FACTBOX: Air travel in Africa


– African skies are today dominated by European and Middle Eastern carriers, with those from China playing an increasingly robust role on the continent. Under-capitalised and poorly resourced, African airlines are in a poor position to mount an effective response to the growing competition.

– For decades, Africa’s airlines, many of which continue to labour under state control, have suffered from a lack of capital, government interference and frequent changes of leadership.
– However, according to IATA, African airlines reported a 14.3 percent rise in traffic in the year March 2012, of which an estimated 11 percentage points was attributed to traffic suppression in March 2011 owing to the trouble in parts of the Middle East and Africa. Capacity rose 10.7 percent, which although an improvement year-on-year, was by far the lowest among the world’s main regions, Reuters reports.

Here are some numbers on top five African airlines in 2010


(African airlines

South African Airways 2,900 46

EgyptAir 1,900 61

Royal Air Maroc 1,500 70

Ethiopian Airlines 1,293 80

Kenya Airlines 1,066 88

– The Celestair alliance of three airlines – Air Burkina, Air Uganda and Air Mali – and ASKY, both private sector driven, offer some encouraging developments, while Kenya Airways has found success with its strategic alliance with Air France-KLM.
– Kenya Airways said in March that it would spend $3.6 billion over the next five years on new planes and routes, mainly to connect travellers between Africa and Asia.
– Chief Executive Titus Naikuni said trade between Africa and China and India had soared in recent years, growing at an annual rate of about 200 percent, creating huge opportunities in the travel market.
– The airline is expecting 10 E-190 Embraer jets due for delivery through to 2013. One main challenge is the expansion of Nairobi’s main airport, which was built in 1978 to handle 2.5 million passengers a year and now sees 5 million pass through.

– Here is a ranking of the countries with the highest quality of infrastructure in air traffic in 2010/2011, (1 = underdeveloped, 7 = extensively developed by international standards). Out of a survey of 142 countries:

1 Singapore 6.9
2 Hong Kong 6.6
3 Switzerland 6.5
4 United Arab Emirates 6.5
5 Netherlands 6.5

First African country
17 South Africa 6.1

Last Five African countries
130 Chad 3.2
134 Burkina Faso 3.1
135 Angola 3.1
139 Mauritania 2.5
141 Lesotho 2.4

– Nigerians have been given a wider choice of airlines, many of them flying with new and recently refurbished aircraft, which had helped reverse the country’s dismal reputation for air safety in the wake of a spate of crashes five years ago.
– However, at least 153 people were killed on Sunday when a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 flown by privately owned domestic carrier Dana Air crashed into an apartment block in Lagos. It is the worst crash in Nigeria in two decades.
– An EU blacklist features airlines banned from operating in European airspace for a lack of safety oversight and includes 279 carriers from 21 states, of which 14 are from Africa.
– The 14 are Angola, Benin, Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon (with the exception of three carriers which operate under restrictions and conditions), Liberia, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe, Sudan, Swaziland and Zambia from Africa.