Since the dawn of civilization and up to the late 1960s, Ethiopia has played prominent even leading roles in the world history and loomed even larger on the African stage. Contemporary African history attests to the numerous and often pivotal actions by the then Empire of Ethiopia. Personified by the late Emperior Haile Sellasse, Ethiopia spearheaded a multi-pronged foreign policy the centerpiece of which was the total decolonization of Africa, an eventual African unity and greater African participation and voice in the world affairs.
These arenas were realized successfully with many millstones recorded. Ethiopian peacekeeping and enforcement helped to restore South Korean independence; Congolese stability during the Katanga crises and mediation on numerous inter-African conflicts of the period earned the nation praise and admiration. For the Organization of African Unity formed in 1963, it was only natural that the OAU based itself in Addis Ababa.
And all through the late 50s and early 60s, as nation after nation shook colonial shackles, Ethiopia had unstintingly provided diplomatic, political, material, financial, education and other support to liberalization movements throughout the continent. The nation was also a beacon of hope and a model of economic and technological success.
Ethiopia’s notable prominence on the African political arena, though not as pervasive as it was during the years of Empire, nevertheless is still to be found as the nation involves itself in the African ramifications of a Post-Cold War world “order”.
However, Ethiopia’s leading role in the Africa politics, continued to this day, did not carry along the nation’s once defining role as the continent’s most eager modernizing country.
Ethiopia boasts many firsts and near firsts. 1908 Africa’s first newspaper; 1903-15 Africa’s first railroad reaches Addis Ababa; 1890 Africa’s first telephone system;…
Education, industry and communications were fields in which Ethiopia not only once excelled in but actually led the introduction in Africa.
Forty years on Ethiopian industry is nothing to write home about and as for educational standards, the Ethiopian school system can no longer boast that claim.
Communication is not in much better shape unless air transport is sited, a sector that has withstood the ravages of recent Ethiopian history to stand as the undisputed champion of Africa’s skies.
It is this phenomenon of Ethiopian civil aviation success that provides kernel of our discussion – What is the nation doing right in the sky that is doing so wrongly on the ground?
Contemporary Ethiopia reflects this regression in what a nation which was once a beacon of progress in Africa. However, it is only fair we give due credit to the current powers that be for shaking up the nation’s systems so that there is a measure of verifiable movement toward multi-faceted progress.
Conspicuous in this tale of woe has been the nation’s aviation sector, which remains gloriously oblivious, unaffected, leaping from one millstone to the next. The proud flag carrier should serve as living lesson to our other institutions, setting the perfect example of what heights can be reached in all of our endeavors.
The national carrier well established by 1946, was supported largely by expatriate staff. It was the company’s ambition to replace the foreigners with locals as rapidly as possible. The policy known as “Ethiopianization”, quickly bore fruit and by the late 1960’s EAL was 100 percent Ethiopian.
But this could not be the reason for the airline’s success. However, another goal – to maintain and even exceed the standards demanded by international aviation treaties kept the company on its toes. It is this strict adherence to quality that has built EAL’s reputation. This is the very element that is lacking among our other institutions. The laisse-faire attitude seems to be resigned to an “Abesha” scale of standards.
So much so, in fact, that were an admiring passenger on one our planes to note the inferior state of many of Ethiopia’s services and industry, he or she would be wondering whether this is really an Ethiopian aircraft.
So first world in the air and a poor third world on the ground. How long will this goon?
We` appeal to each And every executive, manager staff and employee of every utility, service, factory and other establishments – take a few pages from Ethiopian Airlines. Please, let not the airline’s standards be an anomaly but rather, the norm in Ethiopia.
Only then can be the entire nation really fly high and you know what? The sky is not the limit … it’s only our collective ambition that matters.