Aug 18, 2010
By Neelam Mathews
Africa will need to add 770 aircraft by 2029 to its current fleet of about 635 to sustain growth, says Embraer’s Outlook on Africa.
Regional airlines are strengthening their networks, but the current fleet with an average age of 13 years does not provide efficiencies to sustain expected growth. The 61- to 120-seat jet segment will be essential for sub-regional connectivity, says Embraer. Last year, 62 million passengers flew on Africa’s 98 airlines from 345 airports in 2009.
Embraer forecasts a requirement for 220 new jets for Africa in the next 20 years in the 30- to 120-seat segment; 67% will be needed to support growth and 33% to replace older aircraft. The current fleet in this segment will increase from 165 to 280. However, Boeing’s outlook says 110 regional jets will be delivered in the period to Africa.
As regional links evolve, they will demand a new airline industry profile that is customer- and profit-oriented, delivering sufficient frequency and affordable fares, says Embraer.
Turboprops will maintain their presence in the African market because they are a critical part of commercial services in areas with low demand and airports with operational limitations. Embraer says 130 new turboprops will be required in the next 20 years—44% to replace existing fleets and 56% to support growth. There are 120 turboprops at present on the continent.
Africa will need 420 narrowbodies and widebodies in the next 20 years, growing from 350 to 750 by 2029. Of this, 72% will be added to sustain growth and the rest to replace aging aircraft. Boeing’s 2010 Current Market Outlook predicts Africa, over the next 20 years, will need 1,020 narrowbodies and widebodies.
Structural weaknesses of African economies have postponed the development of a global competitive airline industry and as a result air transport development has been slow. Regional economic integration is key to growth and development in the region should be viewed as long term, adds the report.
Concentration of air transport is in southern and eastern Africa with three main hubs—Johannesburg, Nairobi and Addis Ababa—that are natural gateways to the continent. South Africa leads with the strongest economy and has produced the most developed air transport network. Addis Ababa, for example, works as a gateway to the Middle East, capturing South and East African passengers.
Several trends suggest continued growth in African aviation, according to Boeing. The continent’s jet fleet now averages 19.8 years of age in an era when increasing fuel costs require newer, more efficient aircraft. Poorly developed infrastructure over difficult terrain and political instability render intra-African ground transportation problematic. Resource exploitation and tourism will require increased capacity in the future, it adds.