Giant US aerospace group Boeing expects the African fleet of airliners to increase by 900 over the next 20 years, to reach a total of 1 300 by 2031. Of these, 670 are predicted to be single-aisle aircraft, with about 50 regional airliners, some 270 twin-aisle or widebody airliners and only around 10 very large aircraft.
Of the 900 aeroplanes that will be acquired, 630 (or 70%) will represent an increase in the size of the fleet, while 270 (or 30%) will be replacements for older airliners. There will also be 400 existing aircraft that will be retained in service. The current African airliner fleet numbers 670.
This will be the result of the continent’s strong economic growth. Africa’s economy is forecast to grow at an average yearly rate of 4.4% over the next 20 years, in comparison to a global growth rate of 3.2%, which would make it the second-fastest-growing region after the Asia Pacific.
African passenger air traffic to the Asia Pacific region is expected to grow at a yearly rate of 7.4%, to the Middle East by 6.9%, to Latin America by 6.3%, to North America by 6% and to Europe by 4.8%. Over the same period, passenger air traffic within Africa is predicted to increase by 6.2% a year.
To handle this growing fleet, Africa will need 14 500 new pilots and 16 200 new mechanics and technicians, says Boeing. African countries and airlines will have to train these people and make sure that they can retain them.
On top of this, the continent already has major aviation infrastructural constraints. There is not enough airport capacity to handle the expected growth in air traffic. There are inadequate air traffic management systems in many countries and there are not enough air traffic controllers. African countries will have to invest in aviation infrastructure to reap the benefits offered by growing air traffic.
Currently, 78 Boeing aircraft are on order by African carriers. These include Boeing’s new flagship airliner, the 787 Dreamliner, which is on order by Arik Air, Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and Royal Air Maroc. Ethiopian Airlines was, in fact, one of the first airlines in the world to order the 787 and will receive its first one next month.