Real tragedy of Ethiopian Airlines crash

Forensics experts comb through the dirt for debris at the crash site of the Ethiopian Airlines operated Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, at Hama Quntushele village in Oromia region, on March 14, 2019.
Forensics experts comb through the dirt for debris at the crash site of the Ethiopian Airlines operated Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, at Hama Quntushele village in Oromia region, on March 14, 2019.
Image: TONY KARUMBA / AFP

The tragic crash of the Ethiopian Airlines plane last Sunday, killing all 157 passengers on board flight ET302, has highlighted the importance of Ethiopia in Africa's political economy and its place in the world economy.

Rapidly growing at an annual GDP growth rate of between 8% and 10%, with the country forecast to turn into a middle- income nation by 2025, Ethiopia is constantly pushing the envelope as a global economic player.

This locates the award-winning Ethiopian Airlines at a greater risk of consuming high-end, innovative ideas and new products in its strategic bid to hold on to a competitive market.

The diversity of the passenger list on flight ET302 further affirms its strategic ambitions to position Ethiopian Airlines as Africa's premium interconnecting carrier in a cutting edge aviation industry.

Ethiopia's pioneering spirit is not new. Its universal appeal is perhaps found in its historical uprightness, envious economic model and moral righteous location as the spiritual centre of Africa's political economies.

Even greater is its universal symbolism in the pan-African political discourse, religion, arts and culture, and anthropology within the African Union (AU).

Situated on the Nubian belt along the fertile Nile River, Ethiopia gave the world its oldest civilisation, tracing its heritage back to the Ethiopian Empire of Queen Sheba and later Emperor Haile Selassie, with Addis Ababa (new flower) as its capital.

It is perhaps the legacy of Haile Selassie that is associated with Ethiopia for his revolutionary influence in building a pan-Africanist movement for the independence of African countries by hosting the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), forerunner to the AU, and making Addis Ababa the political epicentre of all African liberation wars.

Ethiopia remains the only African nation that was never colonised by Europeans after it fought off the Italians. As a result, it does not use any European language and instead uses its native Amharic language as its official language.

From their ancient orthodox Ethiopian Tewando Church, they follow a unique liturgical 13-month calender that is seven to eight years behind the rest of the world.

It is this symbolic marriage of socio-political and cultural independence that gave rise to the Rastafarian resistance culture and reggae protest music.

Thus, for Ethiopian Airlines to emerge as the continent's premium interconnecting airline between Europe, the Middle East and Africa, is a continuation of Ethiopia's role in the revival of Africa's political economy.

Tragically, in its bid to maintain its global competitive advantage in the aviation space, Ethiopia made a decision to be among the first in the world to fly the Boeing 737 Max 8 jumbo jet.

For a historically important country that survived a devastating famine and brutal imperial assault to emerge and scale modern aviation heights, only to crash within minutes of taking off in Addis Ababa, is dreadfully painful.

- Sebelelebele is a Sunday World reader

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