Industry Profile

The aviation industry involves designing, manufacturing, flying and maintenance of aircraft for both civilian and non-civilian purposes. It encompasses all air-related transport activities, including related companies, service providers, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, space tourism and other commercial and non-commercial flight services.

Airlines are companies that provide- to individuals and businesses – air transport services for people and freight on a regular or charter basis. Aerospace, often associated with defence, is the industry segment responsible for researching, designing, manufacturing, operating and maintenance of aircraft and spacecraft.

Global View
According to Aviation Benefits, the global aviation industry supports $3.5 trillion (4.1%) of the global gross domestic product (GDP). It is forecast to provide 143 million jobs and contribute $6.3 trillion to the global economy by 2038. The global airline industry was valued at 801.73 billion US dollars in 2019 and shrunk to 668 billion US dollars in 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Airlines, a subset of the aviation sector, carry over 4 billion passengers a year and nearly 61 million tonnes of freight. They create services that provide more than 11 million direct jobs and contribute $961.3 billion to global GDP and $816.4 billion to GDP indirectly. Jobs and services of suppliers to the air transport industry include aviation fuel suppliers, construction companies, suppliers of sub-components used in aircraft, manufacturers of goods sold in airports, and a wide variety of business services, such as call centres, IT and accountancy. 

It is also important to note that the aviation industry powers the travel and tourism sector. The sector contributes more than $1 trillion to the global GDP based on the conservative analysis.

The industry directly employs more than 500,000 people. Air transport supported 7.7 million jobs and $63 billion in African economic activity in 2018. More than $9 billion contributed directly to the GDP in 2018. For its contribution to African tourism, spending by foreign visitors who flew to African countries in 2018 supported an estimated 6.5 million jobs and contributed $44 billion to GDP. (Source: )

Africa accounts for the smallest number of air passengers annually and roughly 2% of global traffic in both passenger and freight. However, Africa is poised to become one of the fastest-growing regions for aviation in the next 20 years, with an annual expansion of nearly 5%: according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Africa has a 2.1% market share (92 million passengers, up 5.5% over 2017)

Tourism is a driver for the aviation industry in Africa. South Africa leads in terms of passengers carried at 25 million in 2018, followed by Egypt with almost 24 million, Morocco with 19 million. The fourth-largest country by passenger numbers is Algeria, with 10 million passengers. Other countries in the top ten include: Tunisia, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Mauritius.

Ghana has five airports in the major cities—Accra, Kumasi, Ho, Tamale and Takoradi. In September 2018, Ghana Civil Aviation Authority opened a third terminal at Accra’s Kotoka International Airport with the capacity to manage 1250 passengers per hour and up to five million passengers per year. 

Ghana obtained a provisional Effective Implementation (EI) rate of 89.89%, the highest of an African country. This was after the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) concluded its Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) on April 3, 2019. It aligns with the United Nations aviation agency’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP). In 2018, aviation became a strong stand-alone sector that contributed US$2.5 billion to the country’s GDP in 2018.

The Kenyan air transport industry, including airlines and its supply chain, contributes $3.2 billion to the GDP. Of this, foreign tourists, by spending, support a further US $1.6 billion of the country’s GDP. The air transport sector and foreign tourists arriving by air contribute 4.6 per cent of the country’s GDP.

The Kenya aviation industry employs 15,000 people. In addition, the sector supports another 96,000 jobs by buying goods and services from local suppliers. Additionally, the industry indirectly supports an estimated 43,000 jobs through employee wages (some or all of which are subsequently spent on consumer goods and services). 

Foreign tourists flying to Kenya, who spend their money on the local economy, are estimated to support an additional 257,000 jobs. In total, 410,000 jobs are supported by air transport and tourists arriving by air. 

The Aviation industry contribution’s to the economy in Nigeria (in nominal value) increased by 0.14% in 2019, as it rose to N198.62 billion, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The IATA estimates that the air transport industry in Nigeria, including airlines and their supply chain, supports US $600 million of GDP in Nigeria. Spending by foreign tourists supports a further US $1.1 billion of the GDP, totalling the US $1.7 billion. In total, inputs to the air transport sector and foreign tourists arriving by air supports 0.4 per cent of the GDP. 

Airlines, airport operators, airport on-site enterprises (restaurants and retail), aircraft manufacturers, and air navigation service providers employ 20,000 people in Nigeria. Besides buying goods and services, the sector supported another 35,000 jobs. 

