Africa’s potentially rich aviation pickings are attracting a new breed of start-ups. Some, like Starbow and FastJet, have ambitions to develop pan-African networks through franchise models. Others, including Africa World Airlines and Korongo Airlines, are focused on their domestic markets and regional services to neighbouring states. Yet a third grouping, led by ECAir, have established inter-continental operations.
While several of the start-ups are backed by their respective governments, it is notable that the strongest contenders are either largely or wholly privately owned and funded.
This new generation of carrier could provide the answer to Africa’s lack of domestic and intra-continental air services by increasing route options, lowering fares and making air travel affordable to the growing middle class.
Aviation enjoys a natural advantage as a means of connecting cities, where most of Africa suffers from poor or non-existent ground transport infrastructure.
All these airline start-ups – and their desire to provide the much needed linkages so desperately needed to unlock Africa’s true economic potential – will however bump up against the slow rate of airspace liberalisation and government protectionism and corruption. The new airlines genuinely offer real trade opportunities, but inertia will typically slow the process of change.