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 has a significant presence throughout the region, employing more than 2,500 people across Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman. Airbus regional headquarters is in Dubai.
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 four African and Middle Eastern countries, and is proud to be a part of a region united in its embrace of innovation to build future prosperity for the generations ahead.
The Great Enabler
Airbus underscored the important role aerospace technologies play in Africa’s socio-economic development with a special “white paper” report called “The Great Enabler: Aerospace in Africa.”
It was launched at a special summit convening African government officials, policymakers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, intergovernmental bodies and multilateral development organisations in Toulouse, France.
Airbus sold its first aircraft in the Middle East in 1970; as of 2021, more than 750 Airbus aircraft operate here, and Airbus has signed orders for more than 1,300 aircraft bound for Middle Eastern carriers over the next decade that span the spectrum of the company’s products.
Airbus has been making significant inroads into the African aviation market with more than 30 new Airbus operators since 2010. As of 2021, around 32 African airlines operate more than 240 Airbus aircraft, and customers in the region account for more than 280 additional aircraft on the order books.
More than 1,000 Airbus helicopters are 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 is further increasing its Middle Eastern footprint with a customer-oriented strategy based on teaming with local partners for helicopter fleet modernisation, overhauling and maintenance. This includes a new technical office in Pakistan, working with the Falcon Aviation Services maintenance centre in the United Arab Emirates and cooperating with AMMROC for helicopter overhauls.
Airbus 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 the maintenance, overhaul and modernisation.
In Africa, Airbus is broadening and deepening its 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 Defence and Space has been a reliable and strong industrial partner to the region since the 1970s. As Europe’s number one defence and space enterprise, the second largest space business worldwide and among the top ten global defence enterprises, Airbus provides a broad range of products capabilities and systems to the countries in region.
- On the military aircraft side, the UAE Air Force and the Royal Saudi Air Force have taken delivery their A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport Aircraft (MRTT).
- On the light and medium transport aircraft family (C212, C235, C295) Airbus DS has won 79 orders from Middle East and Northern African customers, of which 74 aircraft have been delivered, and 60 are currently in operation in the Middle East and Northern Africa region.
- Egypt is the biggest single customer for the C295 worldwide, having ordered 20, emphasising the type’s great suitability for the region due to its rugged manufacture and exceptional reliability in hot and dusty conditions.
- Airbus DS is as well part of the Eurofighter Consortium manufacturing the world's most advanced combat aircraft currently available on the world market of which 84 have been ordered by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar.
- 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, which has spent more than five years in orbit.
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 satellite once in orbit.
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 subsidiary 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 all Airbus programmes.
South Africa’s aerospace industry is a major supplier of parts, components and sub-assemblies that are incorporated across the Airbus product range.
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 flavoured versions of global initiatives, reflecting the Airbus ‘think global and act local’ ethos.
Under the umbrella of the Airbus Foundation, the Airbus Little Engineer initiative encourages students to better understand and embrace innovative technology through an appreciation for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Through this partnership, Airbus has developed a series of robotics and aerospace-focused workshops, covering age groups from 10 to 17 that have been attended by thousands of students since its launch in 2012.
In 2017, the Airbus Foundation and Little Engineer launched series of workshops in Africa to support the constituent countries’ efforts to create a sustainable pipeline of talent. African nations have some of the fastest-growing and most youthful populations in the world, making investments in education and training essential for building an educated and skilled workforce that will encourage innovation. In early 2018, the Airbus Little Engineer robotics programme was launched in Kenya in partnership with M-PESA Foundation Academy.
Entaliq is a platform to develop aerospace innovators and entrepreneurs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The program’s contest was launched in 2016, attracting more than 1,000 Saudis and receiving more than 70 unique project/ideas. Three winning teams were selected at the final event and put in touch with partners to help bring their ideas to life. The second edition of the initiative began in December 2017.
The Future Scientists programme was launched in 2017 by Airbus and the Al Bayt Mitwahid association to inspire and ignite a passion for STEM topics among young Emiratis. Future Scientists will provide up to 21 Emirati high school students the opportunity to discover the aeronautics industry over a period of three years. Through engaging and hands-on sessions, participants will learn about industry best practices, gain exposure to real-life aerospace challenges and receive mentorship and advice on a career path within the industry. At the end of the programme, the students receive a full internship at Airbus’ or its industry partners’ facilities in the UAE and an opportunity to work alongside seasoned professionals.
His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hussein of Jordan attended the signing of a partnership agreement in October 2017 between Airbus and the Crown Prince Foundation (CPF) of Jordan, under which Airbus provides training opportunities to five Jordanian university students. The partnership supports creativity at CPF and contributes to developing technical skills and knowledge among the students involved.
In 2017, Airbus and the Omani Authority for Partnership for Development signed an agreement to open The Oman Aviation Academy, which will be the first aviation training company established in Oman.
The Airbus Foundation works throughout the Africa and the Middle East to advance humanitarian outreach. In coordination with Action Contre la Faim, Emirates airlines regularly utilises deliveries of its Airbus A380 jetliners to transport food and aid to the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai. 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 2017, the Airbus Foundation used an Airbus A330 test aircraft to transport 100 cubic metres, – some 17 tonnes – of relief equipment and specialised water and sanitation equipment to Entebbe, Uganda to assist the increasing number of refugees escaping the deteriorating conflict situation in South Sudan.
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 to Entebbe, Uganda to assist with the increasing number of refugees escaping the deteriorating conflict situation in South Sudan.