The sector is estimated to support 16,000 jobs through the wages it pays its employees; some or all spent on consumer goods and services. Foreign tourists arriving by air to Nigeria, who spend their money on the local economy, are estimated to support an additional 169,000 jobs. Air transport and tourists arriving by air supports a total of 241,000 jobs. 

South Africa 
The air transport industry, including airlines and their supply chain, is estimated to support $5.2 billion of GDP in South Africa. Spending by foreign tourists supports a further $4.3 billion of the country’s GDP, totalling $9.4 billion.

South Africa is by far the largest market for business aircraft in Africa, with a fleet of more than 400 aircraft, over three times that of Kenya, the second largest market, according to a report by

Airlines, airport operators, airport on-site enterprises (restaurants and retail), aircraft manufacturers, and air navigation service providers employ 70,000 people in South Africa. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the sector supports an estimated 48,000 jobs through the wages it pays its employees, some or all of which are subsequently spent on consumer goods and services.

Increased demand for digital services by passengers; faster wifi connections, improved inflight entertainment, better information services and seamless check-in/ security experience. Technology will play a pivotal role in airport/ airline management. 

Initiatives to Combat Carbon Emissions. Aeroplanes have a significant carbon footprint, contributing to greenhouse emissions. Growing awareness of the reality of climate change has led to pressure from investors for airlines to address concerns about the environment, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Bundling of travel services. In addition to air transport, offerings on hotels, road transport and tour services are being made available to customers at a single point of purchase.

Low-Cost Airlines. 
Affordable airline services prioritise safe travel and comfort for passengers, especially for regional travel. 

Remote-controlled Aerial Vehicles 
Increased use of drones for security, surveillance and combat in warfare.

Some research areas from the Mitre Corporation:  

  • Improving Access.
    The remote-controlled aircraft system and commercial space industries continue to grow. Companies are working to develop innovative solutions to safely accommodate these new entrants and not impinge upon the efficient operations of more traditional users of civil airspace.
  • Enhancing Efficiency
    It includes developing new tools to combat the challenges brought by adverse weather on efficient air traffic management. And also: employing advanced navigation technology to reduce flight time, costs, and environmental impact. 
  • Ensuring Safety
    Successfully; identifying potentially unsafe conditions before accidents occur through advanced data analytics and refining these efforts.
  • Strengthening Security
    Aviation has become more reliant on technology and interconnected systems. These systems must be protected: from unauthorised and hostile activities that could disrupt operations or create safety risks. 

Recent research themes from the MIT International Centre for Air Transportation include:

  • Economics, Productivity and Competition
  • Labour and Human Resource Issues
  • Operations Management and Network Considerations
  • Safety and Security
  • Infrastructure Capacity and Costs

Other technical areas of research include:

  • Aerodynamics & Propulsion
  •  Autonomous Systems & Control 
  • Computation
  • Space Systems
  • Structures & Materials
  • Sustainable Aviation Human Factors and Aviation Medicine
  • Environment and Energy
  • Aircraft Safety Technology
  • Airports
  • Communications, Navigation and Surveillance
  • Aviation Weather
  • Capacity and Air Traffic Control Technology
  • Systems Science/Operations Research
  • Commercial Space Transportation

The industry has a role to play in 15 of the 17 SDGs. Prominent among these, according to the World Economic Forum, are: 

SDG 8: 
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, supporting millions of jobs and more than $3 trillion in GDP.

SDG 9: 
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation. The industry connects the world and transports half of all tourists and a third of world trade by value. 

SDG 13: 
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts as it plays an increasingly central part in the future strategy of the aviation industry. 

  • The high cost of air travel is due to the supply-side cost of operations, maintenance, taxes and other regulatory charges. Many of these services are sourced abroad due to a lack of local expertise.
  • In a fragmented industry with Airlines having a small fleet of crafts with a fleet size of three for some, the actual market is small.
  • Weak infrastructure. Several airports are aged, owned and managed by Governments. Their classification as national security risks by several governments minimises private sector ownership and foreign investments.
  • Poor regional connectivity; due to lack of liberalisation. Most African countries require a Visa for entry from other Africans.
  • Lack of local expertise in the manufacturing and maintenance of aircraft and engines in most sub-Saharan African countries. 
  • Foreign exchange policies make it sometimes challenging for airlines to repatriate their foreign currency earnings from several African countries.


