights and to expand America and Europe routes.

In March RwandAir expanded its fleet with its third long-haul aircraft from Airbus, allowing it to increase flights to Europe, Middle East and Africa. routes.

In May, South African Airways said it had received the green-light from government to expand its fleet by six and relaunch international routes as well as expand seat capacity for regional and domestic routes. The carrier has been in business rescue after all but collapsing during the pandemic.

The aircraft will be delivered before the end of this calendar year, and the planes include a wide-body aircraft as well as five narrow-body aircraft – all of them Airbus equipment, said South African Airways Interim Chief Executive Officer, John Lamola, in a statement.

Some airlines African airlines have reported facing spare parts shortages due to global  supply chain disruptions.

In January, Kenya Airways notified passengers of impending flight disruptions occasioned by challenges in acquiring aircraft spares, citing supply chain problems linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Being able to access aircraft components closer to home, would be a huge boon to African airlines.

Ethiopian Airlines already has active deals with players within the continent that, together with a yet-to-be-implemented continental free trade deal, are likely help its new venture. That includes a 2016 partnership with South African aircraft engineering firm, the Aeroaud Group.
Other aircraft manufacturing countries in Africa include South Africa, Tunisia and Morocco. The three are among the world’s 45 largest aerospace manufacturing nations, based on the value of components manufactured especially for the export market.

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