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Routes Africa: Protectionism could cost Africa 56 million passengers

IATA Africa VP Raphael Kuuchi has told Routes Africa delegates that protectionism could curb Africa’s aviation growth potential by 56 million passengers over the next 20 years.

Speaking during the three-day Routes Africa 2019 conference in Mombasa, Kenya, Kuuchi said Africa is forecast to deliver 4.5% compound annual growth. By 2038, more than 356 million people expected to travel from, to and within Africa—more than double today’s figure.

“Routes Africa is critical to the development of air services on the continent and these forums have made a real impact on the region. Kenya is among the top three aviation markets in Africa where growth is forecast to be the strongest over the next two decades, but if the full potential of the industry in Africa is to be realized, airspace in the region needs to be liberalized,” Kuuchi said.

The 356 million-passenger forecast is based on current regional and global economic trends continuing, but this growth is not guaranteed.

“Africa is forecast to be the second-fastest growing region in the world over the next two decades,” Kuuchi said. “African airlines are going to add an additional 208 million passengers to the current total of about 140 million. However, if the signs we are seeing in markets such as the US and some European countries, where there are attempts to constrain liberalization, are present here in Africa, then we would lose about 56 million passengers.”

Conversely, if policies such as the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) succeed, the African market could total more than 400 million passengers in 20 years.

Turning to the Routes Africa host country, Kuuchi said Kenyan traffic could more than double in size over the next two decades, resulting in an additional 11.3 million passenger journeys, 449,000 more jobs and a $11.3 billion GDP boost.

Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) manages a number of airports within the country, including Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret and Kisumu.

KAA acting MD Alex Gitari said this long-term growth will require strategic planning and long-term investment.

“Over the last two years, we have been implementing an ambitious strategy to deal with one of the key challenges also facing the aviation sector in the continent namely, expansion and improvement of capacity at our main airports,” Gitari said.

Over recent years, KAA has increased capacity at Nairobi and remodeled the terminals at Malindi and Manda, as part of Kenya’s national Vision 2030 economic plan. Plans are also in place to expand Diani Airport on the south coast to attract airlines and more tourists.

“KAA hopes to grow both passenger and cargo traffic at the JKIA, Mombasa International Airport, Kisumu International Airport and the Eldoret International Airport, all of which are currently undergoing upgrades and infrastructural works,” KAA said.

Kenya’s domestic capacity has risen from 1.95 million departure seats in 2010 to 5.18 million this year.


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