Kenya’s Business Aviation Ecosystem is Trending Up

What are the current Business Aviation trends in Kenya, and what is the outlook for the market there? Felipe Reisch spoke with Danie Joubert, Jetcraft’s Vice President of Sales in Africa.

Felipe Reisch  |  11th November 2021
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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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    Nairobi at Sunset

    A country historically dominated by turboprops, Kenya is seeing a shift towards more jets, and a rise in overall flying after the Covid-19 pandemic. But does this automatically mean there will be an investment in infrastructure to meet the increase?

    The fallout from Covid-19 has seen increased demand for private aviation worldwide, and Kenya is no exception. Private aviation activity has soared in the past 18 months, as reported by Jetcraft, with the company receiving three times more enquires for pre-owned jets for sale than before the pandemic.

    While Africa’s business and leisure links to Europe might partially explain the rise, the majority of the world’s BizAv markets registered new first-time flyers who were looking for greater safety, less exposure to the virus, and an overall controlled travel experience. Those facts have given the industry increased visibility and demand, and have partly helped address the myth that the private aviation segment is only for millionaires.

    Although the aircraft pool in Kenya is dominated by turboprop aircraft (i.e. the Cessna Caravans and the Beechcraft King Airs), which serve the tourism and domestic travel markets, there is also a clutch of Light and Mid-Size Jets, including a Cessna Citation Bravo, Citation Excel, and two Citation Sovereigns.

    “Kenya already had a strong installed base of short-range private aircraft used for tourism, but Jetcraft is seeing a growing interest in larger jets,” Danie Joubert (left) reveals.

    “The rise in demand for business aircraft in Africa comes with the necessity to educate first-time jet buyers not only on the aircraft options, but also how the market works, helping them to understand aircraft values, the different capabilities of jets in each segment, and the responsibilities and implications of ownership.”

    Africa is a large continent with key business ties to Europe and the Middle East. This is one of the main reasons why all major manufacturers are active in Kenya, from Bombardier and Embraer, to Dassault, Gulfstream, and Textron. And this, according to Joubert, has led to jets (such as Embraer’s Legacy series and Dassault’s Falcon 900-series models) becoming increasingly popular in the region.

    Specifically in Kenya, Jetcraft has seen increased interest and a growing number of enquiries for Mid-Size and Large business jets, capable of reaching destinations such as Dubai, Europe, South Africa, and West Africa with ease.

    “Enquiries are predominantly focused on pre-owned Challenger-series and Embraer Legacy models,” Joubert says. “More enquiries for long range business jets such as the Bombardier Global 6000 and Gulfstream G550 have also been received.”

    Pressure on Existing Infrastructure?

    Joubert is clear that market growth does not occur overnight. “The infrastructure will develop as the installed base of business aircraft increases,” he suggests. “Kenya has a lot of existing aviation infrastructure.

    “The increase in interest for larger business jets may in turn come with increased demand for infrastructure to maintain and operate jets from larger airports, with dedicated FBO handling facilities.”

    Of the infrastructure already in place, Wilson Airport (Nairobi) is well developed, and is aimed at General Aviation. But the airport is limited regarding the size of business jet it can manage.

    The larger international airports, such as Jomo Kenyatta (Nairobi) and Mombasa, would benefit from dedicated FBO facilities catering for the General Aviation market. As growth in demand for larger jets in Kenya continues, dedicated BizAv infrastructure might become a viable business opportunity, and indeed a reality sooner, rather than later.

    A view across Wilson Airport, Nairobi

    Although Kenya currently has the amenities to service business jets, with several well-established handling companies, these firms are working in conjunction with airport authorities, and do not have access to dedicated FBO facilities at this time.

    It is expected that the rise in demand will only continue in Kenya as passengers have already understood the real value that private aviation offers.

    Dealing with the rise in demand is a joint effort involving various stakeholders from both the public and private sectors who play key roles in supporting sustainable growth. Education among all parties will be paramount to understanding the specific needs of Business Aviation within Kenya.

    Although there appears to still be some reluctance from prospective owners to commit to buying a larger aircraft (for reasons of optics), Joubert feels this sentiment is slowly changing.

    “Elsewhere in Africa, it appears that the domestic banks are not as familiar with financing larger aircraft, making for careful deliberations when it comes to approving financing,” Joubert adds.

    “However, the enquiries are increasing, and eventually we believe the practical advantages of owning a suitable business aircraft to answer business travel demands will prevail,”  he concludes.

    In Summary…

    So, in essence private aviation in Kenya has a bright future. The increase in demand reported by Jetcraft is a good sign for manufacturers, owners and private charter companies alike, and serves as a building block for important future decisions to support growth – whether investment in infrastructure, or the establishment of a more diverse pool of aircraft.

    Kenya has all the tools in place to be the third largest market in Africa, behind Nigeria and South Africa, which should continue leading the way in the foreseeable future, at least in regard to number of aircraft and operations.

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