Credit By: Reuters
African aviation is poised for significant expansion in the coming years, driven by burgeoning intra-regional and domestic networks. According to Boeing, this growth will lead to a 7.4% increase in African air traffic, and the continent’s commercial jet fleet is expected to double in size over the next two decades with the addition of 1,025 new aircraft.
Factors Fueling African Aviation Growth
During a briefing at the Aviation Africa Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, Randy Heisey, Managing Director of Commercial Marketing for Boeing Middle East and Africa, highlighted several key factors contributing to the promising outlook for African aviation:
- Resource Resilience: Africa’s natural resources are performing well in the global marketplace, contributing to economic stability and growth.
- Tourism Rebound: Tourism, one of the first economic activities to rebound after the pandemic, is significantly driving air travel demand within the continent.
- Inflation Resilience: Despite rising inflation, African air traffic continues to grow unabated, with expectations of returning to 2019 levels by 2024.
- Load Factors: Current load factors in the African aviation sector are at 70%, akin to pre-pandemic levels, with network carriers already operating at 100% of their 2019 levels.
Intra-regional Traffic Growth
Boeing sees African carriers as well-positioned to support intra-regional traffic growth and capture market share by efficiently connecting passengers and facilitating commerce. The expansion of networks and improved connectivity are key drivers for this growth.
Changing Aircraft Landscape
Boeing’s forecasts for the African aviation sector include an increase in average aircraft size and the number of seats per aircraft. Mid-size single-aisle models like the Boeing 737 MAX are increasingly being deployed by African airlines, expected to account for over 70% of commercial deliveries through 2042. Additionally, African carriers are estimated to require 275 new widebody aircraft, including passenger and cargo models, to support long-haul routes and growth of air freight.
Travel Patterns and Markets
Leisure travel continues to dominate the African aviation market, with visiting friends and relatives (VFR) traffic also rising. Although business travel growth is slower, it represents an essential market for African carriers due to higher fare structures in this segment.
Fleet Renewals and Sustainability
Boeing emphasizes that approximately 190 aircraft in Africa are due for near-term replacement. Fleet renewals offer substantial cost savings and environmental benefits, as newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft are expected to replace nearly one in five older models. However, progress in renewing the fleet has been slower in Africa compared to other regions, with 75% of new mainline passenger aircraft yet to be secured.
Demand for Skilled Personnel
With the expected growth in African air traffic, there will be a rising demand for aviation professionals, estimated at 69,000 new positions. This includes 21,000 pilots, 26,000 cabin crew members, and 22,000 technicians. However, retaining and recruiting a skilled workforce remains challenging, with competition from other regions drawing talent away due to wage disparities.
In conclusion, Africa’s aviation sector is poised for robust expansion, driven by resource resilience, tourism, and improved connectivity. The growth presents opportunities and challenges, including the need for fleet renewals, sustainability initiatives, and the recruitment and retention of skilled aviation personnel.
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