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Airbus in Africa and the Middle East

For more than four decades, Airbus commercial airliners, helicopters, military aircraft and satellites have flown the skies of Africa and the Middle East. From Dubai to Cape Town, Airbus’ activity reflects the company’s slogan: “We make it fly.”

Airbus has a significant presence throughout the region, employing more than 3,100 people across Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman. Airbus regional headquarters is in Dubai, also home to Emirates, the largest customer for A380 jetliners – with 100 of these flagship aircraft received as of November 2017.

Airbus’ products and services are widely recognised as being well-suited to Africa and the Middle East, yet the company’s commitment to the region goes beyond selling: Airbus pursues humanitarian objectives and also provides training and support by building local entities, creating jobs and ultimately contributing to the economic development of the region. In addition, Airbus identifies knowledge, skills, talent and capacities that can be developed to address global talent shortages.

Airbus sources supplies and components from multiple companies within such African and Middle Eastern countries as the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Tunisia and South Africa, and is proud to be a part of a region united in its embrace of innovation to build future prosperity for the generations ahead.

Commercial aircraft

The UAE’s Etihad Airways received its first A380 in December 2014

Airbus sold its first aircraft in the Middle East in 1970; as of late 2017, nearly 700 Airbus jetliners operate in the region, and Airbus has signed orders for more than 1,000 for Middle Eastern carriers that span the spectrum of the company’s products.

Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways all operate the iconic A380, and Qatar Airways was the launch customer for the new A350 XWB.

Airbus has been making significant inroads into the African aviation market. As of late 2017, more than 30 African airlines were operating 230-plus Airbus jetliners, and Airbus achieved an 83% market share in terms of new aircraft sales in Sub-Saharan Africa as of 2016


Airbus H225 rotorcraft have been used in the African oil and gas industry.

More than 650 Airbus helicopters have been flown by both civil and military operators across Africa and the Middle East in applications as varied as anti-piracy, counter-insurgency, border patrol, emergency medical airlift, search and rescue missions, VIP transport and the servicing of offshore oil and gas platforms.

Airbus Helicopters is further increasing its Middle Eastern footprint with a customer-oriented strategy based on teaming with local partners for helicopter fleet modernisation, overhaul and maintenance. This includes a technical office in Pakistan, in addition to a working relationship with the Falcon Aviation Services maintenance centre in the United Arab Emirates and cooperation with AMMROC for helicopter overhauls.

Airbus Helicopters is developing a regional industrial base relying on Eurocopter Kingdom Saudi Arabia – its largest subsidiary located in Saudi Arabia with more than 120 engineers and technicians dedicated to maintenance, overhaul and modernisation.

In Africa, Airbus is broadening and deepening its helicopter presence through its regional subsidiary, Airbus Helicopters Southern Africa, which offers aircraft assembly, completions, maintenance, engineering and training. It supports around 150 turbine-powered helicopters operated by customers in 20 countries across the sub-Saharan/Indian Ocean region.


Airbus is part of the Eurofighter consortium, manufacturer of the Eurofighter Typhoon advanced combat aircraft. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is acquiring Eurofighters, as is Kuwait and the Sultanate of Oman.

The UAE Air Force and the Royal Saudi Air Force both operate Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports (MRTT), which serve as in-flight refuelling platforms and airlifters. These capable aircraft are derived from Airbus’ A330 commercial jetliner. In the light- and medium-lift military transport category, Airbus has won orders for more than 110 aircraft from its product line of the twin-engine C212, CN235 and C295.

Egypt is the largest single customer worldwide for the C295 , emphasising this aircraft's suitability for the region due to its exceptional reliability in hot and dusty conditions.

In addition, Airbus A400M military transporters in service with the French and German air forces are regularly deployed on peace support and related missions in Africa.


Airbus offers a wide portfolio of Earth observation satellite capabilities and services to governments and institutions, including the South African National Space Agency, and has built numerous telecom satellites that provide African coverage and enable crucial communications services across the region. These include Egypt’s Nilesat and Algeria’s ALSAT 2A.

