Aviation in Africa: Ready for Takeoff?
Africa accounts for only about 2.2% of world air transport. If you compare this with the fact that Africa accounts for about 12% of the world’s population and growing and about 15% of the total world mass, you get the feeling that the Aviation industry has only one way to go, up.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts that the industry will grow in Africa by 5.1% over the next 20 years, reaching a total market size of over 300m passengers annually. This signals huge opportunities not only for carriers but also for service providers.
Historically, the industry has been faced with multiple challenges ranging from lack of or poor infrastructure, disruption of operations, mismanagement of airline companies, poor policy and regulatory frameworks and high taxation.
The implementation of the 1999 Yamoussoukro Declaration–a multilateral agreement to liberalize Africa’s airways helped improve connectivity across Africa for both international and domestic flights.
More recently, the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), which is part of the larger Africa Agenda 2063, seeks to even take this further by creating an open skies framework in Africa where the players can operate with unified policing and regulatory environments.
Benefits of Open Skies across Africa
Air transport across Africa can greatly impact trade by opening up and connecting markets. This will enable organisations to tap into global supply chains. Furthermore, this will help in speeding fresh produce like tea, coffee, fruits, flowers from agricultural communities to the global markets.
Tourism is also the other sector that is highly dependent on air transport. According to ICAO, Aviation provides over 6.8 million jobs and supports more than $46 billion of GDP to the Tourism sector in Africa.
Enhancing air connectivity also helps raise productivity through investment and innovation. This opens up the continent to global companies looking to expand their operations. The increased movement of people also spurs innovation.
Preparing for growth
With the higher connectivity and more frequency of flight within Africa comes the need for more aircrafts. Airbus’ Global Market Forecast estimates that over 1,000 new aircraft will be needed over the next 20 years, and specifically, 300 of these will need to be wide-body.
If you consider the fact that fuel across Africa is on average 20% more expensive than anywhere else on the planet, this raises another problem where the airlines need not only new aircraft but also more efficient engines.
Companies like Rolls-Royce, makers of the famed Trent Family of engines, have seen a major uptake of their engine powered aircrafts by African operators. Air Uganda recently made orders for 2 Airbus A330neo aircrafts which are powered by the Rolls-Royce TRENT 7000 engine. Air Mauritius has already received its first of six Airbus A350, which is exclusively powered by, the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB, widely considered the most successful aircraft engine.
As more countries race to revitalize their national airlines, and expand their routes beyond their borders, there is growing optimism that the industry is indeed finally ready to take off and soar. And the SAATM, which aims to have 40 countries signed up by end 2019, will surely accelerate this growth.