The world has 42 aviation megacities – hubs capable of handling 10,000-plus long-haul passengers a day – and just one of them is in Africa.
But within 20 years, Africa could be home to at least five new aviation hubs capable of handling those volumes of passengers, according to a report in BusinessDayLive.
Demand for travel is forecast to grow at more than 6 percent for South Africa and countries such as Nigeria, Angola, Namibia and Mozambique, the report said.
Most aviation megacities are in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and the Asia Pacific area including China.
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus released its 20-year Global Market Forecast for aircraft demand. The company has about 52 percent of the market for long-haul aircraft, and wants to maintain at least half the market share. Boeing has the balance of the market, BusinessDayLive reports.
By 2032 Africa could host seven of the top-20 fastest-growing air traffic flows, and will need at least 1,540 aircraft to service demand expected from the continent, according to the Airbus forecast. Urbanization and rising incomes are driving the growth, with the low-cost market expected to provide the largest opportunities.
Africa’s air traffic growth will come despite limited progress in liberalizing and developing its aviation market, said Andrew Gordon, Airbus’s director of strategic marketing and analysis. The company makes components for its A380 aircraft and the new A350s in Toulouse, France.
South Africa – home to Africa’s lone aviation megacity in Johannesburg – has seen direct traffic to and from the country increase 42 percent in the past 10 years.
South Africa will need more than double the number of aircraft it now has by 2032, according to Airbus. The current fleet of 130 will have to increase to at least 306 to meet demand for domestic travel as well as travel to and from South Africa, the report said.
Global air transport growth is expected to rise 4.7 percent a year over the next 20 years. Africa’s growth is expected to be higher, at 5.1 percent a year.
The low-cost market, with just 8 percent of African traffic, has “huge potential” to grow. In more mature markets, low-cost carriers typically have a share of more than 25 percent. The potential for aviation growth in Africa is just part of a larger emerging-market growth story, the report said.
Airbus’s Global Market Forecast gathered data from 54 emerging economies that are home to 6 billion people. These are expected to grow at 6 percent a year, faster than the more established markets of Western Europe, North American and Japan, home to about 1-billion people, which are expected to grow at 4 percent a year.
“Billions of people will increasingly want to travel by air,” Gordon said.
Air traffic has grown by 86 percent in Africa since 2000, despite lack of significant progress in the liberalization of Africa’s skies, BusinessDayLive reports.
Alan Pardoe, Airbus’s head of marketing communication, said Africa represented a “big opportunity” for aviation development and for the growth of the Airbus global fleet.
At the beginning of 2013, Africa had 608 aircraft serving the continent.
Over the next 20 years, at least another 970 aircraft will be needed both for growth and replacement, Airbus aid. The latter would have to be new deliveries, while it is expected that about 570 of the current fleet would “stay in service and be re-marketed.”
South Africa would need to add an extra 300 aircraft to the fleet serving the country by 2032, Gordon said.
Air travel has consistently grown every 15 years by a factor of two, Pardoe said. “It doesn’t really vary. There are bad years but it doesn’t stop. It roars back later.”
Indications are that air traffic will more than double in the next 15 years.
In Africa, “things are starting to move and countries are starting to understand the benefits of aviation and the benefits that it brings to their economies,” Gordon said.
Historically high fuel and fare prices have discouraged the development of the sector, and liberalization has taken much longer than expected.
Some countries are still protecting domestic carriers.
Despite these barriers, aviation still experienced remarkable growth over the past decade.
“Imagine what you could get if you could resolve (these issues),” Gordon said.