Africa’s airline industry flies in the context of a big dilemma as most are in the loss-making zone or near-collapse despite an almost impossible environment to consolidate their operations and trim losses.
Various carriers from across the continent are now expressing willingness to join hands as the magic trick that could cut operation costs, streamline governance and increase profitability, but the many barriers appear heavy for realisation of this dream.
Last month, a workshop bringing together a group of airlines from around the continent to reflect on why Africa has had few partnerships and limited airline consolidation, exposed huge gaps that have made it impossible for carriers, a tactic that has been adopted by the industry on other continents.
Players blamed political differences, regulatory unfriendliness towards the industry and corruption among the main factors hampering Africa’s carriers from coming together.
"The aviation sector is reeling from the impacts of Covid-19 pandemic. We need to devise new approaches of doing business in the face of increasing concerns on the sustainability of African airlines. A crucial element in the success of the African airlines is consolidation and collaboration. The engagement of States, airlines and all the relevant stakeholders is necessary to effectively achieve the required outcomes on airline consolidation in Africa," said African Airlines Association (Afraa) Secretary General, Mr Abdérahmane Berthé.
His call came as other stakeholders highlighted the many challenges African airlines undergo even from within the continent, as many jurisdictions still remain rigid, which has been extended to global airlines from other regions.
Stakeholders complain that governments are riddled with red tape, where airlines’ efforts to expand to such markets are always frustrated as some regulators ask for kickbacks.
"The governments are putting too much resistance on partnerships with African airlines. We have also witnessed cases of leaders asking for delay of flights, seeking favours for their relatives to be employed and some countries were not open to providing traffic lights. It took us one year to obtain an operating license to Dakar, Senegal," said Busera Awel, Ethiopian Airlines’ Group vice president in charge of strategic planning and alliances, while explaining challenges the airline has faced in its expansion drive.
Yet the continent’s airline industry controls only two per cent of global air traffic, according to Afraa, despite the huge potential it portends with most of the African markets exhibiting fastest growths.
Afraa also reports that Africa’s passenger traffic has consistently grown over the past decade […]