The increasing prosperity of many African countries and their growing middle class means rapid growth for the continent’s aviation industry, according to a forecast released in Johannesburg yesterday by US plane manufacturer Boeing.
It predicted 14 500 pilots and 16 200 maintenance technicians would be needed in Africa over the next 20 years.
Although Africa has until now been served mainly by European airlines, and in recent years by Middle Eastern airlines in addition to SAA, Kenya Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines, Boeing reports that other African countries are modernising their fleets and the continent’s aviation growth will outpace the world average.
It expects African airlines to acquire 900 new aircraft valued at $120 billion (R1 trillion) over the next 20 years – 12 percent up from its forecast last year.
Mike Warner, Boeing’s director of market analysis, said Africa had one of the oldest fleets in the world and would have to continue to modernise to compete on routes traditionally dominated by foreign carriers. “This is a market that demands newer, more fuel-efficient planes to help offset the rising cost of fuel and the excessive maintenance costs of an ageing fleet,” Warner said.
Much of the continent’s new prosperity comes from the demand for Africa’s natural resources by Chinese industry.
But Warner and Miguel dos Santos, Boeing’s vice-president for Africa and international sales director for southern Africa, said China’s airline industry was concentrating more on the American and Asian markets than on Africa. There was strong demand for more non-stop routes between Africa and other emerging markets, as well as Europe and the US, giving the continent’s aviation industry an opportunity to grow.
“Africa is the largest and most populous continent after Asia and its economic potential is strong,” Dos Santos said.
He and Warner confirmed that they were in discussions with SAA and low-cost airline 1time, both of which are planning to acquire new aircraft.
Boeing is in the process of delivering a fleet of 12 new generation Boeing 737-800 planes to Comair’s low-cost division, kulula com.
The airline has already taken delivery of three of these, which are being leased. The fourth, which is the first new aircraft Comair has bought, was delivered last week.