Connecting Africa: Emirates is Pushing for Rapid Expansion, Competing with Its Turkish and Ethiopian Rivals
As it moves forward with plans to add to its 22 African routes, experts wonder if Emirates could be the airline that connects Africa with the world, pushing Turkish Airlines and other major players to the sidelines.
Africa is desperately looking for flights today, even though most African countries launched national airlines after independence to fly their new flags around the world. Perhaps only Ethiopian Airways can realistically claim to connect the continent, via its hub in Addis Ababa. Now Emirates, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) carrier, is making a play for Africa by planning to add to its 22 routes, secure code-sharing agreements and bring millions of Africans through its Dubai hub.
Experts say the move reflects the wider foreign policy interests of the UAE, which has built up its footprint in Africa in recent years. Yet aviation analysts say that while Emirates represents a terrific option for the east-west traveller, it still lags far behind Ethiopian when it comes to north-south traffic. A huge network expansion would be required for the Gulf carrier to dominate intra-Africa aviation.
Yet another concern is the profitability, as dozens of African airlines were running at a loss even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, which decimated the aviation industry. Many of those saddled with debts were forced to close or declare bankruptcy, including Air Namibia and South Africa’s Comair, while South African Airways ceased to operate internationally. Most have yet to recover. African airlines are expected to record $4.1bn in losses this year amid rising fuel prices.