North Africa: Gateway to Europe and the Middle East

While much focus on private aviation in Africa is on Southern Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya, Felipe Reisch discovers how the North Africa region is gaining ground, fueled by the return of in-person business meetings in Europe and the Middle East...

Felipe Reisch  |  13th June 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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    Business drives private aviation growth in North Africa

    Private aviation in Africa is commonly associated with what the top markets in the region can offer stakeholders. Due to its strategic location, North Africa is increasingly serving as the gateway for Africa to Europe and the Middle East, and as a result is growing in its relevance.

    Led by business travel, and more specifically by the post-Covid return to in person meetings in 2022, the main business routes from Northern Africa for Icarus Jet, a private jet provider based in Egypt, are specifically from Egypt and Morocco to London-Luton, Zurich, and Malta for business. (The top leisure connections, meanwhile, are to London, Nice, Paris, Rome and Milan.)

    “Leisure demand is seasonal and mostly in the summertime,” says Kevin Singh, President of Icarus Jet. According to Singh, leisure travel has lessened in recent years. “Leisure charter has subsided more than 15% compared to 2022 and 22% compared to 2021,” he qualifies.

    In contrast, business demand is year-round. “More traffic is generated from these types of customers, with the banking industry generating more demand than any other,” Singh notes.

    While private aviation demand is plateauing in the top global markets after record highs in 2021 and 2022, the increased usage left a mark that still lingers in many countries, North African nations included.

    In terms of demand, Jetcraft, a worldwide aircraft sales and acquisitions company, reports its share of buyers in North Africa that are coming from the corporate sector reached 60% in 2022.

    Fast forward a year and the company’s 2023 Business Jet Market Forecast shows the corporate buyer has returned, which is reflected in North Africa with business users driving demand within this region. Most activity, Jetcraft says, is coming from Morocco and Algeria.

    “The most common routes from Northern Africa are to Paris, France in Europe and Dubai, UAE in the Middle East,” says Idriss Abdelaziz, Sales Director at Jetcraft.

    Private Aviation Challenges & Opportunities in North Africa

    Those involved with private aviation within developing economies must overcome multiple barriers, including, for example, obtaining the necessary permits. Bureaucracy can hamper the timing of the processes.

    Along a similar line, having access to aircraft is always a challenge, especially as the market grows, Abdelaziz notes. “We are fortunate at Jetcraft to have a large global footprint, market-leading data and insight, and the financial strength to support our buyers’ needs, giving us access to aircraft.

    “In fact, aircraft listed for sale with Jetcraft sell 42% faster than the industry average,” he claims. “Infrastructure remains a challenge throughout Africa, but we can refer our customers to maintenance facilities and support the infrastructure that already exists.”

    According to Singh, plenty still needs to be done to support North Africa’s development. “There are improvements [being made] to the infrastructure, [but they’re] very slow compared to Europe and Asia.

    “There have been no developments in ownership, tax structure, or AOC operation guidance in the region,” he adds. “In fact, the Civil Aviation Authorities have restricted any new AOC approvals resulting in more foreign-registered aircraft within the MENA region.”

    Furthermore, permits for overnight stays and parking are a prerequisite for the MENA region, like most of Africa and the Middle East. Jet fuel is, however, cheaper compared to Europe, but flight plans can present specific challenges as the routes are issued by the Flight Information Centre and the Civil Aviation Authority and may not be the same as what most online flight planning software would show.

    “Partnering with a private jet provider which has deeper knowledge of the region is key for a seamless operation,” Singh highlights.

    How to Summarize the Current North African Private Jet Market

    The strategic location of North Africa is a key component of its increase in activity as well as its opportunity to attract investment to help bolster its infrastructure. That could include increasing its appeal for technical stops from owners and operators flying in from African nations to the south, seeking to access European and Middle Eastern airspace.

    In short, the gain in activity in Northern Africa resulting from the resurgence in face-to-face business meetings has created an opportunity for investment within the region. It is in everyone’s best interests to see efforts emerge to bring the region’s BizAv regulatory oversight and infrastructure up to a level that firstly supports this increase in activity, and secondly promotes future growth.

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