Understanding BizAv’s Role in Africa’s Air Transportation Network

While Business Aviation is a key partner to different industries across the continent, what role can it play to facilitate integration into Africa’s wider air transportation ecosystem? Felipe Reisch spoke with industry experts to learn more.

Felipe Reisch  |  09th April 2024
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    Felipe Reisch
    Felipe Reisch

    Felipe Reisch works as a public relations consultant for private aviation companies worldwide, leading...

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    The role of Private Aviation in Africa

    Business Aviation plays a crucial role in Africa’s air transportation network, providing efficient and flexible travel solutions for businesses and individuals, and enhancing connectivity, productivity, and accessibility.

    It also plays a huge role in helping users reach remote locations that are not easily accessible by scheduled airline, facilitating business operations and economic growth where it would otherwise be impossible.

    Where there’s a gap, there is opportunity, says Shaun Hook, Charter, and Flight Operations Manager at South Africa-based Fireblade Aviation, which is experiencing a growing trend for companies to combine efficiencies.

    “For instance, businesses are flying cargo and staff on the same flight, and [some are] chartering larger aircraft to get in and out of destinations, with industries like mining requiring fast access to remote areas.”

    Alcinda Pereira, the Executive Director of Angola-headquartered Bestfly, believes there’s potential for greater integration and collaboration specifically with the commercial and regional aviation sectors.

    “By working together, Business Aviation, the airlines, and regional operators can create a seamless and efficient air transportation network that caters to a diverse range of travel needs. This collaboration can lead to improved connectivity, increased accessibility, and enhanced overall efficiency in the African aviation industry.”

    Whether due to infrastructure or other operational challenges, scheduled airline service in Africa remains generally inefficient beyond the major international airports. But where regular scheduled airline flights are scarce, Business Aviation steps in and fills a critical gap.

    For individuals who need to travel to or from remote areas, Business Aviation offers a vital lifeline, highlights Sami Elias, Vice President for Commercial and Operations at Cairo-based ZAS Air.

    “Imagine a key decision-maker in the mining industry needing to reach a remote exploration site,” he elaborates. “Or a medical professional needing to deliver urgent care to a remote village. In such scenarios, Business Aviation becomes the smart solution.”

    Africa’s Aviation Infrastructure Remains the Weakest Link

    While the reliance on commercial aviation at international airports may open the door to Business Aviation, operating in smaller and isolated airstrips poses a major challenge for private operators.

    Take South Africa as an example, where passengers flying from anywhere in the world have two international arrival options when flying with the airlines – Cape Town or Johannesburg. The challenge for those needing to connect to the next destination, whether with other cities or remote locations is very real.

    Hook highlights the risk that comes with traveling to some of the more unknown locations, specifically regarding the condition of runways. “Are they fenced? Do they have potholes? Are there animals, cars, or people on the runway?” he asks.

    “On the operational side, they don’t always have air traffic controllers, you would be broadcasting live to whoever is in the area, without knowing what the weather’s like from someone on the ground, or if anyone has used the runway over the last few months,” he adds.

    Pereira says that an upgraded infrastructure would contribute enormously to improved safety and security standards in the African transportation industry. “This includes better-maintained roads, modernized airports with advanced safety measures, and enhanced emergency response systems to ensure the well-being of travelers and the protection of goods.”

    In terms of air transportation, improved infrastructure just on an airport or runway level would open things up and make a significant difference. And it doesn’t necessarily need to be international investment either, Hook adds.

    “It could be a local investment where a farmer goes and looks after a remote runway in a key location on a Saturday and charges a landing fee – from an eco-system perspective, that income then goes back to the community.”

    How to Increase Access to Business Aviation in Africa

    One way to facilitate Business Aviation’s role within Africa’s larger transportation network is to increase local or external investment in the sector, with several key areas needing improvements to attract investors and facilitate sustainable growth.

    Pereira emphasizes the need to implement clear and stable regulatory frameworks that promote transparency, predictability, and investor protection, which is essential to attract local and external investment in the transportation sector.

    “Streamlining regulatory processes and reducing bureaucratic hurdles can create a conducive environment for investment,” she argues.

    Yet, while there is a huge opportunity to bolster Business Aviation in its ability to provide access to more remote locations, the sector can still be perceived as overly expensive. “The financial implications of Business Aviation require careful consideration,” Elias says. “This is particularly true when compared to readily available commercial flights.”

    When you consider trucking delays at border posts, or the cost of flying in a team that needs to consider on-the-ground travel costs from commercial airports, catering, and overnight stays due to the lack of commercial flight availability, Hook contends, then Business Aviation fills this space with its flexibility, availability, and end-to-end solution.

    “But we need to see a shift in the narrative, in that Business Aviation plays a much broader, more important role than simply being a means of servicing the elite,” he adds.

    In Conclusion

    There’s no doubting that Business Aviation complements regional and commercial aviation operations. For international travelers who have taken a 10 to 12-hour flight with meetings the next day, Business Aviation is a seamless alternative to the usual airport hassle.

    That’s the key, Hook concludes. “Commercial aviation handles the long haul, transporting passengers to a point where Business Aviation can take over, gearing up the ‘time and convenience’ equation. It’s a huge market of opportunity.”

    Moreover, investing in infrastructure improvements will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the entire Business Aviation industry in Africa. “Upgrading safety systems, navigation technology, and airport facilities will not only enhance safety but make Business Aviation a more desirable option,” Elias notes.

    Pereira stresses the importance of investing in human capital development, noting that technical skills training and knowledge transfer programs are essential to build a skilled workforce capable of managing and operating transportation projects effectively.

    “Enhancing the capacity of local talent will not only attract investment but also contribute to sustainable development in the sector.”

    More information from:
    Bestfly: www.bestfly.aero
    Fireblade Aviation: www.firebladeaviation.com
    ZAS Air: www.zasair.com

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