How is Business Aviation Really Seen in Africa?

Especially within developing economies, private aviation can be the domain of the wealthy few who have the means to access the market. But just how is Business Aviation perceived across Africa? Felipe Reisch asks some industry experts based there…

Felipe Reisch  |  23rd March 2022
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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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Private jet and turboprops parked at a Tanzanian airport

There is a shifting perception worldwide – a recognition that private jets are no longer the luxury items they once were. Instead, they’re accepted as an efficient travel tool that helps generate employment, connect isolated communities, and supports business growth. But is that also the case in Africa today?

Traditionally, other nations have got very wealthy extracting and exporting Africa’s mineral resources, with private aviation being one of the tools to secure the business aspect of such operations. Nevertheless, private aviation is much broader than business-fueled charter flights. It also serves isolated communities in desperate need of connectivity and access to the health system (for example), with a big presence of air ambulance services in Africa.

For Deepesh Gupta, Business Development Manager for Tanzania-based Auric Air Services, things are slowly changing.

“Business Aviation in Africa is opening up, with better connectivity, a growing number of [aggressively priced] operators, and growth in business and tourism activities,” he notes. “Business Aviation is no longer a service for the wealthy few.

Gupta believes private aviation is becoming increasingly mainstream within business in Africa. “For example, it is playing a very strong role in serving the tourism, mining, oil, and gas industries,” he highlights, with Africa’s mineral, oil and gas industries being tied to large corporations and high-net-worth individuals (HNWI).

In contrast, Kevin Singh, President at Icarus Jet, with offices in Egypt and Kenya, believes Business Aviation in Africa still operates under the notion that it is reserved for the super-wealthy. “All in all, General Aviation is for the HNWI,” Singh argues.

Singh says the air ambulance market in Africa is nonetheless a ‘high note’ that “establishes private aviation as accessible, and a reference for entire communities”. With a lack of fully-equipped hospitals and specialized doctors throughout the continent, private aviation plays a role in filling the gap, operating medevac flights to countries with more developed health systems.

Room for Improvement?

For private aviation to thrive and change the perception of potential users in Africa, it needs the right infrastructure in place and establishment of the regulatory body that will allow sustained growth across the continent.

For developed economies such as the US, the EU, and the Middle East, private aviation is a jobs creator and a necessity to many successful corporations.

“Business Aviation creates infrastructure in first world nations,” Singh says. “But, in Africa, it’s a high-ticket item reserved for the few, and is [perceived by some as] a burden on the already stretched airports and Air Traffic Control infrastructure.

The industry is heavily restricted, and is often under a heavy scrutiny from Civil Aviation, the Military, and Customs according to Singh, “which causes further delays in accepting flights into the airports.” Thus, there remains a need for a significant shift in attitude towards Business Aviation.

Gupta believes volume and reduced pricing would also help to drive the industry. “The pull is there, somehow, and the push is also there,” he argues. “More direct foreign investment into Africa would bring a rise in Business Aviation for Africa.”

What’s apparent is that it will take players in different industries – both in the private and public sectors – to jointly develop the full potential of Business Aviation in the continent. For starters, an easier financing system from banks could cause the number of aircraft in the continent to rise, as would a more owner-friendly tax structure.

Due to unfavorable policies towards aircraft owners in Africa, “most aircraft owned by the HNWI in Africa are registered in foreign countries like Malta, San Marino, and the US,” says Singh. 

Another barrier to significant growth of Business Aviation in Africa is the lack of qualified pilots in the continent – a gap which Singh says is filled by expatriate pilots, which does little to improve the local value that Business Aviation offers.

A Collective Stance Towards Sustained Growth

Transportation of precious metals is also in high demand in Africa, especially to Dubai from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, and private aviation provides the perfect vehicle.

As stated, medevac flights support the health system throughout the continent, while General Aviation also plays a role in connecting isolated communities, boosting small-businesses, and improving technology.

But it’s the collective drive to promote the benefits of General and Business Aviation that are lacking, such as was seen through the world-renowned National Business Aviation Association-led No Plane, No Gain initiative. No Plane, No Gain specifically promotes private aviation for small and medium-sized businesses, highlighting how it can connect productive isolated communities that lack a scheduled airline service.

“Any plan that brings General and Business Aviation some form of united representation would help the African continent tremendously,” Singh says. “The lack of a collective voice has resulted in implementation of archaic rules and regulation,” hampering the industry’s development and operations in Africa.

While this might take some time to establish, Icarus Jet regularly provides airlift for many embassies In Libya, using a trip support company for securing landing permits – even during a time of unrest.

Flying into a country embroiled in war or civil unrest poses challenges to operators, with the cost of insurance almost triple the price, owing to unpredictable safety conditions, “yet we have been able to secure these flights with 100% dispatch reliability, using our expertise in Africa and our contacts on the ground in most countries in Africa,” Singh highlights.

Auric Air, meanwhile, has been serving the World Food Programme, the International Organization for Migration, and other humanitarian missions and developmental projects in Tanzania, and offers excellent connections within Tanzania and East Africa for tourists wanting to explore Africa’s wildlife and pristine beaches.

While the private aviation sector in Africa widely serves the historic business sectors, there are some operations who also offer medevac flights and humanitarian missions, both of which could help redefine the traditional view that this is the domain of the wealthy.

How long will it take for the winds to change, and private aviation to be better understood in Africa? It’s difficult to say, but the push from companies like Icarus Jet, Auric Air (and many others), will serve to reinforce it as a tool connecting thousands, and improving the exchange and efficiency of countless communities.

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