If East Africa can be defined by membership of the intergovernmental organisation EAC (East African Community) which constitutes Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, then we are looking at some of the most exciting countries with respect to the development of regional aviation anywhere in the world.
Whilst these five countries cover a vast area of over 700,000 square miles and an estimated population of over 125 million people, the current infrastructure for land transport is poor and the demand for quick regional travel is growing rapidly as the individual national economies grow.
There are two distinct segments of opportunity. The first is for flights into the region and here the traditional hub of Nairobi (Kenya) is under threat internally from planned developments at Kigali (Rwanda) and externally from the rise of Ethiopian airlines services through Addis Ababa. The second opportunity is for intra regional flights as the commercial cities of Arusha (Tanzania – for Kilimanjaro), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania for Zanzibar), Mombasa (Kenya;s second city), Entebbe (capital of Uganda), Bujumburra (Burundi’s political centre) and the fast growing Kigali, all require more frequent and more regular connecting air services.
As well as business traffic growth, leisure traffic is also growing and secondary airports used as entry points for local game parks and tourists resorts are becoming increasingly important. These include Lamu, Malindi, Kisumu, Masia Mara, Lodwar and Kitale in Kenya; Mwanza, Kilimanjaro Airport, Serengeti, Arusha and Lake Manyara in Tanzania,; Cyangugu and Gisenyi in Rwanda.
Currently the only East African based airline with significant long haul flights into the region is Kenya Airways, based in Nairobi. This airline was one of the successes on the 1990’s, which with help from Dutch airline KLM has established a network of flights throughout Africa, much of Asia and into Paris, Amsterdam and London, Heathrow for European traffic.
Within the region there are a number of very good regional airlines with their own development plans for growth. Based in Kenya, at Nairobi’s second airport, Wilson is Air Kenya whose twin engined aircraft are frequent visitors to the airfields of the Masai Mara.
The expanding low cost regional carrier, Fly540, based at Nairobi primary airport, Jomo Kenyatte international, serves the whole region with regular flights to Entebbe, Bujumburra and Arusha as well as eight airports within Kenya.
From Rwanda, the national carrier Rwandair is being backed for growth by the National Government and as well as regional flights it has a strong North South connection to the South African markets through Johannesburg.
Tanzania’s principal airline is the wonderfully named Precision Air, based I Dar es Salaam it operates interantaionally to Mombassa, Nairobi and Entebbe plus eight domestic destinations within Tanzania.
Finally Air Uganda is an airline to watch as it is now owned by the Aga Khan, with expertise arriving form his European airline Meridiana. Currently Air Uganda flies to Nairobi (Twice Daily), Juba in Sudan, Dar es Salaam,Zanzibar and Mombassa.