Africa in the news: Aviation update, Ethiopia update, and Ghana oil discovery

Voters wait in a queue to cast their vote during the Sidama autonomy referendum in Hawassa, Ethiopia November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri - RC2UED9FRFXH

South African Airways reaches deal with unions, and Air Botswana to cut staff by more than half On Friday, November 22, South African Airways announced that it had reached a deal with two unions that would allow it to resume normal operations by Sunday. The airline has been forced to cancel hundreds of flights since November 15 after members from the South African Cabin Crew Association and Union Metalworkers of South Africa went on strike. The agreement includes a 5.9 percent wage increase retroactive from April 2019. Discussions on job cuts were delayed until January 31, 2020. In early phases of the negotiations, unions had demanded an 8 percent increase in wages along with greater job security, as South African Airways had previously planned to cut 900 jobs. The airline has struggled financially in recent years, in fact, not being profitable since 2011, requiring repeated government support and has.

In related news, Air Botswana, the country’s national carrier, announced a restructuring plan that would reduce it’s workforce by more than half. Air Botswana is expected to transfer ground handling operations to a private company and reduce its headcount to 210 employees from its current count of 450. The airline has not been profitable for over a decade and past efforts to privatize the airline have been unsuccessful.

Ethiopia’s Sidama ethnic region votes for new federal state and ruling coalition announces national party

On Wednesday, voters in Ethiopia’s Sidama ethnic region voted in a referendum that could create a new federal state, Ethiopia’s tenth. There is strong support for the semi-autonomous state within the Sidama ethnic group, and the referendum is expected to pass. As of Friday afternoon, results had not yet been announced. The new state would be carved out of the current Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples region and have responsibility for key government functions including taxes, education, and security.

In other Ethiopia news, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s ruling coalition announced the creation of the Prosperity Party, a national organization that will merge three ethnic-based parties. Notably, one of the current coalition members, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, was not present for the vote and has not agreed to join the new national party. The new national party is part of Prime Minister Abiy’s effort to unify the country before national elections in 2020.

Oil discovered off the coast of Ghana

This week, the Ghanaian company The Springfield Group announced that it has become the first independent African company to discover oil in deep water. The company is expected to formally announce two offshore discoveries in Ghana with proven reserves of 1.2 billion barrels. According to company officials, about 30-35 percent of the reserves are recoverable. The field also contains natural gas reserves. The discovery was made in a block that was previously awarded to Kosmos energy, which had failed to find oil.