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ADDIS ABABA: June 29, 2017. During the second ICAO Global Air Cargo Development Forum this week, Ethiopian Airlines opened its new air cargo terminal with a ribbon-cutting ceremony by the country's prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

"Today, the national flag carrier has become the largest aviation group and the fastest growing airline in Africa unrivalled in efficiency with shining operational excellence," declared Desalegn. "Above all, Ethiopian Airlines has played an important and irreplaceable role in the development of the economy, export and import activities and foreign exchange earnings."

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam Airline CEO Tewolde GebreMariam (right) said the combined facility would be able to handle one million tonnes per annum, making it comparable to Amsterdam Schiphol, Singapore Changi, or Hong Kong.

Covering a total area of 150,000 square meters, the new terminal includes different climate areas for storage and handling of temperature sensitive products such pharmaceuticals, Life Science products and fresh flowers.

Ethiopia is home to one of the largest rose farms in the world approximately three hours by truck from Addis Ababa. The Afriflora farm is next to Lake Ziway, at a height of 1,650 meter above sea level, in a greenhouse complex the size of 1,300 soccer fields. The farm grows over 65 different types of roses with around three to four million processed every day for export by air to the flower auction at Aalsmeer in the Netherlands.

Speaking at the ICAO meeting, council president Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu said aviation and air cargo in Africa supported "millions of jobs" and contributed US$72 billion in annual GDP.

"The rapid growth of both freight and passenger air traffic is now placing increased pressure on Africa's airports and air navigation services, with latest projections telling us that no fewer than 24 airports in Africa will have reached their maximum operational capacities by just 2020," he noted.

Airfreight annual throughput at Addis Ababa rose from 175,600 tonnes in 2014 to 211,700 last year while Nairobi volume fell from 259,100 to 231,700 tonnes in the same period, according to data from ICAO conference speaker Sanjeev Gadhia, CEO of Nairobi-based Astral Aviation.

Aliu reiterated that ICAO would continue to play a leadership role in ensuring the global growth of air cargo benefits both the continent and its individual states. "We all have a role to play in optimizing aviation's benefits for sustainable prosperity here in Africa," he delcared.

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