50 In­ter­view: Solv­ing the Chal­lenges of Avi­a­tion in Africa

Avi­a­tion in Africa re­mains one of the fastest grow­ing sec­tors to­day. With a no­tice­able in­crease in the num­ber of pas­sen­gers, the con­ti­nent is be­com­ing a des­ti­na­tion of world­wide air­lines, and a ma­jor mar­ket for busi­ness avi­a­tion.

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Inside Issue11 -

mr Has­san ElHoury, an ex­pert on the avi­a­tion in­dus­try, spoke at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Dur­ban re­cently, where he shed light on the op­por­tu­ni­ties for avi­a­tion devel­op­ment in Africa.

NAM: How is the avi­a­tion sec­tor in Africa per­form­ing now?

Has­san: Avi­a­tion in Africa is one of the fastest grow­ing sec­tors per­haps in the world. The IASA, which is the reg­u­la­tory body that reg­u­lates avi­a­tion around the world, said that Africa will grow about 5% over the next twenty years. There­fore, we are very op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture of avi­a­tion in Africa, although there are chal­lenges, but we are very con­fi­dent that the devel­op­ment of the re­gion’s economies, the rate of ur­ban­i­sa­tion, the growth of tourism, the growth of busi­ness travel, … all of these fac­tors are driv­ing a huge de­mand for air travel.

NAM: Will the lo­cal economies ben­e­fit from that?

Has­san: Ab­so­lutely! Avi­a­tion is the back­bone of the econ­omy, and there are rea­sons for that. I mean if you want to travel to do busi­ness be­tween two coun­tries or two cities, the best way for you to travel is by air. Avi­a­tion drives tourism, the medicine that peo­ple use is nor­mally im­ported by air, the mo­bile phone we are us­ing to speak right now is im­ported by air, a lot of jew­ellery and cloth­ing, lap­tops, so many things that we use on a day-to­day ba­sis, are all trans­ported by air. The growth in an econ­omy is un­der­pinned by avi­a­tion, and then you have to think of avi­a­tion also as a fa­cil­i­ta­tor. Be­sides, the in­ter­est­ing thing about avi­a­tion is that it needs skilled and some un­skilled labour, and so the growth of avi­a­tion can ad­dress some of the em­ploy­ment is­sues that the re­gion is fac­ing.

NAM: In one of your ar­ti­cles you sug­gested the need for a “sin­gle air trans­port mar­ket” in Africa, would you please clar­ify this point?

Has­san: That’s right! I would say there are sev­eral chal­lenges that are ham­per­ing the growth of avi­a­tion in Africa. The bar­ri­ers for air­lines to travel be­tween Africa are tremen­dous. The air ticket prices trav­el­ling be­tween African coun­tries are some of the most ex­pen­sive in the world. Just com­pare trav­el­ling, let’s say, from Al­ge­ria to Cameroon or from Tan­za­nia to South Africa, if you com­pare the dis­tance and the ticket price and then you com­pare any two cities in Europe, you will find that the prices in Africa are three, four, even five times higher than the ticket prices in a sim­i­lar dis­tance in Europe or North Amer­ica. That’s re­ally ham­per­ing the growth in the con­ti­nent.

There is also an­other prob­lem, which is the lack of lib­er­al­i­sa­tion of these air mar­kets. Es­sen­tially, what is hap­pen­ing is that it is very dif­fi­cult for African air­lines to get

fly­ing rights be­tween ma­jor African cities. We have done a lot of re­search and we found that al­most in ev­ery sin­gle case when there is an agree­ment on a lib­eral air mar­ket, the num­ber of pas­sen­gers rises about 50%. An ex­am­ple for that is when South Africa and Kenya signed an agree­ment in early 2000 that led to al­most 70% rise in pas­sen­ger traf­fic. In 2006, Morocco and EU signed an Open Sky Agree­ment that led to 160% rise in traf­fic be­tween the two ge­ogra­phies. So, just al­low­ing the op­er­a­tion of lib­er­al­is­ing these mar­kets can lead to huge in­creases in pas­sen­ger num­bers.

The third point that I would like to men­tion is with re­gard to visas. A sim­ple study was done and found that Africans are re­quired visas to travel to 55% of the coun­tries in the con­ti­nent. We have ex­pe­ri­enced that if some­body wants to go from coun­try “A” to coun­try “B”, he may need to go to coun­try “C” to get a visa to go to coun­try “B”. This is a re­ally big bur­den on busi­ness trav­ellers, tourists and even fam­i­lies who want to re­unite. We have been re­ally push­ing and lob­by­ing for a sin­gle visa re­quire­ment across the con­ti­nent just like in parts of Europe.

NAM: Why does avi­a­tion in Africa have all these prob­lems?

Has­san: Well, I think there are a num­ber of rea­sons: first of all, avi­a­tion was used as a priv­i­lege for the “few” rather than a ne­ces­sity for the econ­omy to de­velop. There are gov­ern­ments that want to sup­port na­tional car­ri­ers, which comes at the ex­pense of the av­er­age cit­i­zens who want to travel, so they keep the ticket prices ex­pen­sive. At the end of the day, I don’t think it is one prob­lem or there is one so­lu­tion; Africa is 54 coun­tries, and each coun­try has its own his­tory, its own chal­lenges, and its own op­por­tu­ni­ties.

NAM: In pre­vi­ous years, you have par­tic­i­pated in the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum, and you are a guest speaker at this year’s fo­rum. What does the fo­rum rep­re­sent for you? How can it serve the sec­tor of avi­a­tion in Africa?

Has­san: I think the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum is cre­ated to im­prove peo­ple’s lives. Avi­a­tion is no longer a lux­ury for the priv­i­leged few, it’s a re­quire­ment for every­body, whether it’s a fam­ily who wants to re­unite or some­body who wants to im­port medicine or some­one who wants to travel for ed­u­ca­tion or busi­ness… it’s a re­quire­ment. We are el­e­vat­ing the chal­lenges that avi­a­tion has been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, to the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum hop­ing that the de­ci­sion-mak­ers will look favourably upon the rec­om­men­da­tions we are mak­ing. We hope, through the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum, we can achieve the goals of lib­er­al­is­ing air trans­port and mak­ing it a part of ev­ery African’s life. The WEF rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity for me to present our com­pany to the de­ci­sion-mak­ers, and as I said ear­lier, it’s an op­por­tu­nity to el­e­vate and ex­plain the prob­lems that we face. It is also an im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity for our com­pany to be af­fil­i­ated with world renowned or­gan­i­sa­tions.

NAM: What are the main ser­vices pro­vided by Na­tional Avi­a­tion Ser­vices

(NAS )?

Has­san: The Na­tional Avi­a­tion Ser­vices, other­wise known as NAS – is the fastest grow­ing avi­a­tion ser­vices provider in the Mid­dle East, In­dia, and Africa, pro­vid­ing com­pre­hen­sive ground han­dling so­lu­tions, ter­mi­nal and lounge man­age­ment, meet-and-as­sist ser­vices, avi­a­tion train­ing and security, and travel ser­vices to re­tail cus­tomers and to the world’s lead­ing air­lines.

NAM: Are you re­ally op­ti­mistic to­wards the fu­ture of avi­a­tion in Africa?

Has­san: Ab­so­lutely! In the next 20 years, we es­ti­mate to see more than 300 mil­lion peo­ple trav­el­ling from, to, and within Africa. What is needed now is visa lib­er­al­i­sa­tion, open sky and pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships.

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