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Forward-thinking travel providers should look to Africa for growth opportunities

Santiago Jimenez

Director, Sub-Saharan Africa, Amadeus IT Group

This year at IATA’s Annual General Meeting in Cape Town – Director-General, Tony Tyler, stated that “nowhere is there more potential for aviation growth than in the continent of Africa.” The numbers back up this assertion with a rapid increase in air traffic of 11.5% over the last two years, thanks to swift economic growth (6.6% expected between 2011-2015), growing population, and rising individual wealth.

ctia runway

Photo by Andres de Wet*

Africa is increasingly becoming better connected with Europe and over last decade 407 new routes have been created. In total, since 2002, 1,161 new routes to, from and within Africa were established.

Not long ago,travellers in Africa consisted mostly of Western business people, affluent locals, and international aid workers. However, we are now seeing a rising number of African businesspeople and citizens with newfound personal wealth (growing middle class), workers from Chinese construction firms, Australian mining giants, and U.S. oil companies.

Potential is great –according to a report by McKinsey & Company by 2020 more than half of African households are projected to have discretionary income rising from 85 million households today to 130 million households in 2020.

But Africa still faces many challenges and theairline industry is still over-taxed and overcharged, making it difficult to establish lower fares. Some African airports need to reduce their overpriced fees which are well above the world average. Infrastructure also needs to be developed in line with the rate of development of the carriers and only by bringing governments, airlines and investors together can Africa really start to develop its potential.

We are seeing very strong growth in bookings from the regional African carriers such as Arik Air based in Nigeria or Asky based in Central West Africa. Low cost carriers now represent 10% of total traffic in 2012 and even though it has been a mixed bag for them, they're becoming a reality and optimising the reach of our travel agency channel to compensate for the online challenges the region still faces.

What do you think? Will Africa continue to climb and present the travel industry with growth opportunities? Let us know!

* Photo by Andres de Wet. More information on this photograph can be found on

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