There are significant growth opportunities for business and charter aviation in Africa. Already, there are 481 registered private jets in Africa and the continent’s year-on-year business aviation growth is 44%.
So highlighted ExecuJet Aviation Group GM: flight operations Philip du Preez at the Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa Commercial Aviation Symposium on Tuesday.
This is despite current constraints on the sector across the continent. Thus, not all African aviation authorities work on a 24/7/365 basis, which can delay approval of overflight rights for chartered aircraft. And, currently, 50% of African citizens need a visa to visit their African neighbours. At the moment, only 27 African countries have signed the African Union’s Protocol of Free Movement of People.
Hence the importance of the recently-agreed Single African Air Transport Market. “I think this is going to be very key,” he affirmed. “We hope and pray that all the countries will eventually sign up. … This is a step in the right direction.” It will create seamless air traffic across the continent, improve air service connectivity, improved continental integration, increase convenience for air passengers, save time, create jobs (especially for the young) and boost tourism.
Very important for the African business aviation sector has been the emergence of the “African Affluent” demographic segment. “They are significantly younger than their European counterparts,” he highlighted. Their average age is about 40 years; they are 66% men and 34% women; and nine out of ten have English as their first or second language.
They make extensive use of their smart phones to access information and make purchases; in Africa, 51% of smartphone users employ their phones for travel information, while 37% of affluent Africans have bought products and services through their phones during the past year. “CNN is their number one channel of news information gathering,” noted du Preez; 60% using the US-based media group. (Ranking second was the BBC, at 47%.) “Social responsibility and being environmentally friendly were top priorities for Africa’s most wealthy.” These facts had implications for the marketing of business aviation to this demographic.
But there was, as far as business aviation was concerned, another important African demographic that was now emerging, especially in South Africa, he observed: the HENRYs (High Earner, Not Rich Yet). People in this category included those likely to make their first private flights, perhaps paid for by their employers. For every ultra-affluent household, there were ten HENRY households. HENRYs were also socially influential and very brand-loyal: if a company wins their loyalty, it will keep it. That applies to air charter companies as well.
Meanwhile, new business opportunities are emerging for business aviation across the the continent. He cited Benin as an example. That West African country was moving to establish itself as a rival for Safari holidays to Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania. However, its national parks are at the northern end of its territory, very far from its international airport at Cotonou on the south coast, and only one other airport in Benin, Parakou, has scheduled commercial airline services, and Parakou, although much closer to the national parks, is still a significant distance from them.
Consequently, affluent tourists (not just Europeans) are now chartering business jets in Europe and flying to Benin. Why not, queried Du Preez, out of South Africa and other African countries? There were clear opportunities both to fly people to and from Benin and to fly them within Benin (even with single-engined turboprop types).
He urged partnerships between African operators to exploit these and equivalent opportunities in other African countries. He also urged that, in moving into new African markets, operators source as much as possible from local suppliers, employ and upskill as many locals as possible, and generally engage the local business sectors and communities.