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Aviation: 100 African Airlines cannot compete in their own Market

Ethiopian Airlines has reported a 29% increase in revenue for the year until July 31, to $3.9 billion, helped by a 14% increase in passenger numbers.

The numbers suggest that the airline is managing to capture growing demand for air travel on the continent. According to the International Air Transport Association, Africa’s passenger numbers will grow at an annual rate of 4.6% until 2037 – second only to the Asia-Pacific region – equal to adding 199 million new passengers for a total market of 334 million.

Countries across the continent – including Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania – are hoping to tap into this growth, with plans to revive or launch national airlines in various stages of development.

This will be difficult.

There are thought to be up to 100 African airlines, all competing for the same market. This is dominated by international carriers, accounting for 80% of passenger numbers.

The rest is controlled by a few African airlines including South African Airways, Egyptair, and the continent’s standout success, Ethiopian Airlines. The latter is the only one with the scale to meaningfully compete at this level.

Without drastic improvement in how most of the continent’s carriers are run, more cooperation between them, and government support to liberalise and develop Africa’s fragmented aviation market, this won’t change.


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