  • Computer-Aided Design (CAD) of aircraft systems and 3D printing of aircraft parts.
  • Personalising customer experience with data. Ranging; from offerings to inflight experience.
  • Data analytics to improve customer lifetime value for delivering more strategic marketing and support.
  • New auto-pilot technologies driven by artificial intelligence assisted flight technologies with sensors and increased use of drones for civilian and non-civilian purposes.
  • Predictive maintenance scheduling of aircraft. Based on real-time data collected from aircraft engines. 
  • Simulation of flight paths; for pilot training and scenario planning.

Teamwork & Networking. These skills are helpful in the aviation industry’s demand for collaborative work. From pilots, cabin crew and ground officers to a team of engineers in aerospace, ensuring compliance with regulators, travelling and meeting new people.

Critical Thinking & Creativity. Aerospace engineers must be able to translate a set of issues into requirements. They must be able to figure out why a particular design does not work. Aviation experts also use their skills in planning flight routes, schedules and regulations, and airlines, coming up with new customer loyalty programmes.

Communication & Persuasion. 
These skills are essential in an industry highly reliant on teamwork, as seen in the design and manufacture of crafts. The industry also heavily depends on customer satisfaction, as seen in the airline industry.

Analysis & Problem-Solving. 
The ability to come up with solutions; when things do not go as planned and in emergencies and troubleshooting.

Digital Skills: Data analytics for finding insights from customer data. For estimating demand and predictive maintenance.

Coding: Automation of processes in aerospace engineering. The Boeing 737 plane is reputed to have more than 20 million lines of code.

Design: computer-aided-modeling of new crafts and engines and simulation of flights.

Though becoming a Pilot has always been a lifelong dream for many who aspire to work in the industry, the industry provides numerous jobs. A lead pilot works with an average of ninety people to support a flight mission. Some of these jobs include:

Airline/Commercial pilots and co-pilots
Flight Engineers
Air Traffic Controller
Aircraft and Avionics Mechanic
Service technicians
Airport Manager
Transportation Security Screener
Airfield Operations Specialist
Aeronautical Engineer
First-line supervisors/
Flight attendants

operation executive, 
aviation administrator, 

cabin crew,
Cargo and freight agents

Reservation and transportation ticket agents and travel clerks
Customer care executives,
air ticketing professional, 
Aviation Safety Inspector:
Air Traffic Control Specialist
Schedule Coordinator
Station Agent
Ramp planner
Station manager
Ground Attendant
Flight Dispatcher
Passenger Service Agent
Flight Instructor
Airline Captain
Aircraft Design Engineer

The highest-paying jobs across the Industries are Airline Pilot, Aerospace Engineer, Aircraft Maintenance Manager, Airplane Mechanic, Aerospace engineer, Air traffic controller, Flight dispatcher, Airport Engineer, Flight engineer, Aerodynamics Engineer, Propulsion Engineer, aviation engineer, Flight Engineer, Airport Planner.


Most technical roles require a degree in mechanical, aerospace, aeronautic, mechanical, electrical/electronic, computer science and other engineering-related programmes from a regular university or aviation institution regulated by the nation’s aviation agency. The non-technical aspect of the industry offers several administrative and management positions for graduates with a good grade first degree in any subject. 

Degrees directly related to the aviation industry include Aviation Technology, Aerospace Engineering, Aeronautical Science, Air Traffic Management, Aviation Management, Aviation Maintenance, Computer Science
and Physics.

A formal degree is advantageous for those seeking a management career path; within the industry. Postgraduate programmes relevant to the industry include: degrees in Aviation Security, Aircraft Systems, Aviation Management, Aeronautical Engineering, Aerospace Management, Aviation Science, Aviation Maintenance, Safety and Accident Investigation.

Several universities offer master’s programmes in various areas of aviation and aerospace industries for which graduates with degrees in other technical fields may be eligible. The technical degree programmes may require having a degree in engineering. Others focus on avaiation management side; which makes having a first degree in a business acceptable.  

Aspiring pilots require training and certification from a government or accredited private aviation/flight school. Courses and diplomas available from IATA, the most recognised professional body in the industry, provide an extensive training portfolio that includes topics for airlines, airports, cargo operators, governments, ground service providers, travel agents, young professionals and more.

The aviation industry offers technical and non-technical roles; the technical roles include aerospace engineers, technicians operators, flight controllers and more. The non-technical roles include administrative functions in aerospace and airline companies, cabin crew and customer service executives. It is an industry where having a technical background provides an advantage for ascending into management roles. 

Company graduate programmes can offer a chance to explore working in different areas and developing your skills, and place students in diverse tracks within the company. However, this is not a reality for most airline companies in Africa due to their small size and most aerospace companies having operational headquarters in the US and Europe. Most companies also offer lots of training and professional development opportunities.

