Africa is a diverse continent - with 54 countries and over 1,500 languages, it cannot be treated as a homogeneous group. Africa is home to 15% of the world’s population, but it accounts for less than 3% of the global air traffic. Characterized by vast distances and with the absence of efficient road or rail systems, air transportation is a strong option for freight, business, leisure and tourist travel. Moreover, the growing affluence across the continent has led to greater demand for air travel.
Exciting times await African aviation:
The aviation industry has a dynamic role to play in accomplishing sustainable development in Africa and helping Africa “rise”. Some challenges are:
#1 Although major improvements have been achieved, often airport infrastructure is aged, the size impropriated, technology not updated and safety and security is deficient. Many airports were built in the 1960s and 1970s and are in dire need of extreme makeovers. Majority of African airports are grappling with ageing infrastructure that is responsible for safety lapses, environmental pollution and flight disruptions. These are bottlenecks that limit the capacity of airports to handle large volume of passengers and cargo. Capacity shortage of up to 50% are expected in 50% of all regions if there is no improvement. However African airports are very important for many international airlines due to their high profit and stable passenger growth.
#2 Governments across the continent realize airport hubs are windows to the continent and steps must be taken to eliminate bottle necks and fuel growth in the airport sector. Preparing for the boom, they are investing in airport development projects. Africa has a plan for at least 40 greenfield airports projects across Africa.
#3 Airports often used to be characterized as natural monopolies, but today airports are facing increasing competition from each other. Airports are capital-intensive assets, which provide valuable support to a whole range of other industries, particularly logistics and tourism … 30 % of Africa’s tourism-related jobs are supported by visitors arriving by air.
#4 Safety at the airports is essential, especially considering that a significant part of aviation accidents and incidents happen near or at the airports, during landing, taxiing or take-off. The implementation of new airport technology is required in the air and on ground to enhance safety in aircraft movement and operations. Despite the challenge of poor funding holding back African airports in terms of meeting the technology needs of the airports, it is still vital for African airports to consider such efficient technologies as there is no substitute to safety.