The recent trend of rising private jet business has continued, with more manufacturers setting up African sales offices and leasing companies beginning to target the continent more aggressively. Report by Neil Ford.
The African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA) estimates that there are already up to 600 business jets in Africa. Although China leads the way globally, Nigeria is the second-fastest-growing market in the world and is home to more private jets than even South Africa.
Elit’Avia, which already managed four business aircraft in West Africa, opened an office in Accra last year in anticipation of growing demand in the region. This fleet has now doubled in size and includes Bombardier Global 6000s and a Bombardier Challenger 605; a global Express XRS in Nigeria; a Dassault Falcon 2000 and Dassault Falcon 7X; and a Gulfstream G550.
The Slovenian company’s president, Michel Coulomb, says: “West Africa has not traditionally been well served by business aviation management companies, which is remarkable considering that Nigeria had more new aircraft orders than South Africa last year. Our West African clients value safety, security, comfort and direct access to destinations within the continent – which may otherwise be difficult to access efficiently using commercial aviation service.”
A new VIP operator, GainJet Africa, was due to launch in Kigali as African Business went to press. The company will start with a single Gulfstream 550 that can accommodate 14 passengers and can fly as far as Southeast Asia or the US.
GainJet president Ramsey Shaban says: “There is a lack of true VIP operators with true VIP aircraft in Africa, especially in the East and Central African regions. Kigali is a natural aviation hub, which sits at the centre of the continent, and the government of Rwanda has offered us the right incentives.
“GainJet Africa stands to benefit from the friendly business environment created in Rwanda. We want to bring to Africa the excellent service that we have been supplying to both Europe and the Middle East for over eight years. And the clientele in the continent most certainly deserves such service.”
AgustaWestland recently delivered its second AW139 helicopter to an unnamed South African customer. It will be used for passenger and corporate transport, plus emergency medical and wildlife services.
Andries Wannenburg, the company’s head of Eastern and Southern Africa, says: “Its ‘one of a kind’ combination of style and multirole mission ability provides further evidence of AgustaWestland’s…capability to supply customised solutions as well as the unequalled versatility offered by the AW139 design.”
Some companies, such as ExecuJet Africa, specialise in particular sectors. The company operates small aircraft and helicopters to transport workers to and from mines in areas with poor access to other forms of air transport and even rail and road access.
ExecuJet acquired a new Embraer Phenom 300 business jet in February to complement its existing Phenom 300s and Bombardier Dash-8 Q400s. The company’s director of flight operations, Mike Clark, says “private aviation has become a necessity for mining companies”.
African umbrella organisation
The AfBAA was set up in 2011 to improve sector oversight. GainJet president Ramsey Shaban says: “One of AfBAA’s missions is to establish a unified set of regulations and create a better environment to operate in across the whole African continent. We feel AfBAA has made great progress in this mission, and this is why we believe it is the right time to start GainJet Africa. It has been our plan for a while, so we have been preparing for this and are ready.”
AfBAA chairman Tarek Ragheb says that it can be difficult for African business aviation companies to secure financing.
He argues: “One of the things we’re working on is to make sure that we put finance in place so that African companies can purchase foreign-manufactured aircraft using extra guarantees from overseas and administered by African banks. We want to focus on Nigeria to make sure best practices are in place here as we expand our mission.” Although Nigeria is a member of the AfBAA, South Africa and Egypt have not yet joined.
The US Export-Import Bank already supports Boeing sales around the world but is now moving into the business aircraft sector. This strategy could increase Gulfstream and Beechcraft sales in Africa