Entry-level positions with an airline cover a wide variety of operations and duties. Most of these positions involve extensive customer service contact requiring strong interpersonal and communication skills. Previous experience is not required. You might work evening or early-morning hours, adhere to a strict physical appearance and lift heavy objects. 

Entry-level positions such as pilot or mechanic require special licenses issued by the Federal Aviation Administration, or specific previous work experience, or both. Though some consider going to a flight or aviation school as a more direct route, having a bachelor’s degree can be an advantage before proceeding to institutions that offer diplomas in these areas. Obtain the requirements for these positions by contacting the airline. All roles are customer service positions; every second spent with a passenger or a potential passenger is critical.

Several companies in the aviation industry publish available roles directly and are open to internships, while others work with recruitment agencies. Finding out about these agencies can help your job search. 

Aerospace engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a related field for entry-level jobs. A high level of professionalism is required hence the need for good communication, critical thinking and interpersonal skills, along with technical skills. 

The industry has a high barrier to entry for startups and new businesses due to the massive capital required, the need for an experienced team and a strict regulatory environment. However, opportunities exist in providing innovative services to airline customers.

A key challenge in the industry is international mobility as many countries consider their airspace and all related activities. It is not uncommon to see several nations demand that only citizens, by birth or naturalisation, can hold important and sensitive positions in their aviation industry.

The aviation industry is highly organised and formal. There is a high level of precision required in aerospace engineering. The working environment for airlines is fast-paced with departure and arrival schedules, which means that there is a constant flux of people travelling through an airport at all times of the day and night. It is also an industry where independent work is rare; (from customer-facing roles or behind the scenes in more technical roles.) All airport workers must work collaboratively for efficiency. There is an opportunity to work with people from diverse backgrounds, with airports serving as a hub of cultures.

It is also a work environment where safety is at the forefront. Hence, the need for compliance with several regulations may change based on technical or social developments within the nation. It is also an industry where security is of the utmost importance; there is a high level of scrutiny. The airline industry is heavily reliant on customer satisfaction and can lead to the need to work quickly and efficiently under deadline pressure. It requires a high level of professionalism in dealing with customers. 

It is not unusual to work long hours. Depending on your position, expect to work long hours and be far away from home for long periods. Airline workers may relocate to hubs near airports (for airlines) and airfields (for aerospace). It is competitive; the demand for upper-level jobs far outweighs the number of positions, and promotions would require standing out from among the cloud.

However, working in the aviation/airline industry can be rewarding in a way not seen in other sectors through the multiple benefits for workers and their families. 

Many airlines allow employees to travel for free or at a discounted rate. Company and lifestyle benefits such as family travel passes, resorts, hotels, car rentals, insurance and retirement programmes are also available.

Sticking to precautions to avoid them or investing incidents can be exhausting for workers due to the need to comply with regulations and meet deadlines. Accidents in the industry (though rarer) are usually fatal in loss or injuries to life and damage to properties.


Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA) 
Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP)
The International Air Transport Association (IATA)
Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO)
Airports Council International Europe
Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) 

Ghana Association of Aviation Training Organisation

Kenya Association of Air Operators, Kenya AIrline Pilots Association

Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), Nigerian Aviation Professionals, British Nigerian Aviation Association

South Africa
Aviation Association of Southern Africa NPC (CAASA), Airline Pilots’ Association, Airlines, Association of Southern Africa (AASA).

Rania Toukebri, Mounia Malki 

Roberto Billia, Edward Annan, Kofi Martin Ampomah, Akosua Okyere Nyarko, Air Commodore Victor Kwame Mamphey, Kennedy Agyapong

Allan Kilavuka, Josephine Fifi Rurangwa, Beryl Makham, Maureen Okomo, Vanessa Onyullo

Richard Branson , Adeola Sowemimo, Captain Edward Boyo, Allen Onyema, Sibongile Sambo

South Africa
Agnes Tsholofelo Khunwana, Thomas Kgokolo, Zuks Ramasia, Xenia Adamou, Refilwe Ledwaba, Jonathan Ayache.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Environment Protection Agency (EFA)
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

European Aviation Safety Agency
UK: Civil aviation authority (CAA)

Ministry of Aviation, Aircraft Accident and Incident Prevention and Investigation Bureau, Air Navigation Services, Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, Ghana Airports Company Limited

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works

Federal Ministry of Aviation, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB)

South Africa
Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), International Air Services Council (IASC), Air Services Licensing Council (ASLC). 

