Ethiopian Airlines is starting an MBA program for young Africans

Ethiopian Airlines cabin crew members wait to get onboard the plane before takeoff at Bole international airport in the capital Addis Ababa, November 18, 2015. Ethiopia Airlines on Thursday, dispatched its first ever all-female operated flight. Every aspect of the journey was handled by women, from the ground crew, aircraft maintenance to traffic controllers.

Ethiopian Airlines is collaborating with the European Union to establish a graduate business program in the hopes of improving applicants’ understanding of business environments, management, and industrialization.

The program will be hosted under the airline’s Aviation Academy, a six-decade-old training center that currently provides instruction in pilot and cabin crew training, maintenance services, and leadership courses. Ethiopian’s chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam said they will target students from Ethiopia and other African countries in the hope of shaping “as many young African minds as possible, adding value to their academic and professional lives.”

The deal is a boost for the Horn of Africa nation, where a slew of political and economic reforms in recent months are attracting both donors and investors to come back. In a major policy shift in June, the government also loosened its monopoly on several key economic sectors, including aviation and telecoms, and said it will allow for “outright full privatization” in sectors including railway, sugar, and hospitality.

The MBA program will also bolster the pan-African strategy of Ethiopian Airlines, which recently overtook Dubai as the biggest feeder of air traffic to Africa. The state-owned carrier doesn’t just want to dominate the continent’s skies but is also looking to boost Africa’s fragmented airspace through increased connectivity, setting up visa hubs that would allow more tourists to travel across Africa, as well as launching or reviving new sovereign African airlines. Right after announcing the MBA program, the airline signed an agreement with the government of Ghana to establish its new home-based carrier.

Yet more than anything, the idea of a graduate school in Ethiopia signifies the growing interest to establish more world-class business programs on the continent. American schools from Stanford to Carnegie Mellon have all launched programs aimed at training entrepreneurs and the continent’s next business leaders. Yet some have argued that there’s a need to develop programs in the continent that respond to local experiences while inculcating innovative and global thinking.

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