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Things are looking up

Airline Cargo Management's new editor Keith Mwanalushi discusses IATA's yearly analysis of the global air cargo market, which shows especially high growth for African carriers

IATA released its analysis of the global air cargo market in 2017 and by all measures the industry looks in good shape.

The full-year 2017 data for global air freight markets showed that demand, measured in freight tonne kilometres (FTKs), grew by 9.0%. This was more than double the 3.6% annual growth recorded in 2016. The strongest growth since 2010.

Air freight demand grew at twice the pace of world trade expansion (4.3%), a result of strong global demand for manufacturing exports as companies moved to restock inventories quickly.

Crucially, air cargo had its strongest performance since the rebound from the global financial crisis in 2010. That is welcome news for an industry that is strongly connected with the global economic performance. Demand grew by 9.0% last year outpacing the industry-wide growth in both cargo capacity and in passenger demand.

All regions reported an increase in demand but interestingly Africa recorded the fastest growth rate of all regions last year, marking only the second time African airlines have topped the global demand growth chart since 1990. The report says demand was boosted by very strong growth in Africa-Asia trade, which increased by more than 64% in the first 11 months of 2017.

The good news from the African market comes at an opportune time following the launch of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) by the African Union (AU) to open the continent’s skies.

The move has been hailed by IATA and other industry bodies.

The SAATM is a deregulated airspace, which allows aircraft to fly freely between [so far] 23 AU countries that have agreed to the initiative and it is crucial to the development of intra-African air transport.

Attempts at similar initiatives in the past have either failed or not achieved full implementation.  The agreement represents a decisive move towards greater intra-African connectivity, but as IATA warned the continent will only realise the full benefits aviation provides if implementation is efficient and more countries commit to SAATM.

The challenge will be getting those remaining 32 AU countries to get on board.


Meanwhile, the global outlook for air freight in 2018 is optimistic but IATA’s Chief Executive Officer has rightfully cautioned that air cargo is still a very tough and competitive business and challenges persist.

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