Africa was a focal point in May at EBACE in Geneva, Switzerland, as the industry came together to discuss business aviation opportunities in emerging markets. The continent has had continued economic growth over the past few years – 4.5% in 2014 and 3% in 2015 – and GDP is expected to rise by 6% per year between 2013 and 2023. This is good news for the business jet market, which is poised for a period of substantial expansion over the next few years.
“Several studies have indicated an expected growth of 4% in business aviation ownership and activity over the next 10 years,” explains Rady Fahmy, executive director of the African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA). Companies such as ExecuJet have been investing in their African services in recent months in a bid to capture the opportunities available on the continent.
Africa comprises 54 countries, whose different levels of wealth and development make it a complex market for business aviation operators. Launched in 2012, AfBAA aims to unite these countries and promote the growth of business aviation across the continent.
“From day one we developed a strategy and set of initiatives to deal with the entire continent, which we split into four regions – southern, east and central, west and north,” comments Fahmy. “Some of the initiatives include working with supranational organizations such as the African Union and the African Civil Aviation Commission, others have the support of regional organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States, and finally some of them include working with local AfBAA chapters. Additionally, and most importantly, it is the tireless efforts of our members that help develop the initiatives across Africa’s regions.”
In just four years the association has grown from 12 founding members to 108 members representing a diversified portfolio of nationalities, industry expertise and a wide range of stakeholders. “The driving principle has always been about growing business aviation on the continent from the operator’s perspective,” continues Fahmy. “Our vision and mission has always been about a combination of adoptive and adaptive strategies – adoptive in terms of instilling best practices from around the world when they fit with Africa’s diversity, and complementing that with adaptive strategies and innovative solutions when conditions call for it.”
For Fahmy, it is the rising wealth and vastness of the continent that makes Africa attractive to business aviation. Many of the economic centers, such as Nigeria, Angola, Kenya and Egypt, are not well served by an efficient transportation network, meaning business aviation has a key role to play in these areas. “South Africa remains Africa’s largest and most mature business aviation market,” he says.
There are several industries that are driving growth in business aviation – the oil and gas, mining, telecommunications, retail and medical evacuation services. “The underlying trend is the rise of African industrialists and business people that understand and appreciate the benefits of business aviation and the positive returns it has on their bottom line,” Fahmy argues.
Right: AfBAA will hold
its first African Business Aviation Conference (AfBAC) on November 17-18 in Cape Town, South Africa
EBACE provided the
ideal platform for
Fahmy to announce several initiatives, including its conference and exhibition event strategy, which is built on “market-driven events that will help the community grow through networking as well as by means of educational and inspirational sessions”.
He adds, “We also announced an innovative strategy of including unmanned aerial systems/remotely piloted aircraft systems [RPAS] under the umbrella of AfBAA. We have added RPAS operation under the definition of business aviation, meaning that we will concentrate on the same efforts we exercise for business aviation operations and apply them to RPAS. We will therefore concentrate on easing legislation, training, safety, and in general creating an ecosystem for RPAS to grow in Africa. The strategy
was implemented in response to growing interest from our operators.
“In addition, we announced the first AfBAA Ethiopia Chapter to provide our services to a country with such promise in terms of aviation.”
Alongside its annual conference AfBAC 2016 (which will be held in November in Cape Town, South Africa), AfBAA works closely with international sister associations such as NBAA and EBAA as well as the Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa for local issues to improve the overall market for the business aviation community. “We are blessed with passionate and active members that continue to strongly support our association because they believe in the vision and mission we collectively share,” Fahmy adds. “Members organize themselves in committees, such as the AfBAA Safety & Training Committee, and many others. Members are key speakers at our events, they sponsor our initiatives, and most importantly act as our conduits between the association and the local stakeholders.”
The Safety & Training Committee is a particularly important part of AfBAA as the association works to change the perception of Africa in terms of safety to the wider business aviation community. “While business aviation activity in Africa is safe, we continue to grow our initiatives to instill a safety culture, encourage best practices and adopt international standards [SMS, IS-BAO, IS-BAH] to benefit our stakeholders. The seven members that make up the AfBAA Safety & Training Committee are charged with a strategy that will focus on building stronger relationships with international and continental organizations, push for the adoption of standards such as IS-BAO, and implement training programs and personal development plans, among many other goals,” explains Fahmy.
The association is involved in humanitarian aid work, with many of its member operators providing air transportation of people and materials in projects related to humanitarian issues. “We take great pride in the work we do to alleviate some of our continent’s challenges,” Fahmy says.
AfBAA’s presence at events such as EBACE continues to grow as the association aims to spread the word about Africa’s business aviation potential, and Fahmy is confident that the group will continue its expansion in the future. “We continue to build our network of stakeholders to implement our mission and objectives. We will do so by organizing more conferences and exhibitions, being present at international events, and finally innovating products and services that will help us achieve our objectives,”
Interview conducted by Hazel King.
This article was originally published in the July 2016 issue of Business Airport International.
July 15, 2016