While Africa’s aviation industry has made tremendous achievements over the years and nearly all African countries have operating flag carriers, challenges still exist.
In this article we explore the major obstacles hindering exponential growth of the aviation industry in Africa.
Safety is the most pressing challenge facing the aviation industry in Africa. In 2011, the average number of air traffic accidents was nine times higher than the global average. The frequency of accidents stems largely from inconsistency in the implementation and enforcement of internationally accepted safety standards and practices. Increasing the level of safety should be a key priority for the development of the African aviation industry.
The African authorities have endorsed an African Union backed plan aimed at addressing deficiencies related to aviation safety and security and strengthening the regulatory framework. Accordingly, the International Air Transport Association jointly with the International Civil Aviation Organization and other organizations have committed to supporting the Africa Strategic Improvement Action Plan of the African Union. The plan encourages African governments to foster regulatory oversight through the adoption of globally accepted safety and security standards.
Financial challenges continue to be a major impediment to Africa aviation growth. Some airlines continue to report losses year-on-year. Kenya Airways, Uganda Airlines and Air Tanzania, — are flying in the loss-making zones and could remain in trouble for years to come, according to experts.
The air transport industry faces various challenges including poor airport infrastructures, lack of physical and human resources, limited connectivity, and lack of transit facilities. Although substantial progress has been made during the past decade, Africa still lags behind other regions in terms of “soft” and “hard” infrastructure. It is therefore critical that African countries invest in the soft as well as hard infrastructure to support the industry.
Lack of regulation and government actions
Despite the growing awareness of the role that the aviation industry could play in the development of the continent, the industry is still not the top priority of African governments. More, despite increased liberalization of the African aviation industry and the growing presence of foreign companies, some African governments are still reluctant to open their skies fearing foreign competition could undercut national airlines, some of which are short of commercial viability besides being just symbols of sovereignty.
These challenges require governments to enhance regulation of aerospace management, consumer protection and safety of airlines. Lack of aviation experts and skills, high airport taxes and fees, the weak connectivity and restrictions on transit visas and facilities add to the menu of impediments affecting Africa’s aviation industry.
Fuel Cost & Efficiency
The availability and costs of aviation fuel remain one of the major economic factors affecting the airline industry for decades. Spike in jet fuel prices has a direct influence on the financial portfolio of airline firms. In 2021, the expenditure on airline fuel increased by almost 30% due to the easing of travel restrictions and the initial recovery in global passenger demand. As the Russia-Ukraine conflict has prompted oil price variations, it is estimated that the share of fuel in total operational costs from 2022 could be significantly higher than that in 2021.