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Airlines

Opportunity rising

Airlines in Africa face multiple challenges, but the region is still the next big area of opportunity and there is optimism that things are looking up, as Keith Mwanalushi reports
 

Boeing’s long term market outlook forecasts that air traffic for Africa’s commercial airlines will grow 5.9% annually between 2017 and 2036, and that African carriers will need 1,220 new aircraft to meet this growth. ATR also predicts that 300 turboprops are expected to be delivered over the next 20 years including the wider Middle East region.

 

There have been some important developments in recent months that should boost growth in the aviation sector, primarily the launch of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative by the African Union (AU) to open up Africa's skies and improve intra-African air connectivity.

 

The current lack of connectivity coupled with higher oil prices due to taxation and the high cost of transport which also impacts fares means growth has often been slow and expensive. SAATM aims to create a de-regulated airspace, which will open African skies, potentially increasing the aviation market in Africa and reducing air transportation costs by 25%,
experts suggest.

 

An IATA survey indicates that if just 12 key African countries opened their markets and increased connectivity an extra 155,000 jobs and $1.3 billion
in annual GDP would be created in those countries.

 

Currently, 23 countries have signed up to SAATM, but effective implementation is key and the remaining 32 AU member nations still need to come on board. In an interview with Low Cost & Regional Airline Business, Raphael Kuuchi, IATA's Vice President for Africa stresses that commercial airline transport plays an important role in Africa and is set to take on even greater prominence with the implementation of both the SAATM and the Africa Free Trade Zone. 

 

Kuuchi is clear in that SAATM holds the potential to effect an unprecedented transformation of Africa’s industry, trade and fortunes and those of its citizens. “However, SAATM’s success depends entirely on its effective and wide adoption and implementation by all African nations. This requires political will and a determination by governments to put broader social and economic interests first.”

 

To date less than half of all AU members have subscribed to SAATM so IATA would like to see the other 32 sign up as soon as possible and only then will substantial and meaningful benefits accrue from the enhanced access to Africa’s markets.

 

To keep pace with the growth in demand for air travel to, from and within Africa, the continent will require continual investments in people – especially in education and skills development – and in modern, efficient and appropriate infrastructure, equipment, systems and processes.

 

For instance, Lanseria International Airport (LIA), the fourth largest airport in South Africa by passenger traffic, and popular with low cost operators, is the first airport in Africa to introduce a complete suite of self-service technology in partnership with IT Company, SITA. The introduction of this technology is aimed at maximising convenience for passengers and airline operators.

 

The new technology allows passengers to check in online, tag and drop their bags and improve the passenger validation process thus facilitating a seamless and quick flow of passenger traffic through the airport.

 

LIA has also rolled out the new baggage reconciliation technology from SITA which will enable the passengers to track bags at key points during their journey.  The airport is also upgrading its common-use kiosks and desk infrastructure to use SITA’s cloud-based solution, eliminating the need for local servers. >>

 


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