Africa is a very diverse market and as such there are clear regional variations across the Continent. Over this same timescale we see that East Africa leads with the recovery of domestic capacity; in Central and Western Africa there is very little difference in domestic and international performance, while Southern Africa trials behind all the other areas and where a new variant of COVID is thought to have contributed to record case numbers in the region.
Among Africa’s largest markets is Nigeria, a country where commercial aviation is a critical element in its transportation system and indeed its economy.
Nigeria has been a positive story in liberalization terms having deregulated its domestic airline sector back in 1985 and subsequently transitioned from a national carrier focus to one focused on private carriers. The industry though has witnessed a high turnover of domestic carriers with many lasting short periods. Images of derelict aircraft at the nation’s airports had not offered a positive impression of the process.
That start-up process shows little sign of changing.
Last month United Nigeria launched domestic operations using Embraer ERJ-145 equipment; NG Eagle (effectively ArikAir under a new name) has rebranded two of its predecessor’s Boeing 737-700s ahead of its impending launch; while LCC Green Africa, one of the most eagerly anticipated start-ups around the world, continues working towards securing its AOC and beginning commercial flights in the coming months. The airline has 50 Airbus A220-300s on order and plans to operate domestic flights within Nigeria and then build a pan-African network.
Earlier in 2021, domestic airline Azman Air also unveiled plans for an ambitious growth strategy in 2021. The airline intends to add another A340-600, three 737-800s and five regional aircraft to its fleet. Ibom Air, which launched in Jun-2019, is reviewing its business plan to further grow its network. CAPA’s Air Capacity Projection model for Nigeria shows positive recovery in both the domestic and international markets but that has stuttered as we entered 2021.
Nigeria’s domestic market had been growing strongly year-on-year during 1Q 2020 before capacity levels hit the floor in Jun-2020 and into Jul-2020. Since then, there had been positive recovery through to the end of 2020, but a seasonal decline has seen levels fall again. The recovery has gone a little flat, but the model projects an improving performance from the end of this month, peak at a level down just a fifth in Jun-2021, before settling back to around a third down on 2019 levels as we approach the end of the calendar year.