Air transport, Africa’s most viable means of transport

By Josephine Wawira

Africa accounts for only 3% of the world’s air traffic. ‘IATA’ predicts a stronger growth of 4.8% in passenger numbers in the next 5 years starting 2017, thanks to the increase of international flights into the continent. This is according to a recently published Hospitality Report for Africa by Jumia Travel, which engages Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam, in giving insights into the African aviation industry; its key advancements and challenges.

Airplane Landing in nairobi: Image by J.I

Referring to the 3%, the Ethiopian boss acknowledges that Africa is still contributing little to the global aviation industry. However, he further states that “more investment into the continent from China and India is expected to drive the continent’s development, as well as Africa’s air traffic”. This is despite challenges facing the industry including high taxation, low connectivity within the continent, infrastructural hitches, and expensive jet fuel with a cost 30% higher in Africa than the rest of the world; resulting in high operation costs. Besides, the industry for a long time has lacked the necessary attention from African leaders as it has always been considered a luxurious means of transport.”

Tewolde calls upon African Government’s attention to the aviation industry and infrastructural developments, saying “they are the key solutions to make easier, accessible, and affordable transportation systems within and outside the continent”. Notably, is the progress made in some countries’ airlines over the last few years. These include Ethiopian airlines, South African Airways, Egypt Air, Kenya Airways, Air Morocco, Tunisiair, and TAAG Angola which have met the global standards of safety records. Connectivity has also increased especially between African countries and the rest of the world.

The effects of this connectivity have been felt across the different related sectors. International tourist arrivals are expected to increase from the 58M in 2016, as more African destinations become connected and popular globally. The hotel industry infrastructure development has also grown tremendously, with more chain hotels (365 pipelines in 2016) coming to Africa and bringing encouraging results on the continental hospitality industry. As the Ethiopian Airlines CEO affirms, the current initiatives to develop infrastructure are popularizing African destinations, “and in a short period of time the continent will see a booming hospitality industry attracting travelers from across the world”.

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