First commercial flight in 20 years leaves Ethiopia for Eritrea

(AFP)
Updated 18 July 2018
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First commercial flight in 20 years leaves Ethiopia for Eritrea

  • Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa’s fastest-growing carriers, has said it would initially operate a once-a-day return flight between Addis Ababa and Asmara
  • Eritrea was once part of Ethiopia and comprised its entire coastline on the Red Sea until it voted for independence in 1993 after decades of bloody conflict

ADDIS ABABA: The first commercial flight to Eritrea in two decades departed Wednesday from Addis Ababa after the two nations ended their bitter conflict in a whirlwind peace process.
Ethiopian Airlines said that flight ET0312 to Asmara had departed Bole International Airport, the latest concrete sign of a thaw between the neighboring countries which began only six weeks ago.
“This day marks a unique event in the history of Ethiopia and Eritrea,” the airline’s chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam said at a ceremony inaugurating the historic flight.
Overwhelming demand saw the African aviation giant operate two flights within 15 minutes of each other.
“The fact that we are taking two flights at a time shows the eagerness of the people,” said Tewolde.
An AFP journalist onboard the second flight said champagne was served to passengers in all classes, who toasted each other shortly before take-off.
Smiling flight attendants also handed out roses to the passengers.
Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa’s fastest-growing carriers, has said it would initially operate a once-a-day return flight between Addis Ababa and Asmara.
“With the demand we are witnessing, I think we’re going to increase the frequency to twice a day, thrice a day and even more,” said Tewolde.
He said the opening of the Eritrean airspace to Ethiopian Airlines would also mean more efficient routes to the Middle East.
Among the passengers on the first flight was former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, whose shock resignation in February was the first step in a series of shake ups in Ethiopian politics and the Horn of Africa at large.
“I knew one day it would happen,” Hailemariam said of the peace with Eritrea.
Hailemariam was succeeded in April by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a 42-year-old former army officer and cabinet minister described by analysts as a “man in an extreme hurry.”
After announcing the liberalization of parts of the Ethiopian economy and releasing jailed dissidents, Abiy last month declared his intention to make peace with Eritrea after two decades of frozen relations.
Eritrea was once part of Ethiopia and comprised its entire coastline on the Red Sea until it voted for independence in 1993 after decades of bloody conflict.
A row over the demarcation of the shared border triggered a brutal 1998-2000 conflict which left 80,000 people dead before evolving into a bitter cold war.
Abiy stunned observers with his announcement he would finally accept a 2002 United Nations-backed border demarcation. However he has yet to announce a pull out of troops.
He then paid a historic visit to Eritrea, during which he and President Isaias Afwerki declared an official end to the war. Afwerki reciprocated with a state visit to Ethiopia just days later.
The emotion-filled reunion has been welcomed by Ethiopians, who share strong cultural ties with Eritreans, and many of whom were completely cut off from family during the long years of enmity.
On Monday Afwerki re-opened Eritrea’s embassy in Addis Ababa.
The rapprochement is expected to provide an economic boost to both nations, offering booming Ethiopia — which currently channels its trade through Djiboutian ports — access to Eritrean shores.
Meanwhile Amnesty International has said the newfound peace should be a catalyst for change in Eritrea, one of the world’s most isolated nations.
Since the end of the war, Isaias has used the threat of Ethiopian aggression to justify a rash of repressive policies, including an indefinite national service program the UN has likened to slavery.


Moody’s upgrades Egypt’s rating to B2, expects more economic growth

Updated 18 April 2019
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Moody’s upgrades Egypt’s rating to B2, expects more economic growth

  • Moody’s believes Egypt’s large domestic funding base would support its resilience to refinancing shocks
  • The ratings agency expects energy price hikes as part of Egypt’s fuel subsidy reform

CAIRO: Rating agency Moody’s has upgraded Egypt’s sovereign rating, saying ongoing economic reforms will help improve its fiscal position and boost economic growth.
Moody’s upgraded the long-term foreign and local currency issuer ratings of Egypt to B2 from B3. The outlook was changed to stable from positive.
The decision was based on “Moody’s expectation that ongoing fiscal and economic reforms will support a gradual but steady improvement in Egypt’s fiscal metrics and raise real GDP growth,” the agency said in a statement late on Wednesday.
Moody’s also said it believed Egypt’s large domestic funding base would support its resilience to refinancing shocks despite the government’s very high borrowing needs and interest costs.
Moody’s said it expected a steady improvement of Egypt’s fiscal position, “albeit from very weak levels.”
Maintained primary budget surpluses combined with strong nominal GDP growth would help reduce the general government debt/GDP ratio to below 80 percent by the 2021 fiscal year from 92.6 percent in the 2018 fiscal year, it said.
Egypt’s fiscal year runs from July to June.
Moody’s also said it expected energy price hikes as part of Egypt’s fuel subsidy reform, which it believed would be completed in the 2019 fiscal year. This, along with the fiscal reforms implemented in the last few years, would allow the government to maintain the primary budget balance in surplus in the next few years, Moody’s said.
The upgraded rating was expected, but still good news for Egypt, said Allen Sandeep, head of research at Naeem Brokerage.
“It should help its case for new international bond issuances as we move forward,” he said.
Egypt is pushing ahead with tough economic reforms as part of a three-year $12 billion IMF loan deal signed in 2016.
The reforms, aimed at attracting investors who fled during the 2011 uprising, have included new taxes, deep cuts to energy subsidies and a currency devaluation. The reforms have helped the economy recover, but have also put the budgets of tens of millions of Egyptians under strain.