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Number of African planes projected to rise sharply

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Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines planes at Kamuzu International airport in Malawi. PHOTO | COURTESY

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Summary

  • The projected growth of African economy will push up the demand for aircraft with a new report saying the continent will require at least more than 1,000 new planes delivered by 2040 to meet the travel needs.
  • The new addition will bring the total fleet to 1,440 from a 2019 fleet baseline of 680 aircraft that have been in operation.
  • During this period, the fleet in the region will transition to new generation types such as the A220, A320neo family, A330neo and A350 bringing significant efficiency improvement.

The projected growth of African economy will push up the demand for aircraft with a new report saying the continent will require at least more than 1,000 new planes delivered by 2040 to meet the travel needs.

The 2021 Airbus Global Market Forecast (GMF) report indicates that African airlines will require 1,100 new passenger and freight aircraft deliveries by 2040 in order to meet the growing demand.

The new addition will bring the total fleet to 1,440 from a 2019 fleet baseline of 680 aircraft that have been in operation.

During this period, the fleet in the region will transition to new generation types such as the A220, A320neo family, A330neo and A350 bringing significant efficiency improvement and a corresponding reduction in carbon emissions per passenger.

“Growth is driven by the forecast 2.8 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) increase in GDP between now and 2040. Tourism and intra-regional trade will continue to be key growth sectors for Africa and drive GDP growth,” says the report.

Airbus forecasts that air traffic in Africa will achieve full recovery to 2019 levels between late 2023 and the beginning of 2025.

Globally, cargo is already operating today at nine percent above pre-crisis levels, and in Africa at 23 percent, according to IATA. The passenger traffic in Africa is set to increase by a factor of 2.3 by 2040 while cargo volumes to and from Africa will rise by 2.5 percent.

“This strong recovery is due to the fundamental drivers of traffic demand remaining unchanged,” said Airbus.

African airlines recorded impressive growth in passenger numbers in February this year compared to a month earlier as more countries open up their economy after years of Covid-19 restrictions that negatively impacted the aviation sector.

Data from both the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and African Airline Association (AFRAA) indicate that the regional carrier's performance improved by 70 percent in February and 69 percent in March respectively.

According to IATA, the revenue that the airlines earned in terms of Revenue Passenger Kilometre (RPK) was higher when compared with what they received in January, bringing hope to an industry that was hard hit by pandemic-induced interruptions.

Africa’s economic expansion is faster than the world average, with a multiplicity of factors, among them, a young and growing population, urbanisation and middle-class development being the key factors that will push up the growth.

Africa is seen as harbouring huge aviation potential due to limited ground transportation infrastructures, an abundance of natural resources facilitating trade and numerous touristic opportunities.

Over the past 10 years, significant improvements to the industry have been made across the continent, including the creation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) as well as the modernisation of fleets by national airlines.

Today African carriers such as Ethiopian Airlines, Air Senegal, South African Airways, Air Côte d'Ivoire, EgyptAir, Uganda Airlines and Air Tanzania, have chosen to operate some of the latest fleets of aircraft such as the A350, A330neo, A320neo and the A220.

“The impact that the aviation industry has had on the sustainable development of Africa cannot be overstated,” Airbus says in the report.

“Aviation not only gets people moving, but it also fosters regional integration, creates jobs and enables domestic, intra-African and global trade.”

Across Africa, the industry directly supports 6.2 million jobs and contributes $56 billion to the continent's regional GDP.

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