Reports on jet fuel scarcity have rocked the African continent over the last couple of weeks owing to Russia’s invasion in Ukraine. The pandemic had caused a major crisis for aviation and people in general and now with fuel prices having risen to record highs, things are not looking up.

 Some airlines like Nigeria have been feeling the heat too much that it threatened to halt domestic operations on Sunday in protest over the increase in cost of the commodity. Nigeria which has 23 carriers, mostly very small however suspended the move after a meeting of the airline operators and the government reached a consensus.

“The aviation industry is very sensitive to any economy, any disruptions and tremors in the global economy, fuel shortages have negative impacts on airlines. So, it’s not a surprise that we’re seeing frustrations start to boil over in Africa. I think Nigeria now is the biggest sign that the fuel crisis is becoming something very huge,” says CEO, Airspace Africa, Derek Nseko

 Many airlines across the continent have raised ticket prices in order to compensate for the growing expenses with the jet fuel price increase. Passengers will have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay their airfares if the current stalemate continues.

“Airlines are completely frustrated, in terms of the spending that the airline is going through in order for the entire operation of the airline to exist. 30% of the flight ticket goes into just fueling the aircraft. When there is a hike in fuel prices, like what has happened in Nigeria, the cost of airline operations goes up since the fuel price is now occupying 90% of airline operations,” reiterates Derek

In Liberia earlier this month, Conex Energy Inc., the sole company supplying jet fuel to airlines coming into the country, alerted the shortage of jet fuel in the region.  According to their statement airlines flying into Monrovia would not refuel at the Roberts International Airport which could lead to the suspension of flights and a major shift in flight schedules until 17th May when jet fuel arrives in the country.

While airlines are looking to other means of reducing costs of operations, such as fuel hedging and bulk purchase fuel together with other airlines, some countries still lack national airlines. This begs the question why some African countries lack airlines.

“Whenever the governments are involved, politics comes into play, East Africa, had an East African Airways that was owned by the three East African countries sank largely because of political reasons.

“Uganda had a joint venture with South African and Tanzania Alliance and the partnership just could not work. Most government joint ventures really fail,” affirms Derek.

Africa Airline Association, the lead assessor of the performance of African airlines has warned African airlines to brace for $4.7BN loss in 2022. This likely loss is equivalent to 27.3% of pre-pandemic revenues which is estimated to be caused by slow passenger recovery, despite the lifting of restrictions on travel across Africa.

Derek however says there is hope at the end of the tunnel, “The aviation industry is in a much better place, but there’s so much to learn from the COVID pandemic. I can see that there’s a lot of change that has happened recently. A lot of partnerships are happening across the continent with Kenya Airways and South African airways inspiring more partnership across the industry,” he adds

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