A South African Airways Airbus A330-200. Picture: THE TIMES
A South African Airways Airbus A330-200. Picture: THE TIMES

AFRICA’s strong economic growth and an emerging middle class that wants to fly will see the continent’s fleet of aircraft and the volume of traffic double over the next two decades, according to airline manufacturer Airbus’s latest global market forecast.

Gross domestic product (GDP) in Africa grew at an average of 5% between 2000 and 2010, driven by increased oil production, higher levels of domestic investment and greater capital inflows from foreign investors, most notably China, Andrew Gordon, director for strategic marketing and analysis at Airbus, said on Thursday.

Africa’s middle class was expected to triple by 2031, with more people in it wanting to fly. One of the most significant growth opportunities in the African market was for low-cost airlines, Mr Gordon said, with low-cost air travel accounting for just 6% of air travel on the continent.

"International traffic to and from South Africa has doubled in the past 20 years and we expect it to more than double in the next 20," Mr Gordon said.

"There is no doubt that South Africa is helping to drive the development of aviation on the continent. Johannesburg will reinforce its position as one of the world’s aviation mega-cities, a focal point for traffic coming into the region and then connecting these passengers to the rest of Africa."

Companies like FastJet had spotted the new opportunities.