West Africa is shaping-up to be the next aviation battlefield for some of its economies that have seen the potential in aviation, investing heavily in on-ground infrastructure and offering various incentives to attract airlines as part of a grand vision to be the aviation hub of the sub-region.
With an estimated population of 389 million and a growing middle-class, Ghana, Togo, Senegal and the Ivory Coast are positioning themselves to be the sub-regional aviation hub of choice.
An unfavourable airline operating environment in the region’s largest economy, Nigeria, over the past five years – brought on by the strict forex rules and other related issues – has given impetus to other not-so-big countries but with robust economies to seize the moment and grow their aviation sector.
Senegal opened its US$575million Blaise Diagne International Airport in 2017. The facility has an initial capacity for three million passengers per year, rising to 10 million per year. The establishment of a new flag-carrier – Air Senegal – in 2016 is a strong statement of intent from the country.
With a fleet of four, the state-owned airline is based at the Blaise Diagne International Airport and is strategic in the country’s quest to be a hub.
The latest dre Aviation West Africa Market Intelligence Annualized International Passenger Growth Forecast predicts a 7 percent growth in international passenger growth for the Senegal market.
Togo, with strong operations by Asky and Ethiopian, is also projected to grow its international passenger number by 9.2 percent this year.
Country Manager of Asky Airlines, Worlanyo Afadzinu, explains that Togo is fast-becoming a hub. “Most of the passengers do not have Togo as ther final destination. Most of them are connecting flights. It is becoming like a hub. Asky provides the feed for the long-haul flights by Ethiopian and others.”
For the Accra market, he believes that the coming on-board of the new home-based carrier, which is expected to operate regional flights and provide a feeder to the dozens of international airlines servicing the KIA, will lead to increased passenger numbers and attainment of the hub vision.
“I cannot at present clearly see any carrier that is mopping from the sub-region and feeding international flights in Accra. When the new home-based carrier starts its regional operations, then there will be a regional airline that provides the feed to Accra,” he said.