Q5. What challenges do you think is African air cargo facing today, and how can it overcome them?
Research by the world bank indicates that Africa’s population will be 1.4 billion in 2025 and 1.9 billion by 2050. The size and rate of expansion of a country or city’s population, wealth and trade activity are all indicators of the potential level of aviation activity expected.
Published reports by World Bank indicate that the demand for air freight in Africa is affected by cost, typically priced 4–5 times that of road transport and 12–16 times that of sea transport. Air freight rates generally range from $1.50–$4.50 per kilogram, while the value of air cargo typically exceeds $4.00 per kilogram. The estimated aircraft lease costs are about 20% higher in Africa than in Europe. These costs are passed to shippers, making operators offer non-competitive rates.
To give the air cargo sector fresh impetus, African governments need to commit to the “open skies” agreements already signed and designate a continental body to negotiate traffic agreements with Europe and the Arab States of the Persian Gulf. Africa is developing fast, and its airspace is in demand therefore, reciprocal agreements should be possible., Africa needs to present a united front at these negotiations.
Africa’s landlocked countries experience difficulty generating significant outbound flow to achieve enough traffic to attract air freight services that are both frequent and competitively priced. This makes inbound- airfreight rates much higher in these countries. Permitting free competition, or “open skies,” for Air Cargo services can be significant but not sufficient because most cargo transports through small shipments in passenger aircraft in these countries.
Another crucial challenge experienced by African Air Cargo is the fuel price. Fuel prices are approximately 20-30% higher in Africa than in other parts of the world.
Africa’s low level of connectivity is a challenge-driven by the relatively small size of the African airlines’ fleets. Despite representing 15% of the world’s population, African airlines operate only 5.5% of the world’s commercial passenger and freighter aircraft, thereby having the lowest level of aircraft per capita of any world region. The average age of these fleets is the oldest of any world region (17 compared to 13 years the global average), and their aircraft mix tends to involve smaller than average aircraft. This has seen Africa air cargo grapple with the high maintenance cost resultant of an old fleet.
The availability and quality of aviation infrastructure vary across Africa. Established hubs such as Nairobi, Johannesburg, Cairo, and Addis provide airlines with sufficient infrastructure to develop their operations from these airports. Airport infrastructure is a critical economic growth factor and essential to Africa’s development. In Western Africa, some airports do provide important connectivity infrastructure issues that prevent most West African countries from developing fully operational hubs. Though, the most appropriate location for an aviation hub in West Africa, is Lagos, Nigeria. Due to the size of its economy, population, and level of intercontinental traffic compared to the other options. However, safety issues and the lack of infrastructure do not make it an immediately attractive choice.
Air cargo has the potential to create a vast contribution to Africa’s economic growth. It is vital for transporting perishable goods to open up and connect markets, facilitate trade and enable African firms to integrate global supply chains.
Enhancing air connectivity can help air cargo operators raise productivity by encouraging investment and innovation and improving business operations and efficiency. Although the challenges are considerable, the sector has enormous untapped potential. The situation can improve if the continent has calculated an effort to eliminate non-physical barriers that continue to obstruct the development of inter-African air transport.