For those who haven’t flown a business aircraft in Africa, the prospect might be intimidating. The African Business Aviation Association (AFBAA) can help, and during its inaugural African Business Aviation Conference (AfBAC Expo) held from November 29 to December 1 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the association welcomed attendees to share information and best practices and to spread the word about aviation opportunities in Africa.
During the event, AFBAA celebrated its recent acceptance as the 15th member of the International Business Aviation Council, which represents business aviation interests worldwide and also holds observer status at the International Civil Aviation Organization.
“One goal is to create a single pan-African voice for raising business aviation standards across the African continent,” said AFBAA founding chairman Tarek Ragheb. “In the beginning, we were met by a certain degree of skepticism. We’re ignoring that skepticism to do the best possible job that we can do for business aviation in Africa.”
Since its founding in 2012, AFBAA has grown to 103 paid members. The association is planning to expand by opening chapters in African countries and continuing to help governments and regulators understand how business aviation stimulates economic growth.
The first day’s conference attracted 170 delegates and was held at the Montecasino Resort in Johannesburg suburb Fourways. It featured interactive sessions focused on “supporting the business aviation evolution in Africa.”
Search for Solutions
“This is not a talkbox,” said AFBAA executive director Rady Fahmy. “This conference [is designed] to uncover solutions. Yes, operating in Africa is sometimes an arduous affair, yet we rise with the opportunities.”
Alan Peaford, chairman of AfBAC and editor of African Aerospace magazine, encouraged the audience to participate in the sessions. “I hope today you’re ready to throw out ideas,” he said. “It’s important that we all participate. We want to go away with pragmatic solutions. We’ll look at back to basics, but also the right solutions for Africa, and what is right for Africa.”
Keynote speaker Poppy Khoza, director general of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), expressed strong support for business aviation in Africa. “Africa is now regarded as a hopeful continent,” she said. “Business aviation presents many opportunities for air travelers, and this is a market with great potential.” She emphasized that the CAA’s role is not just to provide strong regulatory support, but also to promote industry growth. “It’s not the aim of the regulator to impose cost and complexity,” she said.
At the conference, AFBAA founding chairman Ragheb announced that he is handing over the reins of the association to a new leader. “This is the last time I address AFBAA as the chairman,” he told attendees. “When I first started putting this association together I wanted to ensure that we had transparent and institutionalized corporate governance. I believe this is fundamental for any institution to grow and prosper. As such, and in keeping with our charter, I have established this institution, and faithfully guided it over the last five years. But it is time to hand it over to a new chairman.” AFBAA is now working on the process to establish a new chairman and expects to fill the role in the next six months.
The AfBAC Expo continued with a two-day exhibit and static display at Lanseria International Airport, hosted at ExecuJet’s FBO. Iteatured 43 exhibitors, workshops on a variety of business aviation subjects, and 11 aircraft ranging from a Gulfstream G550 operated by BestFly to Fireblade’s attractively painted Leonardo AW139. The Expo also focused on introducing the business aviation sector to remotely piloted aircraft systems (drones). Local schoolchildren were invited to visit and learn about aviation.
“It is AfBAA’s role to bring together executives from across the sector to share and exchange valuable knowledge and information,” said Fahmy. “We wanted to prove there is demand for a rounded convention in Africa, and what we have created is an outstanding foundation for years to come. We received a lot of positive feedback from delegates, exhibitors, and conference attendees. I am extremely proud that we doubled our registration targets and delivered a professional experience.”