In 2010, only a handful of airlines operated direct flights between a few African nations and Beijing. Today, Beijing isn’t even the busiest Chinese city for passengers traveling to or from Africa. Air traffic between China and Africa has increased over 600% in the past decade.
A majority of the expansion in Africa came from Ethiopian Airlines, who made its main hub Addis Ababa the most frequented city on China-Africa flight routes. China’s third-largest city, Guangzhou, has become the city of choice for airlines.
Guangzhou is the hub of the manufacturing-rich Pearl River Delta. Foreigners visit Guangzhou for its abundance of cheap goods and trade opportunities. The airport also allows Chinese traders and business travelers from China’s southern region, including Fujian province, to more conveniently go to Africa. One study published in 2012 found that a majority of Chinese traders in southern African countries were from Fujian.
The African population in Guangzhou is estimated to be anywhere from 20,000 to 200,000.
China-Africa airline routes today are capable of carrying about 850,000 passengers on direct flights annually. With an average of around 80% of those seats filled on international routes operated by African airlines, that’s about 680,000 passengers on round trips every year.