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Africa aviation outlook 2019: change may be in the air

Africa remains a market of huge potential but even larger challenges. The outlook for 2019 is mostly more of the same, but with some glimmers of hope.

New start-ups and most existing airlines will struggle to overcome the obstacles that have repeatedly prevented most African airlines from succeeding. Foreign airlines dominate the African market and have a huge competitive advantage. Africa is an extremely challenging market for any LCC or new start-up. However, a long list of airline failures has not dissuaded more start-ups from entering the market. Nigeria's Green Africa Airways is the latest to seek to break the logjam, well funded and with strong credentials.

Africa’s current commercial aircraft fleet consists of 1,700 aircraft, according to CAPA Fleet Database, and there are only 257 aircraft on order from African airlines. Ethiopian has the largest order book, and although Green Africa Airways has not yet started operating it has the second largest order book, with almost as many orders as Ethiopian. 

Ethiopian Airlines has been a standout and is growing rapidly with a pioneering cross-border model. Royal Air Maroc has also emerged as a standout, and is now preparing to become the first African member of oneworld. With a new well-funded LCC entering the Nigerian market, 2019 may at last offer new hope for change.

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