Massive Chinese investment pouring into Africa has led to the rapid expansion of air traffic between the east Asian country and the continent.
There are currently eight direct flights operating on an average day between China and African nations. That is a huge increase from less than a decade ago when airlines averaged less than one flight a day.
At the moment, the Africa-China traffic route is serving 2,616 annual flights, according to statistics from aviation company OAG, which were seen by Quartz. They showed the airline fleets operating between China and Africa are now capable of carrying about 850,000 passengers annually.
Ethiopian Airlines, which didn’t have a single Africa-China route nine years ago, is now operating almost half of the 2,616 annual flights. The carrier has more than doubled the size of its fleet in the last decade, becoming the largest airline operator in Africa.
Chinese travelers comprise the airline’s largest group of customers, according to its spokesman, Asrat Begashaw. The airline flies daily to Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, and three times a week to Chengdu. It has announced plans to add three more Chinese destinations.
Chinese firms have been winning infrastructure projects on the African aviation market, which has long been challenged by a lack of integration, deficient infrastructure, and high costs. Airbus predicts that the continent will require 1,130 new aircraft by 2037.
In recent years, Chinese companies have helped to build airports in Kenya, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, Togo, Sierra Leone, and other countries.
According to the China Investment Global Tracker, Chinese investments and contracts in Sub-Saharan Africa totaled almost $300 billion from 2005 to 2018. Chinese president Xi Jinping last year pledged to invest a further $60 billion into African nations. He added that Chinese companies will be encouraged to invest no less than $10 billion in the continent in the next three years.
Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative has already seen billions of dollars loaned to countries in Asia and Africa for roads, railways, ports, and other major infrastructure projects.