How BizAv in Africa can Reach Full Potential

With some hurdles along the runway, it will take a collaborative approach to incentivize private aviation use across Africa, says JP Fourie, Vice Chairman of the African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA). Felipe Reisch finds out more…

Felipe Reisch  |  31st January 2023
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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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    African Businessman using private jet

    While time efficiency might be the main benefit that Business Aviation provides globally, Africa still needs to surpass a set of hurdles to enjoy improving usage and accessibility figures across the continent.

    Poor currency exchange rates and a borderline poverty threshold in personal GDP in Sub-Saharan countries (a group that comprises 48 of the continent’s 54 countries) brings things into context.

    Established in 2012, the African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA) seeks to consistently promote the tangible value and benefits of the industry in Africa, educating its main stakeholders on how the segment can contribute to the continent’s overall economic development and prosperity.

    “On the surface of things, Business Aviation will always operate in a rarefied atmosphere in Africa – a bit of market research underlines that strongly,” says JP Fourie, the Association’s Vice Chairman.

    “Dissimilar treatment by various African authorities in terms of charges, response times, registration processes, and – for instance – age requirements of equipment, make for a lumpy and uneven landscape.”

    While opportunities exist in countries where economic growth or specific industries have brought wealth to either industry or individuals, within many of these countries it is not uncommon to see owners purchasing aircraft that are a mismatch for their actual mission profile and requirements.

    JP Fourie Vice Chairman and Nick Fadugba Chairman AfBAA

    “Good, sound advice and consulting service seem to be an opportunity that owners – despite several years coming off a low base of aircraft acquisitions – still need to fully appreciate,” Fourie says. “It is not uncommon to see large intercontinental aircraft flying four or five people on flights of less than two-hours around Africa.”

    Ultimately, Business Aviation when used correctly performs as advertised: It is a time-optimizing machine, and only the person utilizing it can truly measure the hourly cost against their value, and the opportunity they’re exploring.

    The biggest opportunity Business Aviation represents for users is the potential to increase a company’s overall bottom line. Will the industry become more accessible to more people across Africa anytime soon?

    “Based on factual evaluation I think when Africa is viewed as a whole, it will follow a natural and proven path of steady and improved usage over time,” Fourie predicts, “although we are not coming off a strong base at present.”

    Emerging Economies Seizing the Opportunity

    In addition to his role with AfBAA, Fourie leads the aircraft division of South Africa-based NAC. He finds it hard to argue against Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa seeing increases in their use of Business Aviation.

    “Wherever large projects are launched,” he adds, “projects such as the Inga Hydroelectric scheme in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or the Jwaneng Mine in Botswana, aircraft are the enabling precursor.”

    Increased use of Business Aviation is also a job generator, and Fourie estimates the sector creates between 25 thousand and 30 thousand jobs (considering all ancillary and support industries pertaining to fuel, maintenance, parts supply, flight and trip planning, training, and air traffic control).

    For continued growth, however, the industry needs to overcome some important obstacles that have been hurting the industry for decades in Africa, including bureaucracy and inefficient regulation.

    “These are items that, as an industry, we need to take a hands-on approach with, helping develop smoother, more predictable, and improved outcomes instead of assuming paperwork hurdles and compliance requirements alone will act as a catch-all.”

    Just as in the more developed markets around the world, incentives need to work both ways. Fourie says that tax incentives, for instance on aircraft ownership, importation, registration, and maintenance need to be linked to demonstrable benefits to the local country.

    (Fortunately, there are many examples of how aircraft and aviation improve expansion, exploration, connectivity, and economies, and these are precisely the type of promotion and education that is actively delivered by AfBAA.)

    BizAv in Africa: What to Expect in 2023

    A fair amount of demand for Business Aviation around the world owes to inefficiency in airline schedules, and Africa is no exemption. “Try getting from Johannesburg to Bangui, in the Central African Republic,” Fourie highlights. “Maputo to Lagos, Abu Simbel to Casablanca – and within the boundaries of more developed countries many other examples exist,” he adds.

    While these routes are simply too thin or unprofitable for the scheduled airlines to fly, they’re critical for mining companies needing to service a new mineral deposit, for example.

    Fourie also notes that it seems increasingly inevitable governments in Africa will make use of charter solutions, with their broader fleets of aircraft enabling use of an aircraft that is more suitable for the specific mission at hand.

    “My wish is that General Aviation finds much more traction, as it not only serves as a feeding ground for the commercial and Business Aviation sectors, but also empowers much business development into otherwise remote and unattractive areas for larger players.”

    The emerging economies will lead the way, Fourie reckons. “I would bet that certain city pairs that already exist will benefit the most, including Abuja to Lagos, Cape Town to Hoedspruit, Maun to Windhoek, Luanda to Lisbon, and so forth.”

    The reasons are many, he adds, including political or economic importance, natural retreats, colonial legacy, or simply the fact that Africa’s cities are growing much faster due to urbanization as people seek jobs.”

    But for the various areas of Africa’s Business Aviation industry with room for improvement (including fleet age, infrastructure, and more), both the funding and desire to improve will need to be stimulated.

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