- 11 Nov 2021
- Felipe Reisch
- AvBuyer Africa Articles
What countries in Africa have the most Business Aviation growth potential, and what needs to happen to facilitate it? Felipe Reisch asked Neil Howard, CEO of Absolute Aviation, and Danie Joubert, Jetcraft’s Vice President of Sales in Africa.
Fuelled by the rise in the commodity sector and the current uncertainty of the Scheduled Airlines, some economies in East and West Africa are counting on Business Aviation to meet rising travel demand. But what variables are instrumental to meet the region’s growth potential?
Africa’s Business Aviation industry comprises much more than what Nigeria, South Africa, or Kenya – the three largest markets in the continent – bring to the table. In fact, the developing economies are the ones currently moving the needle regarding Business Aviation’s growth potential. These include Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ivory Coast, Mali, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
What do these nations have in common? They are all rich in mineral resources…
With the commodity sector hitting record levels following the initial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and with each of these countries experiencing an increase in revenue streams, many companies are turning to the General Aviation and Business Aviation sector to bridge the gap in transportation to and from their operations in remote locations and into the major hubs.
Neil Howard, CEO of South Africa-based Absolute Aviation, reveals that although the transport infrastructure is still typically poor across the continent there has always been a place for aviation.
“With the rising demand for business travel, coupled with the currently unreliable and irregular schedules of Scheduled Airlines post-pandemic, companies and individuals with strengthened balance sheets have had to invest in aircraft to secure their ability to travel on demand,” Howard says.
In fact, Absolute Aviation has seen a significant increase in activity within these countries over the last few years, and it plans to continue to meet the continent’s growing aviation requirements. Nevertheless, the pandemic has taken a toll in the travel industry worldwide, and Africa was no exception.
Governments therefore are seen as key contributors to facilitating the growth of the African Business Aviation ecosystem.
“The tourism sector was hit extremely hard by Covid-19, but fortunately aircraft operators have shown remarkable resilience,” notes Howard.
“To facilitate growth, governments need to improve vaccine roll-outs, simplify Covid protocols for foreign visitors, and we will naturally see a boom. The countries we expect to see benefit in this sector include Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.”
A Spotlight on Democratic Republic of the Congo & BizAv
In some countries of Africa, there are well established operators and facilities – but in many others, facilities are limited and underdeveloped. The DRC is an interesting case in point, says Danie Joubert, Jetcraft’s Vice President of Sales in Africa. “It is a large country with an abundance of natural resources, and so it is producing a substantial amount of interest from investors and business jet operators internationally.
“The aviation industry is fundamental in unlocking commercial opportunities. Flying privately reinforces a certainty in operations, and addresses regional flight safety concerns,” he continues.
“The Democratic Republic of the Congo is an area where private aircraft have great growth potential. Creating an institutional base here with proper aircraft management, maintenance and support would also encourage buyers who intend to enter into jet ownership.”
Once again, governments are called to lead – alongside local Business Aviation actors – an organized and sustained growth in the region.
For instance, in DRC it is apparent that the government has scrapped the ‘15-year’ rule that it once applied, stipulating any new aircraft placed on the register could not be older than 15 years, Joubert highlights.
“The introduction of this rule proved counter-productive, as it only protected a few operators with older aircraft that were already in the country. It ultimately prevented new entrants with suitable budgets from registering an aircraft older than 15 years,” even if the aircraft was in excellent condition, Joubert shares.
So, for example, those with the opportunity to purchase a good quality Bombardier Challenger 604, were prevented from doing so (if they wished to place it on the DRC’s register) owing to the aircraft’s age. Since this rule is changing, however, the opportunities for potential jet owners are improved.
African BizAv Infrastructure & Growth Alignment
Weather you’re talking Business Aviation in Africa, or Scheduled Airlines, infrastructure is paramount to accommodating any potential increase in demand.
Africa has several regions with larger economies that can benefit from the increased utilization of private aviation. The East African region, (comprising of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, among others) has larger economies, with regional and international interaction. Private aviation is well represented in the tourist market.
Yet, larger private jets would bring additional value to the region because it opens a window on non-stop travel to the Middle East and Europe. Today, most African private aviation aircraft are smaller jets and turboprop aircraft, even within the larger economies.
Furthermore, in several countries new oil investments are taking place, such as in Uganda, “where a new airport is currently being built to service the inevitable rise in demand of aviation activities,” notes Joubert. “While there are well established handling companies, dedicated VIP FBO facilities at key airports will enhance market opportunities.”
In West Africa, regions countries such as Ghana have discovered a renewed interest in the possibilities presented by Business Aviation, Joubert adds. “This trend has also appeared across the Gulf of Guinea as well as countries associated with substantial mining and oil activities, such as Sierra Leone and Liberia.”
Private aviation in Africa’s developing economies has plenty of growth potential if the industry finds a way to meet the rise of the commodity sector, which would inevitably drive an increase in demand.
There is an undeniable gap in Africa’s aviation need not currently being served by the Scheduled Airlines; a need that only Business Aviation can satisfy, ultimately, owing to the remote locations that need to be accessed. It will essentially be up to the governments and operators to find ways to meet that potential.
Moves like the one in which the DRC scrapped its ‘15-year’ rule are a good start, showcasing how the public and private sectors can align to shred ‘excess baggage’ that threatens the potential growth of the Business Aviation ecosystem in growing African economies.
But there remains plenty of work ahead to help actualize the potential of Business Aviation in many of the most promising African nations.
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