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Connecting Skies Bridging Continents

DEMAND FOR BUSINESS AIRCRAFT SOARS AS AFRICA’S ECONOMY EXPANDS

The landscape of business aviation in Africa is evolving, with perceptions shifting from luxury to necessity. Historically seen as a privilege for the elite, business aviation is now recognised as a vital economic driver, enabling investment and development across the continent. This shift is underscored by the increasing reliance on business jets to overcome the challenges posed by limited road and rail infrastructure.

Business aviation plays a crucial role in Africa’s economic growth, particularly in mineral-rich regions. Private jets transport valuable commodities like gold and diamonds and support the oil and gas industry by ferrying personnel and operating emergency and medevac flights. In East Africa, these aircraft bolster the tourism sector, transporting tourists to remote beaches, national parks, and safaris.

 

Medevac operations are also critical, bridging the healthcare gap by transporting patients to countries with more advanced medical facilities. Business jet flights connect West Africa with Europe, North Africa with Europe, and East Africa with the Middle East, with many flights operating within Africa itself.

 

Danie Joubert, Vice President of Sales in Africa for international broker Jetcraft, notes a dramatic rise in business jet ownership across the continent. Countries like Angola, Uganda, and Ghana are seeing increased demand as companies expand across Africa, necessitating more air travel. Kenya, with its robust base of short-range private aircraft for tourism, is experiencing growing interest in larger jets for longer missions. Established markets such as Nigeria and South Africa remain vibrant, with South Africa boasting the largest fleet of business jets at 418, followed by Kenya with 137, and Nigeria with 109.

 

Alcinda Pereira, Chair of the African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA), highlights that Africa is now seen as a viable center for business aviation operations, attracting leading original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and adhering to international standards. AfBAA, established in 2012, has been instrumental in changing industry perceptions and promoting business aviation as a catalyst for economic development.

 

AfBAA has expanded its focus to include both business and general aviation, strengthening its presence and influence across the continent. The association advocates for business aviation as a tool for economic development, supported by African governments, civil aviation authorities, and industry stakeholders. Africa’s aviation sector is steadily recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with air cargo rebounding by 31.4 percent and air travel nearing pre-pandemic levels.

 

Looking ahead, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts that seven of the top ten fastest-growing aviation economies over the next 20 years will be in Africa. This growth is expected to benefit business aviation, attracting key investors and expanding services such as charter flights, maintenance centers, and aircraft sales.

Despite these promising developments, the sector faces challenges including political instability, inadequate infrastructure, high taxes and fees, and a lack of qualified pilots. Efforts are underway to address these issues, with improvements in visa facilitation and airport infrastructure. However, inconsistencies in flight permit processes and limited maintenance support outside South Africa and Kenya continue to hinder growth.

 

Nevertheless, industry leaders remain optimistic. Gavin Kiggen, Vice Chair of AfBAA, sees attractive investment opportunities due to Africa’s expanding middle class, resource-rich economies, and untapped aviation potential. Dawit Lemma, CEO of Krimson Aviation, emphasises the positive developments in regulatory acceptance and the need for specialised regulations for business aviation.

 

As Africa’s business aviation sector continues to evolve, it promises to play a crucial role in the continent’s economic future, supporting industries like oil and gas, mining, and tourism, and driving overall growth.

IMAGE CREDIT : Pilatus

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