Airlines: American Airlines, Delta, United, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airlines, AirFrance/KLM, Ryanair, China Southern Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Thai Airways, Qantas Airways, Hainan Airlines, Virgin, Japan Airlines, FedEx Express (cargo), IAG, 

Aircraft/Engine Manufacturing/Maintenance: Airbus, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, United Technologies, General Electric, Rolls Royce, BAE Systems, Raytheon, Honeywell, L-3 Technologies, Textron, General Dynamics, Safran Aerospace, Bombardier, Dassault Aviation, Embraer, Rockwell Collins, Spirit Aerosystems, Thales, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Altran Aerospace, Daher, Lufthansa Technik AG, Northrop Grumman

Digital Service Providers: Amadeus, Sabre, Kayak, Virtuoso, Travelport, Isango, Navitaire, Lufthansa Systems, Trivago, Google Flights, Expedia, Hipmunk, Travelocity, Agoda,

African Companies
Ethiopian Airlines, EgyptAir, Royal Air Maroc, Air Algérie, Tunisair, Air Seychelles, RwandAir, South African Airline, Solenta Aviation, Safair, Mango, Global Aviation, Federal Air, Comair Flight Services, Airlink, CemAir, Air Arabia Maroc, TunisAir Express, Tunisavia, Nouvelair, RAM Cargo, Execujet Africa, Air Mauritius Air Seychelles, Fastjet, Kenya Airways, Mango Airlines, TAAG Angola Airlines 

There is a concentration of aerospace manufacturing activities mainly in Southern and Northern Africa. South Africa and Morocco are the main hubs. 

Aircraft/Engine Manufacturing/Maintenance: Aerosud, Denel, Jonker Sailplanes, SkyReach Aircraft, Sling Aircraft, Xplorer UltraFlight, MATIS Aerospace, GITAS Tunisia, SKF Tunisia, Stelia Maroc, MRO Ecosystem.

Startups:, Astral Aerial, Elemental Numerics, Map Action, Cote d’Ivoire Drone

Africa World Airlines, Emirates Airline, Air Ghana, Gianair, Passion Air, Royal fly-GH, Sky Airlines, Air Peace, Kenya Airways, Egypt Air, Tap Air Portugal, Brussels Airlines, Air France, British Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Satguru Travels, South Africa Airways, Royal Dutch Airline, Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise, Aviation Profile and Security Services, Delta Airlines – Ghana, Turkish Airlines, Africa World Airlines, Aviance Ghana, Stellar Travel Aviation, Dana Air, Asky Airlines. 

Kenya airways, Qatar airways, American Airlines, The Emirates Group, United Airlines, KLM, Delta Airlines, Skywest Airlines, Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, Fly Dubai, Air Arabia, Jet airways, Air France KLM, Swiss international airlines, South African Airways, Ethiopian Air, Oman Air, ABX Air, Tradewind aviation, Sama, Air Kenya, West wind aviation, Jambojet, African express airways, 748 air services

Arik Air, Dana Air, Air Peace, Aero Contractors, Allied Air, Azman Air, Allied Air, FirstNation Airways, Ibom Air, Max Air, Kabo Air, Med-View Airline, Overland Airways, ExecuJet, Nesto Aviation Services Limited (NestAv), Flying Doctors of Nigeria, Execujet, Green Africa,

Dornier Aviation, Aglow Aviation Support Services, Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc. (Nahco Aviance), Skyway Aviation Handling Company Plc (SAHCO), Base Aviation Systems Ltd, Nesto Aviation Services Limited (NestAv), Revilo Aerospace, SGS Aviation, Newrest ASL, Landover Company Limited, SkyJet Aviation Services.

Startups: Travelstart, Wakanow, Travelbeta 

South Africa
South African Airways, SA Express, Mango Airlines, SA Airlink, FlySafair, British Airways, Kulula, CemAir, Allegiance Air, Comair Flight Services, Star Air, Interlink Airlines, Comair, Nationwide Airlines, Interair South Africa, Solenta Aviation, Africa Flight Services, BidAir Services (Pty) Ltd, Etihad Airways, Safair Operations (Pty) Ltd, Titan Helicopters, Populace, Menzies Aviation.

Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying

The Aviator
Apollo 13
The Spirit of St. Louis (1957)

Aviation Careers Podcast
Airplane Geeks Podcast
Pilot to Pilot
Aerospace Engineering Podcast
Aerospace Unplugged

African Aviation Week
International Paris Airshow
Singapore Airshow
Abu Dhabi Airshow
Africa Aerospace and Defence Expo
Aviation Africa Summit & Exhibition