Consolidation of African carriers, along with increased alliances and acquisitions, could potentially lead to the growth of the aviation sector on the continent this year.

This is according to Group Manager of Traffic Development at Airports Company South Africa (Acsa), Matome Ramokgobedi, who presented an overview of the global aviation industry at the National Tourism Stakeholder Forum in Johannesburg last month.

He highlighted that Africa was still relatively small compared with the rest of the world as it had the lowest number of aircraft and annual seats.

Ramokgobedi pointed to the fact that a big global airline alliance like oneworld (with a global fleet of over 3 500 aircraft) had a very poor presence on the continent. This, however, is likely to change as Morocco’s national carrier, Royal Air Maroc is to become the first full African member in April.

“This opens up an opportunity for American Airlines [another member of the alliance] to fly to Africa.”

Furthermore, Middle Eastern carrier, Qatar Airways’ acquisition of a stake in RwandAir would mean increased flights between Kigali and Doha and result in an overall increase for the continent. Qatar Airways is also a oneworld alliance member and RwandAir is the fourth-largest carrier in East Africa with a 4% seats share.

Closer to home, Ramokgobedi suggested that a consolidation within the Southern African Development Community region should be a focus for a sustainable aviation sector. This would enable airlines in the region to compete in the global arena.

“Responsible scaling is what needs to occur – not growing for the sake of growing,” cautioned Ramokgobedi.