The Future of Airport Market in Africa

According to Paul Kehoe, Chief Executive of the Birmingham Airport in the UK, “There is a wide range of airport development across Africa, from what I’ve seen. We’re seeing key projects coming off the ground, such as the redevelopment of the airport in Cape Town and the doubling in size of the Sharm El Sheikh Airport in Egypt.” This means that traditional routes through Europe and developing markets will diminish as hubs in and out of Africa.

Airlines from countries like England and France, with traditional links to Africa, have been flying to and from the continent for decades. But there are others increasing their presence in Africa – airlines from countries like China and India. African airports are improving and expanding their facilities to cope with growth, both in large markets and in some smaller ones as well.

“The challenge for all airport operators is to get a greater number of passengers through your fixed cost space and your fixed facilities so that you can make enough money to reinvest in those facilities,” explains Kehoe. “In this increasingly competitive world, the challenge is to make sure that you can get the airline to pay you sufficient funds so that you can invest in the sort of facilities that make a fantastic customer experience to those people who live in the country… and the tourists that want to come in, while giving a return to your shareholders who have taken the risk to invest.”

With the high costs of fuel and other day-to-day expenses, airports worldwide face the issue of where to find additional funding for expansions and renovations. According to Kehoe, the United States has pioneered the concept of the aerotropolis . In an aerotropolis, an airport acts as a giant market where people are buying, selling, and trading. So, you develop appropriate infrastructure around the airport where people who regularly do business can also live. “Increasingly we’re going to see a lot of these so-called airport cities, which will be the future ports going forward,” says Kehoe. “And here energy and money and wealth will be created. And they will set in, as the (shipping) ports did over 100 years ago.”

Kehoe explains that, “Africa is a continent of vast resources (and) it has a talent pool there in excess of 1 billion people. There is a great desire to trade with those countries (and) the investment in airport infrastructure, to connect those important cities to the rest of the world, is absolutely vital. I am sure that we will see increasing growth in terms of development in African aviation and African airports over the next few years.”

     Transport is an indispensable element of development and socio-economic growth. As engines of economic integration, transport infrastructure and service facilities constitute a precondition for facilitating trade and the movement of goods and persons. Long perceived as a tool for accessing national and regional trade in a radically changing global environment, transport infrastructure remains a pillar of development with a view to accelerating growth and reducing poverty. Given the challenges of globalization, Africa is lagging significantly behind in the development of regional trade, particularly because of the lack of reliable and adequate transport. Indeed, the existing transport facilities for trade are completely outward-looking with the result that transport infrastructure and services have been little developed and the physical network poorly integrated.

It was for this reason that at the instance of African countries, the United Nations proclaimed two Transport and Communication Decades in Africa (1978-1988 and 1991-2000) with a view to focusing the efforts of African States and their development partners on the specific issues of transport and communications in Africa. A review of those 20 years of effort devoted to transport showed that the existing transport infrastructure and services are still far from enabling Africa to achieve socio-economic development and integration.

Aware of the importance of this sector, African Ministers of Transport held on 6 April 2005 in Addis Ababa, a conference on the role of transport in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and adopted objectives and indicators whose achievement would enable Africa to make significant progress. The outcome document of that conference was adopted by the African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government held on 4 and 5 July 2005 in Sirte, Libya and subsequently transmitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The purpose of this report, therefore, is to describe the current situation of transport and the related challenges facing Africa. It seeks to inform policy-makers about the appropriate measures that need to be taken so that the transport sector can contribute effectively to the socio-economic development of Africa.


Africa is lagging far behind in transport infrastructure efficient and reliable services. For transport to sustain economic growth and economical integration and to promote Africa’s economic and social development genuine policy commitment, tremendous and sustained efforts will have to be invested in this sector.

Accordingly, it is recommended that:

  • An integrated approach to transport development policy should be adopted, taking all transport modes into consideration;
  • The transport sector should continuous the reforms;
  • The building of missing links in transport infrastructure should be promoted;
  • The financing of transport infrastructure should be promoted with emphasis on innovative approach

See full report of TRANSPORT SITUATION IN AFRICA here.

Transportation - note: