- 16 Jun 2021
- Sherryn de Vos
- AvBuyer Africa Articles
With the world-perception of the Business Aviation industry shifting from luxury-oriented lifestyle choice to a viable business-oriented travel solution, Thomas Chatfield says there is a huge capacity for the growth of Business Aviation in Africa…Back to Articles
Commercial airline travel within the Africa region still has many limitations, and Business Aviation is often the only means to travel point-to-point between destinations by air. Coupled with the changing perception of BizAv in Africa, the future is looking very bright for the industry.
The size of the African aviation industry is something that can’t be easily overlooked as it supports around $80 billion of economic activity, and 6.9 million jobs on the continent (2019 statistics).
Many African governments and regulatory bodies are creating new business-friendly policies to provide exceptional investment opportunities for both local and international investors, and Business Aviation offers an opportunity to efficiently connect business people across Africa, to meet, to discuss, and to create new business opportunities.
Incredibly important for the African Business Aviation sector has been the emergence of the "African Affluent" demographic segment. These business people are significantly younger than their European counterparts with an average age of 40 years.
A solid one-third of the African Affluent are women, and nine out of ten within this segment use English as their first or second language. Essentially, these are affluent, well-educated business people with a common language, seeking to travel efficiently to expand their businesses or create new ones; fertile soil for the Business Aviation industry within the region.
Growth is predominantly being driven by the rise in world commodity prices, and Africa is well-positioned in the oil, gas, gold, and minerals sectors. Industries such as construction, telecoms, and general infrastructure development are also driving demand with cross-border investment spurring growth.
Business Aviation provides the most efficient means for not only senior management, but also marketing and technical specialists to travel to remote sites, to partners across the continent and beyond.
What are the Challenges?
There are significant challenges to transportation infrastructure throughout Africa, including a lack of road and rail systems, which are created by geography, distances and political priorities.
The continent is not well served by the airlines, or indeed other methods of transport. While aviation offers a (relatively) simple solution to travel from one location to the next; here too are complications.
There are many airstrips in Africa, but the vast majority are intended for small single- and twin-engine propeller aircraft, and are either unpaved or too short to support larger commercial or business aircraft.
The number of airports that can handle turbine powered business aircraft is also limited – primarily to the capital cities and some of the other large population centers. Beyond the relatively small number of suitable airports, for a continent of this size, other infrastructure, including terminals, maintenance facilities and hangars for business aircraft are in limited supply.
The shortage of maintenance facilities forces many African business jet owners to ferry their aircraft to Dubai or Europe for larger checks, cabin refurbishment or exterior painting.
Obtaining line maintenance services for a particular aircraft type often requires the aircraft to be flown to a distant maintenance facility for even the most basic checks, and a flight crew needs to be resourceful when their aircraft is on the ground (AOG) with a maintenance problem requiring repair before the next flight.
Often a licensed engineer will need to fly in from an approved maintenance facility with tooling and parts to accomplish the repair. This requires time, and often results in a delayed or cancelled flight.
But here, too, things are slowly changing with OEMs and private companies investing in maintenance facilities, ground handling and private terminals on the continent.
Connecting the Secondary
So, what is the real potential behind Africa’s Business Aviation sector? The answer perhaps lies inside another question. Can commercial airlines really provide solutions for the continent’s travel, and especially the business needs of the continent? We need to talk about connectivity. And by connectivity we really are referring to both flying and digital.
Direct connections, even between capital cities in Africa, are rare.
For example, there are currently no direct flights between the capital cities of Lagos and Nairobi, and a person flying from Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast, must travel for more than seven hours with two stop-overs before landing in Naimey, the capital city of Niger, which is only 700 miles away.
As the pandemic slowly recedes, it will take a long time for Africa’s airlines to begin to rebuild their service networks, and much longer for new routes to be launched.
Private aviation offers solutions today by providing direct, fast and safe flights for business people and persons needing to travel efficiently.
One of the key benefits of flying privately is the ability to collaborate and work without nearby passengers eavesdropping on your conversation and glancing at your screen.
In flight, passengers are demanding digital connectivity - secure communications - to allow them to work unhindered, and without fear. Many people don’t realize that even when you’re flying at 40,000 feet, you are as vulnerable to cyber-attacks as you are on the ground, unless you are using a secure server and are practicing digital security protocols.
Add the fact that the executives that use business aircraft are usually the company’s most senior members, privy to sensitive information and often in possession of valuable documents, and you can see why in-flight connectivity is not just a simple case of flicking a switch and logging on.
Africa’s private aviation operators are seeing more and more requests for secure, safe in-flight connectivity. Luckily, these systems are available and are being installed on more and more business jets worldwide, including in Africa.
The flexibility of business aircraft and the opportunity to open up new, underdeveloped markets is appealing not only to foreign investors and conglomerates, but equally to many African Affluents seeking a competitive edge over other industry players.
Being able to choose when to travel, to fly directly from point-to-point, and return again quickly (often on the same day), saves time and travel expenses while often allowing access to new markets that have not yet been developed by the competition.
Successful entrepreneurs and companies are recognizing the benefits of Business Aviation, which is being seen by the rising number of charter flights in the region and the increasing number of people inquiring about acquiring a business aircraft.
Your Office in the Sky (and on the Ground)
Moreover, a business jet provides an opportunity to use travel time effectively with the latest technology satellite communications systems, phone calls, emails and even video conferencing possible in-flight. Cabins are fitted with comfortable spaces to work, preparing for that important meeting on arrival.
Depending on the destination, it is possible to hold the meeting in the aircraft, saving travel time to and from your business partner’s office.
Discussions can be held on board, over a delicious meal freshly prepared in the aircraft’s galley, or over a barista-perfect cappuccino. This option not only saves time, but offers enhanced safety and is sure to impress prospective clients and partners.
Refurbished Jets are Changing Things
In late 2020, there were over 530 private jets registered to individuals in Africa. Clearly, there are many successful Africans that recognize the value that a business jet offers.
A new business jet may be beyond many people’s budget; however, pre-owned jets are not to be discounted without some serious thought. Attractively priced pre-owned business aircraft with excellent pedigree but with, perhaps, a tired cabin are available on the market.
Such aircraft can represent incredible value, providing their new owner with a highly capable aircraft that can be customized to meet their exact requirements, and reflect their sense of personal or corporate style.
With smart solutions, a pre-owned jet can save both time and money for new owners. A new cabin can be installed with a modern, functional and attractive layout that provides space to work, collaborate, have a conversation, dine, relax and rest.
Areas can be created in the cabin that provide privacy for a quiet talk, to work, or simply to sleep. You don’t need to fear sleeping across from your boss or colleagues and hoping you don’t do anything embarrassing. Long-range flights can now be more comfortable and productive.
In addition to rest and work, you can stream videos, news-feeds and audio in flight almost like you’re using them on the ground: on your mobile device with your favorite set of headphones. Communication with the world below is simple and intuitive. And a galley can be fitted to create fresh healthy meals, tapas, drinks and finger foods in-flight. The possibilities are almost endless.
A pre-owned aircraft offers not only considerable value, but can be reconfigured faster, and at a lower cost, than if you were ordering a new aircraft, allowing owners to begin to enjoy the benefits of their private jet faster.
With the right government support, Africa can grab the opportunity of becoming a new hot spot for Business Aviation growth in the 21st century. New technologies open many possibilities, and the perception of a once exclusively luxurious industry is changing.
This is the right time for Africa to join the progress and expansion of the private aviation industry!
Thomas Chatfield is the CEO of Camber Aviation Management
A team of experts that manage the complex process of transforming airliners into corporate jets - from selecting the right aircraft, to cabin design, engineering, fabrication and certification through to delivery - Camber Aviation Management and Tom are passion is to innovate, pushing the barriers of what is possible in Large Cabin Jet completions, delivering the best aircraft, individually tailored to the requirements of Camber’s clientele.
More information from www.camberaviation.com