Although the performance of the African aviation industry is still lagging behind those of the rest of the world, demand for air transport has picked up steadily over the past years with passenger numbers and freight traffic growing by 45% and 80%, respectively.
Over the period 2010-2015, Africa will be the third fastest growing region in the world in terms of international traffic with an average growth rate of 6.1% compared to the global average of 5.8%. Forecasts indicate that the aviation industry’s impact on African economies is set to grow. Over the next 20 years, implied job creation by the industry is projected at 879,000.
“Africa has one of the fastest air transport growth rates globally at 6%, so this is where the market is,” says Dr John Tambi, NEPAD’s Transport Infrastructure Expert and steering committee member for the Infrastructure Africa Business Forum.
“Africa is the only frontier left in terms of the air transport market. You can’t compete in Europe and America, their markets have matured and at the point of saturation. You can’t compete effectively in China or Asia either, so Africa is the last place left. We need to exploit this opportunity and encourage the African private sector to participate in this sector and address the issue of connectivity on the continent, before this market is completely taken over by non-African carriers.”
Dr John Tambi will be elaborating on the opportunities and challenges in Africa’s aviation industry at this year’s Infrastructure Africa Business Forum, taking place on the 1st and 2nd of September at the Sandton Convention Centre.
“For a long time, Africa has been the only continent that has not viewed aviation as a developmental tool, or sector, but as something that is esoteric, like going to space – and unnecessary. So we need to go back to the developmental aspect of aviation and encourage connectivity and develop commuter, regional and low-cost carriers – with this approach aviation can be a catalyst for connecting the continent and development on the continent,” says Dr Tambi.
According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), air travel is essential to the prosperity of Africa as it opens up opportunities that did not exist before. “Fostering the African aviation industry may be one of the driving forces of regional integration on the continent. Better connected African countries and regions through a viable air transport industry could be the catalyst that can boost intra-African business, trade, tourism as well as cultural exchange. Developing the aviation industry may also represent an opportunity to mitigate chronic transport problems faced by the 16 landlocked African countries.”
According to an AfDB report in November 2012, Africa can maintain the growth of its aviation industry if more and more people can afford to pay for the cost of air travel. “Currently, only around 10% of Africans travel by air but given the current rate of economic growth and emergence of the middle class, there will be high demand for services linked to air transportation. In recent years, growing alliances with counterparts in other regions of the world have played an important role in the development of the African aviation industry. These alliances have permitted African companies to gain access to new long haul routes resulting in higher economies of scale and skills exchange.”