For the Kingdom of Morocco, Airbus has the satellite prime contractor role for the MOHAMMED VI-A Earth observation satellite, in charge of its integration, as well as supplying the platform and the ground segment for mission planning and satellite control. This spacecraft is designed for mapping and land surveying activities, regional development, agricultural monitoring, the prevention and management of natural disasters, monitoring changes in the environment and desertification, as well as border and coastal surveillance.

Airbus holds a contract with the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates for the development, manufacturing and launch of Falcon Eye, a high-performance optical Earth-observation satellite system. The contract includes the manufacture of two satellites with high-resolution optical capabilities and a ground system for monitoring, receiving and processing images, as well as a training programme for the engineers from the UAE who will control and operate the satellites once in orbit.

Local partners

In the United Arab Emirates, Strata produces composite components for the A330, A330neo, A350 XWB and A380 jetliners, while TPI produces metallic parts for the A320, A320neo and A330 programmes. In both Morocco and Tunisia, Airbus suppliers and Airbus sub sidiary STELIA Aerospace utilise a highly skilled workforce while taking advantage of the proximity to Europe to source a mix of machined composite, electrical and assembled components across various Airbus programmes.

South Africa’s aerospace industry is a major supplier of parts, components and sub-assemblies that are incorporated in Airbus products.


Workshops for the Airbus Little Engineer initiative that inspires Middle Easter students to pursue careers in the aerospace industry were conducted during the 2015 Dubai Airshow’s Future’s Day

Airbus strongly believes that talent is a key contributor to the future of aerospace, and that with the right combination of investment, support and cooperation, a sustainable stream of talent can be developed. Some Airbus initiatives are entirely home-grown, while others are locally tailored versions of global initiatives, reflecting the Airbus ‘think global and act local’ ethos.

In 2012, Airbus partnered with Little Engineer, an organisation dedicated to instilling an appreciation for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) across the region. Through this partnership, Airbus has developed a series of robotics and aerospace-focused workshops, covering age groups from 10 to 17 years old that have been attended by thousands of students from across Africa and the Middle East.

In addition to the focus on science and technology, Airbus Little Engineer workshops help students practice skills such as teamwork, effective communication, critical thinking, public speaking and creativity.

An initiative in cooperation with TAQNIA Aeronautics – a Saudi technology development and investment company – challenges Saudi youth to find innovative ways to support and advance the national and global aerospace industry. Applicants submit their business ideas for the opportunity to be coached by experts and mentored by aerospace veterans. Launched in September 2016, the program attracted more than 1,000 entrants in its first year, including Saudi entrepreneurs studying overseas.

Another outreach, called the Future Scientists programme, aims to inspire and ignite a passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among young Emiratis and build a world-class UAE talent pool that the global aerospace industry can ultimately nurture and retain. Through engaging and hands-on sessions, participants have the chance to learn about best industry practices, gain exposure to real-life aerospace challenges and receive mentorship and advice on how to pursue a career within the industry.

Corporate Citizenship

The Airbus Foundation works in Africa and the Middle East to advance humanitarian efforts. In coordination with the Action contre la Faim (Action against Hunger) organization, the Dubai-based UAE carrier Emirates regularly utilises deliveries of its Airbus A380 jetliners to transport food and aid to the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai. Separately, Ethiopian Airlines transported some 11 tonnes of humanitarian goods destined to provide relief to drought-prone areas in eastern Africa aboard one of its A350 XWBs.

In Airbus’ partnership with South African Airways, educational material and sports equipment have been distributed to children in some of South Africa’s most disadvantaged communities. Rwandair utilised the delivery flight of its second A330 to transport 1.2 tonnes of humanitarian goods, medical supplies, and medical equipment. And in 2017, the Airbus Foundation used an Airbus A330 test aircraft to transport 17 tonnes of relief equipment and specialised water and sanitation equipment from the UK to Entebbe, Uganda to assist with refugees escaping the conflict situation in South Sudan.To know more about the Future Scientists’ objectives, please click on the link below.

More information of Airbus in the region

Mikail Houari

Mikail Houari

President for Africa and Middle East

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