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Africa aviation industry to maintain growth

         Date: 2012-02-27

           Tag: Africa aviation, Africa aviation growth

Summary: Africa's aviation industry is expected to maintain its growth trend because of an increasing number of Africans who can now afford to pay.

Africa's aviation industry is expected to maintain its growth trend because of an increasing number of Africans who can now afford to pay for the cost of air travel and the ongoing aviation reforms that are attracting more private sector players, aviation industry experts said.

"Affordability of air travel is one of the key drivers of aviation industry growth in the continent. As a result, we are seeing more airlines replacing their ageing fleet of aircraft," said Nick Fadugba, the CEO of Africa Aviation, an industry consulting company, and former secretary general of the African Airlines Association.

The alliances have helped African airlines access new long haul routes, benefit from skills exchange and gain from the economies of scale.

The expansion of the aviation industry is also driven by the continent's growing economies that have led to rising incomes and increase in the volume of cargo being imported or exported.

He said the regional integration is also knocking down trade barriers, offering opportunities for airlines to increase their intra-Africa flights.

There has also been marked increase in the number of leased aircraft as well as a higher number of airlines from the continent offering long haul flights to Europe, United States and China.

Data from the African Airlines Association indicates that passengers handled by African airlines increased from 31.5 million in 2010 to 56.2 million in 2009.

But the organization said growth of passenger travel can be faster if the air fares are reduced. High intra-Africa airfares are partly attributed to high airport taxes and fees charged in the continent.

"This is stifling development of air transport and compounding the many difficulties that African airlines have to surmount to be competitive and profitable," he said.

Aviation experts meeting in Nairobi for the two day event said the growth of the aviation industry in the continent comes with the responsibility of maintaining high safety levels and efficiency.

"There is an increasing need for the African airlines to achieve standards criteria like those of the European Union in terms of efficiency and safety among others for the industry to become globally competitive," said Fadugba.

The rate of airline accidents in Africa is 12 times higher than the global average, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and this has continued to pull back the rate of industry's growth.

One of the consequences has been the blacklisting of some airlines from 14 African countries from flying in European Union member countries' airspace.

"The negative impact of this blacklisting on African economies as well as on the industry growth rate is very big. We take solace that the accident rates are going down by the work ahead to reach European standards is important," said Hilary Kioko, the Director General of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA).

He said there is need for African governments to increase funding for respective civil aviation authorities to enable them improve their performance in terms of policy development and enforcement of regulations to improve the industry management.

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