ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Ethiopian Airlines executives have demanded US$18 million stuck in Zimbabwe during a meeting with President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa met Ethiopian Airlines CEO Ethiopian Airlines Group Chief Executive Officer Tewolde Gebremarian last Saturday, hoping to secure a partnership deal for the struggling Air Zimbabwe.
Ethiopian Airlines committed to exploring the possibility of helping Zimbabwe become a maintenance hub for airlines, as well as a codeshare agreement with Air Zimbabwe.
But top on the agenda for the Ethiopians was operating cash they are failing to access from Zimbabwe, which is battling a shortage of foreign currency.
“They touched on that and that it is worth about $18 million which is stuck in Zimbabwe,” Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo, said while insisting that the demand was “not so much of an issue”.
The Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe revealed last November that Zimbabwe owes foreign airlines US$136 million. A crippling shortage of foreign currency in the country has seen foreign airlines fail to access their money collected in ticket sales inside Zimbabwe.
“His Excellency (Mnangagwa) promised that my counterpart the Minister of Finance is going to take a serious position in terms of reducing that debt,” Moyo said.
Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira has held several meetings with the Reserve Bank and Finance Ministry to unlock the money, warning that foreign airlines may pull out if nothing was done to clear the debt.
British Airways-operated ComAir, Kenyan Airways and Emirates – owed several millions – have suspended ticket sales from inside Zimbabwe.