Boeing Forecasts Massive African Air Traffic Growth in 20 Years

Abuja, Nigeria, Sep. 13, 2023

Leading global aerospace company, Boeing [NYSE: BA] has projected that intra-African passenger traffic will more than quadruple in the next twenty years, placing the continent’s growth among the highest globally. To support this, 1,025 new airplanes will be needed over the next two decades.

Overall African air traffic growth is forecast at 7.4%, the third highest among global regions and above the global average growth of 6.1%. Boeing included the data as part of its 2023 Commercial Market Outlook (CMO), the company’s long-term assessment of global demand for commercial airplanes and services.

“African carriers are well-positioned to support intra-regional traffic growth and capture market share by offering services that efficiently connect passengers and enable commerce within the continent,” said Randy Heisey, Boeing managing director of Commercial Marketing for Middle East and Africa. “We forecast an increase in the average aircraft size and seats per aircraft for the African fleet, as single aisles, like the Boeing 737 MAX, will be the most in demand for the continent.”

1,025 new airplanes will be needed over the next two decades

African aviation traffic has recovered at a strong pace in 2023 led by pent-up demand and economic growth driven by higher global commodity prices. African airline flights are currently 8% above pre-pandemic levels. Africa’s above global average, long-term annual economic growth of 3.4%, combined with increasing rates of urbanization and a growing middle-class population, will continue to drive Africa’s long-term traffic demand, according to Boeing. Economic and growth Initiatives such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) and Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) are expected to further stimulate trade and intra-regional connectivity.

The 2023 Africa CMO also includes these projections through 2042:

  • With Europe remaining the most prominent origin/destination for travelers to and from Africa, airlines in the region will grow their fleets by 4.5% per year to accommodate passenger traffic growth.
  • Single aisle jets are expected to account for more than 70% of commercial deliveries, with 730 new planes mainly supporting domestic and intra-regional demand. In addition, African carriers are estimated to need 275 new widebodies, including passenger and cargo models, to support long-haul routes and air freight growth.
  • Approximately 90% of African jet deliveries are expected to serve fleet growth with more fuel-efficient models such as the 737 MAX, 777X and 787 Dreamliner, with nearly one in five deliveries replacing older airplanes.
  • Estimated demand for aviation personnel will rise to 69,000 new professionals, including 21,000 pilots, 22,000 technicians and 26,000 cabin crew members.
  • Commercial services opportunities such as supply chain, manufacturing, repair and overhaul are valued at $105 billion.

Explore the complete CMO here.

Meanwhile at the recently concluded Aviation Africa 2023 summit which took place at the Abuja International Conference Centre on September 13-14, 2023, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), supported by Boeing, seeking to accelerate production and deployment of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), released a study today highlighting the potential for producing SAF and other biomaterials within sub-Saharan Africa. The study and its research were presented on Wednesday 13 September.

Fuelling the Sustainable Bioeconomy: Creating impact through landscape-level programmes

The report, titled “Fuelling the Sustainable Bioeconomy: Creating impact through landscape-level programmes,” explores the opportunity for SAF to drive a just energy transition in Africa and combat climate challenges while generating jobs, stimulating economic growth, developing rural livelihoods and protecting the environment.

Boeing Kuljit Ghata-Aura presenting RSB report findings at Aviation Africa conference

SAF, which can be made from materials ranging from used cooking oil and agricultural waste to industrial off-gases, is approved to blend up to 50% with conventional petroleum jet fuel and can be utilized in today’s jets without any changes to the airplane, engines or fueling infrastructure. SAF can reduce carbon emissions by up to 80% in comparison with fossil fuels, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

RSB’s research identifies specific SAF development and bio-economy opportunities in Ethiopia and South Africa.

  • In Ethiopia, engaging with key stakeholders from industry, civil society and government, the research formed the basis for a SAF roadmap and identified brassica carinata (Ethiopian mustard) as a promising potential feedstock to produce biofuels while also addressing both food and energy demand.
  • In South Africa, The study found that there is a huge potential to use invasive alien plants for SAF production while creating jobs. These plants currently cover more than 10% of the land mass (around 11.3 million tons) and use up to 6% of the country’s fresh water, increasing to 16% of total fresh water use without eradication. RSB has worked with partners in-country and globally to define an approach for sustainable harvest within its widely recognized sustainability standard.

Elena Schmidt, executive director, RSB, said the study “highlights the value of a holistic approach to developing SAF and the broader bioeconomy, including integrating technical studies, stakeholder engagement, policy analysis and more within a single program, and by building that program on a really robust foundation of social and environmental sustainability. This work presents outcomes and recommendations that can give policy-makers, investors and other key stakeholders the confidence to direct their efforts in the bioeconomy. We are excited to see how this research in Ethiopia and South Africa will support a sustainable and just transition in emerging SAF- and bio-based economies.”

“Sustainable aviation fuels offer the greatest potential to reduce our industry’s carbon emissions and the development of SAF is an effort that requires a broad set of stakeholders. Boeing’s partnership with RSB in Africa exemplifies the power of collaboration in helping the aviation industry reach its goal of net zero by 2050, while considering the wider sustainability impact on the environment and society,” says Kuljit Ghata-Aura, president for Middle East, Türkiye and Africa, Boeing.

The study also extended to Brazil in South America and was presented during the Boeing and RSB Sustainability Forum held in August in São Paulo, Brazil, where Boeing also demonstrated its dynamic climate impact modeling tool, Cascade.

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