June 12, 2012
Nola Kianza makes a business trip to Ethiopia every other month, spending up to 48 gruelling hours in-transit each time.
But starting July 17, the Toronto investor will cut his trip to 14 hours as a new Ethiopian Airlines route is set to make Africa just a flight away from Toronto.
The first regular, non-stop flight between Toronto and Addis Ababa boosts trade ties between Canada and Ethiopia, one of Africa’s largest markets with a population of over 80 million.
“My first reaction when I got to there was how come we didn’t know about this country?” said Kianza, who is a co-founder of the Canadian Council on Africa.
Had he known about business prospects in Ethiopia, Kianza said he could have started his gold mining exploration project sooner.
Trading opportunities exist in several sectors in Ethiopia, said Kianza, including mining, aircraft and information technology. But distance and lack of information have stalled Canadian investors from exploring the market, he said.
“At least [the direct flight] removes the stigma that Africa is so far away, on another planet.”
Trade between Canada and Ethiopia hit its highest point in the last decade at $190 million in 2010.
In the same year, Canada minted the Ethiopian one-birr coin after the Royal Canadian Mint won a contract with the National Bank of Ethiopia.
While Canadian mining in Ethiopia is on the rise, aircraft trade also been growing, with Ethiopian Airlines recently ordering five large Bombardier aircrafts at a cost of $160 million.
Though tech trade is rising, agricultural products such as spices and coffee make up the majority of imports from Ethiopia.
For Toronto’s Ethiopian spice merchants like Stephanos Yeshanew, the new flight will mean fresher products on the shelf.
Yeshanew’s family mini mart on Ossington Ave. sells Ethiopian coffee, cardamom seeds and berbere, chili pepper powder already mixed with spice.
He’s considering making a trip to Addis Ababa before a $1,000 round-trip deal expires in August to start bringing in smaller items like a roasted barley snack known as kolo.
Regular flight prices will range from $1,600 to $2,000, about the same cost as the indirect flights available now.
Tsegereda Assgedom has been the distributor of Ethiopian products to local stores for the last 10 years.
After hearing about the direct flight, she is considering bringing new items.
“There are many more things Ethiopia can offer Canada,” said Assgedom, who mentioned importing flowers and freshly baked injera, the teff-based gluten-free flat bread that is gaining popularity among health conscious Canadians.
Assegedom said processing short shelf life items would cost a lot less in Ethiopia, and with shorter traveling time, the products can be in the Canadian market the next day.
Other business owners would likely use the flight to tap into the East African market, according to Lucien Bradet, a trade expert at the Canadian Council for Africa.
“Canadian investors like to go where it’s easy to go,” he said. “They want to save time and money.”
With the African Union headquarters now based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is fast becoming “Africa’s Brussels,” said Bradet, who added that a good diplomatic base is an asset for foreign investment.
Ethiopian Airlines will kick off the new route with two departures from Toronto per week but plans to increase flights soon.
Air Maroc has frequent direct flights to Casablanca from Montreal, while South African and Tunisian Airlines also fly to the continent occasionally.
Source: The Star.com