Don’t let the Ethiopian Airlines crash overshadow Africa’s modernization

Don’t let the Ethiopian Airlines crash overshadow Africa’s modernization


Ethiopian Airlines flight Boeing 737 MAX from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya, crashed on March 10, leading to 157 fatalities.

The disaster was the second crash involving the 737 Max in just five months. Last October, a Lion Air flight crashed into the sea just off the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, killing all 189 people onboard.

Boeing, a leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, is under fire for the deadly crash, as the company failed to take corresponding measures after the first incident in Indonesia.

Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the United States transportation department, said the latest disaster was “highly suspicious” and “rings alarm bells in the aviation industry”.

The crash revealed that African countries and all late developing countries currently face a dilemma of independent development. Boeing and other high-tech companies cannot pay full attention to the market characteristics of developing countries. Many believe that imperialism through the tool of high and new technology implemented by developed countries is the root cause behind these disasters.

For one thing, high-tech companies in developed countries have the final say in terms of technology, to which developing countries have little bargaining power and face potential difficulties in the correct operation of high-tech products.

Developed countries have the final say in grounding a particular aircraft model, usually instigated by the aviation safety regulator in the country that certified the original aircraft, in this case, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). However, in this instance, the FAA took slow action.

Ridiculously, China was first to ground the jets after the latest disaster out of concerns for safety, deciding not to wait for the FAA to do so. John Strickland, head of JLS Consulting, said the move by China was “unusual”, adding, “We don’t know if there is a wider political angle to this given the US-China trade tensions.”

To avoid similar tragedies and break the monopoly of developed countries, developing countries should seek strength through unity.

African countries managed to do so. The US Congress approved the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, to assist the economies of sub-Saharan Africa and improve economic relations between the US and the region. However, African countries signed the African Continental Free Trade Area with the goal of promoting free trade in the region.

This was the reason behind African countries’ call to integrate the African Union’s 2063 Agenda with the Belt and Road Initiative at the 2018 Beijing Summit for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, as China’s assistance is expected to accelerate Africa’s steps towards modernization.

(The author is an associate research fellow of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce) 

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