Can you tell us about AfBAA?
Nick Fadugba (NF): The African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA) was established in 2012 as a not-for-profit organisation to foster increased knowledge and understanding of business aviation in Africa, and continues to promote the tangible benefits that business aviation can contribute to Africa’s economic development and prosperity.
In 2018, AfBAA widened its remit to include both business and general aviation in Africa. This has significantly expanded and strengthened AfBAA’s footprint on the continent and has firmly positioned it as the official voice of business and general aviation in Africa.
AfBAA’s aim is to promote business and general aviation as a positive tool for economic development in Africa that is valued and supported by African governments, Civil Aviation Authorities and aviation industry stakeholders throughout Africa.
The Association has links to a broad cross-section of the civil aviation community including operators, airports, finance houses, manufacturers, regulators, consultancies and the media. Membership is open to organisations and individuals in the African business and general aviation industry.
AfBAA is recommending to the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), Ministries of Transport, and Civil Aviation Authorities in Africa, that the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) and the International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling (IS-BAH) should be adopted as the Gold Standards for business aviation operators and ground handlers in Africa to help enhance safety and efficiency, similar to the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) programme for airline operators.
How has Covid-19 effected business aviation in Africa?
JP Fourie (JF): Our home continent of Africa has definitely been affected. Business aviation in Africa is a tiny portion of the daily movement of people as measured against any of the established zones, such as Europe, or the Americas. None the less, because of its fragmented politics and national boundaries, it caused great distress with countries closing and opening their borders in totally haphazard and unsynchronised fashion, as was to be expected with each of the 54 sovereign states doing what it considered best for its own interests.
Although we saw much increased initial interest in business aviation charter as a safe bubble solution, the overwhelming conclusion from charter operators is that it comes in spurts and fits. Dependant on the segment of business aviation and charter you serve or operate in, such as business jets, twin engine turbo props, single engine turboprops, pistons, the numbers seem to vary between roughly 40 to 70% of the prior Covid-19 norm at the moment.
As an upshot though, those who are owners of their own machines, or that do have the ability to charter have found rich opportunity and exploratory freedoms for their business and private life. Perhaps, this ability to make decisions protecting your family’s health, or improving your business reach and profit, when others cannot, is the most valuable business aviation benefit of all.
Is there sufficient infrastructure for business aviation to thrive in Africa?
JF: No, not yet. There is great room for improvement, and this is also a great opportunity for expansion into the future as our continent reveals her treasures and people to the world, as probably the last true accessible frontier.
Even if you take countries with the highest business aviation fleets, such as Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, or Egypt, the basic service provision and alternatives of service, fall short. Tar runways serving outlying communities, fuel and handling services, SBAS navigation, and various other internationally accepted services simply do not exist at present to provide a seamless business aviation service and experience.
What does the future of business aviation in Africa look like?
JF: Our members in broad certainly do not echo the current experience as seen in the USA, where business aviation is booming. There are very different realities at play.
We do not have near the vaccination coverage and public certainty of a high established resistance that allows the slacking of wearing masks for instance. Getting vaccines to the outskirts of Africa is no easy task. Getting them there whole and still effective, is another.
Our infection rates are vastly different. In almost every one of the 54 countries. The fragmented and individualistic approach followed by most countries, hampers a unified approach. Airport movements and charter divisions, or businesses income statements certainly do not back a groundswell, or momentum.
As a whole the continent is not yet experiencing the predicted upswing of the curve back to normality, simultaneously. Yet, the indicators are there that in time, the rumbling along the bottom will end, and the tide will lift us all. When that will be, we don’t know, but 2024 does not seem as unlikely a bet as it did at the beginning of this rollercoaster ride.