US aerospace group Boeing has reported that the rate of growth in airline traffic in Africa has been better than it forecast last year."There's growth in demand, growth in point-to-point [traffic] in passengers," Boeing VP sales (Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean) Van Rex Gallard told journalists in Sandton, north of Johannesburg, on Monday.
"Africa is modernising, Africa is bringing in a new fleet of airplanes, which are safer and more efficient," he stated. "This is building the sustainable growth we need."
"The size of the markets will grow, so the size of the aircraft will grow, but mainly in the single-aisle category," he said. (Airliners can be divided into regional, single-aisle, twin-aisle or wide body, and very large categories.)
Gallard opined that, in Africa, demand for regional airliners (which carry less than 100 passengers) would decline whereas demand for single-aisle airliners, such as the Boeing 737, would increase. There would be a slight increase in demand for twin-aisle airliners while demand for very large airliners would remain stable.
He divided the continent into four regions – north, east, southern and west. "In North Africa there are some issues because of the Arab spring, but it is coming up," he affirmed. "There is a solid infrastructure in those countries. They have access to financing and they have technological capacity. They are ready to take the next step."
As for East Africa, that region is a "brilliant part of the continent" because of its strong operators, such as Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways. Ethiopian Airlines was the second airline to take delivery of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner.
"They have reached the conclusion that aviation will be a tool to develop their country," he reported. "They have the full support of their government." Kenya Airways, although a private-sector company, has a similar strategy to Ethiopian.
Southern Africa includes airlines such as South African Airways (SAA) and Comair/Kulula as well as up-and-coming airlines in neighbouring countries. "Comair/Kulula I see as a very successful airline," averred Gallard.
As for SAA, "I think they'll do well, once they have reorganised. They have the support of the government." But, overall in the region, "something has to happen – some consolidation is needed”.
Regarding West Africa, he saw "some challenges". While this region includes Angola and Cameroon, the "jewel is Nigeria, because of its wealth. I see Nigeria as the anchor of the region." Private-sector Arik Air is emerging as a major carrier.
"There is a lot of opportunity [in Africa]," he asserted. For example, currently there "is a lack of connectivity between one coast and the other”.