Africa is Big and flights are in short supply

You may have wondered why I have put this picture on my main Blog page?

I am sure that those of you who work for foreign companies in Africa have to respond to questions from Head Quarters explaining why you would like to have an office in Cape town while you already have one in Johannesburg, or one in Ghana and another one in Kenya.

Not many people realize that it takes almost two hours to fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town on a commercial flight to travel 1600 kilometers.
Yes we are still in the same country.

If you take a closer look at a map you will see that the real size of Africa does not correspond to the size you would find Africa to be on a world globe. In a two dimensional mercator projection the error of the third dimension had to be placed somewhere and most maps favored the economic powers of the Western Hemisphere at the expense of the African continent. As a result the picture is distorted on most maps that you can find.

If you compare both pictures you can see immediately what I mean.

Size is one, airline networks is another aspect to consider.
If you want to fly across language zones you will have to connect in most of the cases via one of the main hubs like Accra, Abidjan, Dakar, Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg.
If you want to fly from Bamako to Banjul, you must make a stop in Dakar. Again if you look at the map you will see that Banjul and Dakar are 155 kilometers apart.
If you want to fly from Bamako to Lagos one option is to make a stop in Abidjan and connect the next day to Lagos, but that option is not available every day of the week.

The third issue is that some airlines still hold almost monopoly positions. You will find out once you pay for your airline fairs trying to connect from countries like Burkina Faso or Togo to France.

The last point I want to draw your attention to is linked to the previous and has to do with the service levels.
International airlines that operate between Africa and France and the UK realize all too well the position they maintain and you can tell this from the seats for instance you will find on their aircrafts. A flight to Lagos will have the latest seats available to their passengers. Lagos is operated by many international airlines so they cannot sent an outdated airplane since this will result in losing passengers.
The same airline sends its oldest airplanes with outdated and often malfunctioning service components like inflight entertainment systems to places like Accra, Abidjan and Dakar.
No competition, Outrages prices,No service, the NON airlines so to speak.

Now the good news:

South African Airlines has just opened a direct Service from Johannesburg to New York to “further support trade between the two continents” as Stephen Hayes from the Corporate Council on Africa mentioned recently.

Hopefully some of you who work in the airline industry see the opportunity here. Maybe the model of low cost carriers as we see them in Europe and the United States is one to explore.
Specially flights between Anglophone and Francophone countries will be very helpful to passengers who today lose a lot of time waiting in between flights or flying amazing routes to get from A to B.

Apart from a fragmented airline network there is not much competition from railways or road transport systems while most countries in Africa realize the need for regional trade.
In other words the demand is there, where is the supply?
A fantastic opportunity.

Using the above picture has helped me to answer a lot of questions I received from my company in this regard. I would like to thank W.Bediako Lamousé-Smith and Joseph School for making the issue so clear for everybody to understand.

© Desi Lopez Fafié

2 Responses to “Africa is Big and flights are in short supply”

  1. June 26, 2009 at 6:08 pm

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  2. September 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm

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