Launched in May 2012, the African Business Aviation Association has already come a long way in the two years since its inception. The organization arrives at EBACE (Booth 5542) having accomplished recent important milestones. It has also gained considerable traction in its mission to “promote the understanding and benefits that business aviation provides for the continent’s economic development and prosperity,” and to push for the environment that will allow business aviation to flourish.
Now with more than 60 members representing all sectors of the business aviation community, from OEMs to operators and companies providing support, AfBAA has taken on a major challenge. The sheer size of the continent, the lack of suitable airports, and the paucity of transport connections make business aviation even more vital to economic growth than in other regions of the world. A fragmented regulatory environment is also a challenge that AfBAA is working to improve.
While Africa currently represents only a small fraction of the worldwide bizav fleet, with fewer than 1,500 aircraft, the need for business aviation in Africa is clear, and economic growth is outstripping that of other regions. Annualized growth of around 5 percent has been recorded in the last decade, particularly in central Africa where natural resources are driving economic growth. Leading the way is Nigeria, with more than 6 percent consistent growth, despite the country’s internal problems. Although it currently ranks 39th in the ranks of gross domestic product, Nigeria is expected to be the 13th biggest economy in the world by 2050, according to World Bank/Goldman Sachs analysis.
At present most trade is conducted to and from the continent but, as economies develop, so intra-Africa trade will grow. To support both external and internal trade development, AfBAA represents the business aviation sector in advocating investment in infrastructure, regulatory development and simplification and the expansion of service provision in all associated areas, such as financing, insurance, trip support, product support and MRO facilities.
One key task that AfBAA is embarking on is to compile a database of business aviation in the continent. At present there is little hard information available, which can hinder decision-making. AfBAA’s database will provide data on the aircraft operating within the continent, operators, services and parts suppliers and infrastructure. It will also document the legal and organizational frameworks within each country, covering regulatory information for operations and the legal requirements for ownership and operation.
While AfBAA is already engaged with African civil aviation authorities in advocating more conducive regulations for the operation and acquisition of business aircraft, the database will facilitate this work by allowing the presentation of more accurate data for the continent as a whole. As well as this task, the association is also involved in changing the negative perceptions towards business aviation that are often encountered at both public and governmental level.
AfBAA is building partnerships with international organizations such as the African Union, Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa and the Internal Business Aviation Council. Another activity is to advance the training of personnel involved in the business aviation sector, and discussions are ongoing with a number of international training organizations to formulate solutions to one of the biggest challenges in Africa: the lack of skilled personnel.
A recent major achievement for AfBAA was the successful conclusion of its first air show. Organized in conjunction with Morocco’s annual military air show, the AfBAA Expo was held last month at the military base at Marrakech’s Menara airport. Africa’s first dedicated business aviation show provided a unique forum for a range of interested parties, including prospective customers, and was supported by OEMs such as Beechcraft, Cessna, Dassault, Embraer and Gulfstream. Among the “stars” of the show was an Embraer Legacy 500 flight test aircraft with full cabin interior, and the same company’s Lineage 1000E on its first African outing.
During the show AfBAA founding chairman Tarek Ragheb announced a major development for the association in the form of the inception of a fund valued at $250 million that is available for the financing of business aircraft. Underwritten by an undisclosed export agency, the fund could potentially rise to $500 million. More details are expected this week at EBACE.
AfBAA’s next main event will be a symposium that is to be held in September during the Africa Aerospace and Defence show at Waterkloof air base near Pretoria, South Africa. Last year’s event in Marrakech proved very successful, both in terms of providing a forum for discussing business aviation challenges in Africa, and in formulating a plan of action to meet them.