Thanks to an announcement by Ethiopian Airlines, Africa stands poised to strengthen its already significant business and social connections to Houston. The airline, which is the largest in Africa and a SKYTRAX certified 4-Star global airline, recently announced that it is restructuring its U.S. network to increase the number of flights from several U.S. gateways while adding Houston as a gateway. Serviced by the Boeing 787, the new non-stop flights from Houston to West Africa are intended to “facilitate the travel of the huge African community in the Houston area, and oil and other companies doing business in the continent” according the Ethiopian Airlines press release. Ethiopian Airlines has been a member of the Star Alliance since 2011.
For Rob Scharar, president and head portfolio manager of Houston-based Commonwealth Funds, the move by Ethiopian Airlines paves the way for greater opportunities. As manager of the Africa Fund (which is a part of the Commonwealth International Series Trust US Mutual Fund Group), Scharar has traveled extensively in Africa. “I view the increasing amount of access to Africa directly from the U.S. as another sign of the maturing business climate on the African continent,” Scharar noted. “Ethiopia has been leading the way for other African nations as it explores opening its financial markets to foreign investors. The country recently announced plans to open a stock market by 2020, which will be hugely beneficial in growing its economy and attracting foreign investment. Ethiopian’s new non-stop service from Houston to the African continent, which helps travelers lessen the travel time and avoid having to connect in Europe or other U.S. cities, can be a game changer.”
This is an exciting time for Africa, as Ethiopia, one of Africa’s biggest economies (and the second fastest growing economy in 2017) continues to develop. On a recent trip to Addis Ababa, Scharar saw firsthand the effects of the more open economy in the form of major infrastructure projects such as hotels, office buildings, elevated commuter rail, and airport expansion. And its progress shows no signs of slowing. As Tewolde GebreMariam, Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, noted: “We will keep on expanding our U.S. and African network so as to facilitate people-to-people ties and the flow of investment, trade and tourism.”