Ethiopian Airlines received Africa's first Boeing 787 Dreamliner on Friday, making Ethiopia the only country aside from Japan to operate the innovative aircraft.
"As a continent this shows how much we are making progress as Africans... competing on the global stage and changing our image," Ethiopian Airline CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told reporters at Addis Ababa's Bole International Airport.
The plane arrived from Dulles airport in Washington, DC, home to the largest Ethiopian diaspora population globally.
State-owned Ethiopian Airlines -- Africa's fastest growing carrier -- has purchased ten 787 Dreamliners from Boeing. Each has an official list price of some $207 million, although airlines rarely pay such figures, especially for bulk orders.
It is expected to operate the aircraft on routes throughout Africa and Europe, including Accra, Lagos, Rome and London.
Tewolde said the delivery of the Dreamliner, dubbed "Africa First," is an achievement for all of the continent.
The aircraft is constructed with lightweight carbon, as opposed to heavy aluminium found on other planes, consuming 20 percent less fuel.
Transport Minister Deriba Kuma said the delivery of the 787 was especially notable given the financially strained climate.
"This achievement of Ethiopian Airlines is all the more remarkable given the very bad global context for the airline industry," he said.
Despite the fanfare at the landing ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the country expects greater achievements from the airline in the future.
"My people and my government are expecting to see Ethiopian Airlines as one of the best airlines in the world, not only in Africa," said Hailemariam, who is also Foreign Minister.
Ethiopian Airlines was established in 1945 and now operates to 86 cities throughout Africa, Europe, Asia and North America.
In 2011 Ethiopia had a GDP per capita of $374, according to the World Bank, but has showed strong economic growth of 11%, according to the government, and 7% according to the International Monetary Fund.
Only Japan Airlines and ANA (All Nippon Airways) operate the Dreamliner so far.
Â© 2012 AFP
Date: Aug 17, 2012