Will A Growing Middle Class Help Intra-Africa Air Travel Take Off?

Will A Growing Middle Class Help Intra-Africa Air Travel Take Off?

Africa contributes less than three percent of the world’s passenger numbers and has for long been seen as the dark horse of the airline industry due to the high rate of accidents and crippling cost of operation in the region.

But sustained growth in most countries over the last decade has seen an emergence of a middle class that is expected to kick-start travel within the continent.

A report released by Deloitte at the end of last year, showed that there has been significant economic growth in Africa due to an emerging middle class and increasing consumer demand, so much so that the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP) could grow by 50 percent to $3.7 trillion by 2019.

It is “this middle class that is developing consumption habits similar to Western standards,” Sylvain Duranton, an air transport specialist at Boston Consulting Group, told AFP.

“The continent is following on the heels of the Asia and Asia-Pacific regions, two very dynamic regions,”

Globally , the dynamics of the middle class has been changing with emerging regions such as Asia, South America and Africa registering the fastest growth while North America and Europe growth slowed as the financial crisis prevailed in recent years.

The emerging middle class in Africa is expected to grow at five percent every year over the next decade and would increase the number of people interested in touring the continent, providing a boost to Africa’s tourism and increasing intra-continental travelers.

High growth in population and rapid urbanization in many African countries is also seen supporting demand for air travel, as the best mode of travel over the large distances between cities, which are totally disconnected due to scarce road infrastructure.

According to an AFP report, many international airlines including Emirates, Turkish Airlines and  British Airways, that ply major cities on the continent fear the inter-Africa routes due to high fuel cost, protectionist tendencies by governments towards their national carriers, monopolies on ground services, as well as problems with maintenance and infrastructure.

This has left intra-Africa routes to the top five African flyers — South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, EgyptAir, Royal Air Maroc and Kenya Airways —  which charge high ticket prices to compensate for the cos of plying these destinations.

Hubert Frach, a senior Emirates executive, however thinks that liberalization of African skies could help increase trade and tourism and make it cheap to fly between one city to another.

“Where this has been done in other parts of the world it has led to an increase in trade and tourism, which has a positive impact on growth of local and regional economy,” Frach told AFP.