The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) report has revealed that JKIA handled the largest share of Africa’s cargo in 2020. This comes even as the continental air transport sector incurred a Ksh. 1.1 trillion ($10.21 billion) triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the report, JKIA handled more than 330,000 tonnes of freight in 2020, followed by Cairo International Airport at 280,000 tonnes. Cargo revenues are expected to reach Ksh. 16.39 trillion ($152 billion), a historic high, compared to Ksh. 13.8 trillion ($128 billion) in 2020 and Ksh. 10.9 trillion ($101 billion) in 2019.

An excerpt in the report read, “Capacity remains constrained owing to the large-scale grounding of the passenger fleet. This removed significant belly capacity, driving up yields 40% in 2020, with a further five growth expected in 2021.”

In 2021 cargo is estimated to account for a third of industry revenues. This is significantly above cargo’s historic contribution, which ranged around 10-15% of total revenues, compounded by the dramatic decline in passenger revenues.

Northern Africa was the leading region in terms of passenger volumes, representing 36.6% of the total continental traffic. This was followed by Eastern Africa with a share of 22.2%.

The number of scheduled passengers carried by African airlines dropped from 95 million in 2019 to 34.7 million, representing a year-on-year decline of 63.7%. This was as a result of most countries locking their airspace to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Overall passenger numbers are expected to reach 2.4 billion in 2021. That is an improvement on the nearly 1.8 billion who traveled in 2020 but well below the 2019 peak of 4.5 billion. Among the 54 countries in the African continent, 13 have direct flights to more than 20 African countries. Ethiopia and Kenya lead with 30 direct flights and more to other countries within Africa.

The report also showed that Johannesburg and Cairo were the busiest airports in Africa in 2020. Lagos was the only West and Central African airport in the top 10 ranking.

“However, intra-African connectivity remains low. African airlines should take the opportunity to develop their Intra-African Network, especially in this period where the EU has limited travel to Europe,” the AFRAA report read in part.

Airport charges in Lusaka, Angola, were the highest, while Mahe Island had the lowest. Some of the busiest airports in Africa like Johannesburg, Addis, Algiers are among the least expensive. This indicates that lowering airport charges can have a positive effect on traffic.