In response to rising business aviation traffic across Africa, trip support group UAS has opened a new regional headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa. The new facility is being managed by Wynand Meyer, the Dubai-based group’s newly appointed director of business development for Africa, who has joined UAS from Boeing’s flight planning subsidiary Jeppesen, where he oversaw its ground handling network for Africa, the Middle East and India.
The new African headquarters, with an initial staff of 17 people, is part of a major investment that UAS is making in Africa, where it intends to open further new offices and increase local representation. It confirmed the opening of a new regional office in Lagos, Nigeria, during the Nigerian Business Aviation Conference on March 27-28. At the Marrakech Air Show in Morocco last month the company announced the opening of another regional office in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The Lagos office is opening with four employees, including a regional manager, two operations specialists and a business development manager, while in Nairobi there will be a regional manager and a pair of operations specialists.
“These regional offices will provide additional support for activities across Western and Central Africa, Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean,” explained Meyer. “We really want to make sure that we have local support for our clients, and that every single client can have a local UAS representative who can oversee the quality, safety and on-time delivery of requested services, which can mean physically going to the airports and ensuring the job gets done.”
Local Presence Needed
UAS already has airport-based supervisors in African countries such as Ethiopia, Mali and Burundi. “These airport supervisors and our regional staff are able to diagnose any foreseeable issues and remedy them in advance,” added Meyer. “The benefit of having a local presence at an airport is that we are constantly informed in real time of delays, equipment or fuel shortages, gate changes and any minor or major deviation from the trip plan. In such scenarios we will have the opportunity to mitigate and resolve complications without compromising the service experience–benefitting our clients, passengers and crewmembers.”
The company is also training local employees to meet the needs of aircraft operators. This will include the International Air Transport Association’s ground handling management course, and UAS also has created a scholarship program to fund training in countries such as Ethiopia.
“In the future, we are looking to expand our network of airport supervisors and build physical offices at the airports,” Meyer told AIN. “We want to be where the action is. This is the second phase of market development in Africa.”
According to Meyer, lack of infrastructure–reliable communications and electrical supplies in particular–is a common cause of operational difficulty in Africa. Other difficulties are created by a lack of clear and open access to key information, such as Notams. “The only way to minimize our risk and the impact to the client, as well as manage any issues in a timely manner, is to have a local presence on the ground,” said Meyer.
UAS supported approximately 7,000 flights into and within Africa last year. “Growth in business aviation [in Africa] will be fueled by the lack of airline connections to support the amount of business activity on the continent,” said company co-founder and executive president Mohammed Husary. “Distances between major cities and poor ground transportation infrastructure will also fuel bizav growth. The long-term prospects for business aviation are solid; we expect the industry to reach new heights in Africa in the next 20 years.” He identified economic factors such as privatization of state-owned companies and a growth in the number of wealthy Africans as key drivers of fleet growth.
To mark the opening of the Johannesburg headquarters, UAS hosted a dinner event on March 13 in association with IATA and the African Business Aviation Association.