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AfDB teams up with Airbus, ATR to boost commercial aviation

THE African Development Bank has held workshops with aircraft manufacturers Airbus and ATR to explore ways of strengthening access to finance for African airlines. The sessions will support the Bank’s efforts to develop and adapt financing instruments to the continent’s aviation needs, boosting its air transport market.

The workshops featured discussion of bank financing instruments, including guarantee products, the bank’s approach to credit risk assessments and the outlook for Africa’s aircraft market. The bank is studying the feasibility of setting up an aircraft leasing platform. Operating leases account for more than 45% of operational fleets worldwide.

Representatives of the bank and the manufacturing firms also discussed sources of financing that included export credit agencies, multilateral development banks, non-payment insured financing and sovereign support.

Air travel on the continent has been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Before its onset, African aviation represented a roughly 3% share of the global market, although the continent has 17% of the world’s population.

Owing to a difficult operating environment that includes constrained access to credit, only a few African airlines are profitable. As a result, air transport remains unaffordable for the average African. High operating costs, coupled with low passenger traffic, drive fare hikes as carriers try to increase their profitability. In recent years, airfares for intra-Africa flights are observed to be 2-3 times higher than in other regions of the world.

Further, in spite of efforts by governments, public institutions and private stakeholders, a large share of air traffic flows through a few airports, particularly those of Cairo, Johannesburg, Casablanca, and Addis Ababa. This leaves many other routes un- and under-served.

Still, Africa’s economies are expected to rebound to growth from the pandemic. Economic recovery is projected to lead to the delivery of 1,230 wide and single aisle new aircraft and 230 turboprop planes through 2040.

A recent study undertaken by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) suggests that implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area will lead to a 28% increase in intra-African freight demand through 2030. That projected growth will require 250 additional aircraft, which will need to be financed.

A key takeaway from the workshops is that the Bank needs to further assess potential interventions into the aviation markets pending the completion of the feasibility study for a leasing platform by the end of 2023.

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