The economic downturn facing most
African countries in no way denies or even beclouds the fact the
Africa needs more efficient aircraft to drive the continent's
socio-economic integration and development. With the second largest
population and landmass among the world's continents, Africa
presents a rising population of 1.3 billion inhabitants.
In its 2015-2030 forecast, Boeing
projects that Africa will take deliveries of 1,170 new aircraft.
Airbus thinks Africa will take 991 new aircraft deliveries between
2016 and 2035. All these point to the growing demand for more
efficient aircraft in Africa.
African airlines are, however,
currently challenged by limited access to funding, which over the
years has limited the expansion or even prevented the start-up of
many African carriers. While the current economic challenge facing
African key markets like Nigeria and South Africa is expected to
soon blow over, the critical need for efficient African fleets
remains ever glaring.
Boeing, Airbus, Embraer, Bombardier
have keyed into the emerging scheduled commercial aviation market
in Africa with new and old customers taking orders and deliveries
of these aircraft brands directly or indirectly.
However, given Africa's peculiar
economic situation, the continent is no doubt in need of enhanced
support from overseas partners, be they aircraft manufacturers or
lessors or funding institutions. This opens a window of sort for
China to strengthen its foothold in Africa. On offer are China's
helicopters, general aviation aircraft and the regional aircraft,
some of which have already been in use among some African
operators, though not in leading markets or among key operators in
South, West and North Africa.
China offers funding, aircraft
support services and regional aircraft; and reaches further to fund
aviation and other infrastructure as a whole package for
Perhaps, the main challenge Chinese
aircraft may face in Africa could be their newness in the industry
as against the other 'tested and trusted' brands. But this is not
really a barrier, as what could decide who wins the African market
depends on various factors, especially safety, rather than
perception of 'newness and tested brand.'
Importantly, the certification of
any aircraft brand by key international aviation industry
regulators qualifies such aircraft for use in any market; and this
counts for Chinese aircraft and could tilt the scale in their
favour in the emerging African market.
Again, the readiness of China to
provide the needs of the typical African operator would also be a
deciding factor as undecided operators may need the right nudge to
embrace the 'new' Chinese aircraft technology. Other aircraft
manufacturers are not unaware of the looming Chinese contenders.
But between the new-comer and the preferred old favourites, who
wins the African market will have first provided tangible benefits
to the African industry, and committed to continue to give in to
the development of Africa's aviation industry. 'For the win-win'
becomes the order of the day.
Time is ticking; and time will