Patient Africa-leaning business aircraft brokers are reporting strong demand as the threat from Covid-19 appears to recede and business continues to remain all but unaffected by the Russia-Ukraine war. In addition to the major regional centers of South Africa and Nigeria, North Carolina-based Jetcraft last year saw transactions take place in Ghana, Togo, Uganda, Angola, and Namibia, among others. Demand for smaller business jets, such as the Bombardier Learjet 45, also remained high in certain regions on the continent.
“Consistent with the trends seen by our international team, 2021 was a good year for Jetcraft in the African market,” Jetcraft v-p of sales for Africa Danie Joubert told AIN from his office in Johannesburg. “Overall, we were able to source good-quality aircraft from other regions of the world and increased our sales throughout the continent. Most of our aircraft transactions were focused on larger jets such as Challengers, Falcons, and Globals. We also sold one or two smaller jets and a Pilatus PC-12 NG.”
Overall demand for aircraft is still outpacing supply and Jetcraft is focused on finding solutions for customers in the current environment. In the context of high demand, buyers with a specified budget have demonstrated they are now more willing to consider older or earlier aircraft models such as the Bombardier Challenger 601, provided the aircraft has a good history and is suitably maintained and equipped.
“Additionally, some individuals and corporations are showing more willingness to increase their budgets to purchase the aircraft they desire,” he said.
Practical considerations—such as the base of operation, coupled with buyers’ preferred destinations, maintenance facilities, support, and regulatory requirements—are all factors that feed into an aircraft purchase. The distances involved also affect decisions. For example, a recent buyer in southern Africa selected a Dassault Falcon 900EX due to the relative ease with which the aircraft could travel to Dubai, compared with the alternatives at a similar budget.
Occasionally, an aircraft that would be the first of its type in a given jurisdiction would be avoided due to the technicalities involved in getting it placed on the aircraft registry. Using its global infrastructure, Jetcraft has been able to execute complex international transactions, as well as business aircraft sales, acquisitions, and trade-in transactions, and conclude deals that would otherwise not have been possible.
“Our experienced team comprises sales directors, alongside international legal, engineering, marketing, and transaction management team members,” Joubert said. “Combined, this enables Jetcraft to make even the most difficult transactions viable, in Africa and beyond.”
Jetcraft argues that it can provide more scope for transactions than a U.S.-based or international broker because it has boots on the ground to oversee local details, given the importance of liaising with the pre-purchase inspection facility, providing local support for inspectors from the destination country to where the aircraft is to be exported, and dealing with revenue authorities and local export agents.
It recently made an aircraft inventory purchase and, as a requirement of the seller, managed the closing in Africa before selling it to a third party internationally. "Having managed the process, I have no doubt this would have been very difficult for a third party without the local knowledge and contacts," he said.
“In Africa, there is a market for all aircraft sizes. We’ve seen an increase in demand for some turboprop models, which in some cases offer a better solution to the customer for their domestic operations. This is especially the case if they need to fly to destinations away from major cities. Demand for long-range and larger-cabin jets is also continuing.”
Kani Saritas—v-p of sales for JetHQ, which is headquartered in the U.S. and Dubai—told AIN that there are many opportunities throughout the African continent, which has more potential for growth given its increasing importance to the world economy.
“There is a wealth of business and governmental needs for aircraft, and the old perceptions don’t match the reality on the ground,” he said. “Some brokerage firms have ignored the area because of perceived difficulties in completing transactions. We have worked with local partners to find solutions for clients’ aviation needs. Africa has a robust future with more opportunities appearing all the time.”
Saritas is aware of perceptions that the African market is driven by older aircraft, but that is not what JetHQ is seeing. "Some of the owners are experienced in private aviation and are looking for the newest aircraft available, and others, spurred by big developers and booming construction projects, are getting into the market for the first time and are looking for the same high-end jets one might see out of the Middle East or North America,” he said. “This is a sophisticated market now."
According to Saritas, Western Africa, South Africa, Egypt, and Morocco have always been the most active areas on the continent. “In these areas, midsize to long-range business jets have been preferred, mainly from manufacturers Gulfstream and Bombardier. However, looking at the overall picture in Africa, it is dominated by small-size jets to turboprops—and here Textron plays a key role.”