The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced on Thursday that African airlines recorded a 4.9 per cent increase in passenger traffic in January, compared to the same period in 2017.
The Director-General of IATA, Alexandre de Juniac, who made the announcement on the website of the association, said the rise was against a mixed backdrop for the region's largest economies.
"In Nigeria, business confidence has risen sharply while in South Africa political uncertainty continues to inflict an economic toll.
"The region's capacity rose 4.2 per cent and load factor edged up 0.5 percentage point to 70.3 per cent," Mr. Juniac said.
According to him, global passenger traffic results for January 2018 show that traffic rose 4.6 per cent, compared to January 2017, which is the slowest year-over-year increase in nearly four years.
The director-general noted that the results were affected by temporary factors, including the later timing of the Lunar New Year in 2018 as well as less favourable comparisons with the strong upward trend in traffic, seen in late 2016 to early 2017.
"IATA estimates the impact of the later Lunar New Year-related travel period holiday, represented around two-fifth of the slowdown in year-over-year growth for the month.
"January capacity rose 5.3 per cent, and load factor slipped half a percentage point to 79.6 per cent.
"Despite the slower start, economic momentum is supporting rising passenger demand in 2018.
"That said, concerns over a possible trade war involving the U.S. could have a serious dampening effect on global market confidence, spilling over into demand for air travel," he said.
The IATA chief noted that aviation was the business of freedom, "which liberates us from the constraints of geography, distance and time, enabling us to lead better lives, and makes the world a better place.
"For the business of freedom to grow the benefits it generates, we need borders that are open to trade and travel and infrastructure to support the demand for connectivity.
"Governments have the main role to play in these areas by preserving the benefits of global commerce and ensuring adequate airport and airspace capacity, to cope with an expected doubling of demand by 2036," Mr. Juniac said.