Positive outlook for African airlines over next 12 years

21st April 2023 By: Rebecca Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Africa’s air passenger traffic is expected to double, to more than 260-million passengers, by 2035, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has predicted.

It also forecasts that in 2035 aviation will, in Africa, support 7.7-million jobs and $63-billion in gross domestic product.

These predictions were highlighted by IATA director-general Willie Walsh in a media briefing earlier this month. The baseline from which this growth is determined was 2019. He noted that 80% of African air passenger traffic was international and only 20% was domestic.

Although the African airline sector is lagging a bit behind the global industry, its post-Covid-19 pandemic recovery is nearly complete. African air passenger traffic in February this year was at 93% of its February 2019 levels. And the continent’s air cargo demand was 31.4% above its 2019 levels.

African commercial aviation is expected to recover to above 2019 levels this year and to complete financial recovery next year. (The global industry is expected to achieve financial recovery this year.) But African airlines remain financially vulnerable, with their total net profit margin for this expected to remain negative, at –1.7% (although that will not be the worst in the world).

However, the recovery is very uneven across the continent. IATA divides the region into four subregions: Central/Western Africa, Eastern Africa, Northern Africa, and Southern Africa. And Southern Africa is lagging behind the other regions, largely owing to South Africa’s economic travails.