Although accounting for about 4% of global air passenger traffic and less than 2% of air cargo traffic with virtually underdeveloped domestic air travel markets and lack of economic resources for infrastructure development, African air transportation has a strong underlying growth potential.
Annual average passenger traffic growth stood at about 7% throughout the 1990s. “The potential is huge. Only 10 African countries account for the 70% of the total passenger traffic and 90% of air cargo traffic. Furthermore, although Africa recorded 5,8% growth in passenger traffic in 2003 (against 2002), South Africa accounted for 25% of the 87 million passengers,” said George Uriesi, Assistant Group Executive: Safety at Airports Company South Africa (ACSA).
“The other inherent opportunities were that there is almost no viable alternative to air transport in most of Africa; less than one person in every 20 Africans has access to air travel; Africa is a nature-based tourism haven and there is increasing stability to take advantage of as a result of normalization in many war theatres,” Uriesi added.
He said in order to the be self-staining and profitable, African airports must move away from the current business model which regards them as an extension of the civil service and therefore passive industry, to one where they become facilitators of air transportation in their countries.
Speaking at the Airports Council International (ACI) Africa Regional Board Meeting and Route Development Forum, Uriesi, said African airports needed to “play a facilitator and coordinator role, instigating, initiating, encouraging and enabling all stakeholders and potential partners to seek to act to their advantage.”
“African airport business model must change from government social service to a business-driven entrepreneurship. The realization must set in that airports can be self-sustainable and as such be a big relief to Governments. Airports can be a major contributor to the economic well-being of their surrounding communities,” he said.
Uriesi that ACSA has developed a successful business model which it is now sharing with its African counterparts. “ACSA understands its business through careful market intelligence gathering, research and analysis in the areas of: analysis of demand trends for air travel; traffic forecasting for SA and Africa; understanding passenger segmentation and related factors as well as analysis of SAA’s and other client airlines’ business strategies.”
In conclusion, he said that ACSA realised a step-change from loss making, Government run airport network to well run, profitable and sustainable airport business contributing significantly to socio-economic development in South Africa. Total passenger traffic has grown to more than 23,8 million by 31 March 2004 (7,3% up against 2003).