Aviation Africa: The Challenges Facing Business Operators – Achuzie K. Ezenagu

imageDespite the positives for business aviation across Africa, there are still a number of challenges. Ian Sheppard, editor, African Aerospace, moderated a panel session looking at the industry.

The panel comprised Achuzie K Ezenagu, CEO, Toucan Aviation, Nigeria (pictured); Nuno Pereira, managing director, BESTFLY Flight Support, Angola; Wynand Meyer, regional director, Africa, UAS International Trip Support, UAE and Tarek Ragheb, chairman, AfBAA – African Business Aviation Association.

Tarek Ragheb said: “The view most governments have throughout Africa is that private aviation is for rich people. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

“The role of NGOs in Africa is not widely understood, while others are more enlightened, such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, and South Africa.”

Achuzie K Ezenagu agreed and said: “One of the core issues is that we need to engage with policymakers. Growth of general aviation goes hand in hand with rising GDPs.

“There can be an ‘us and them’ attitude, when we are in fact driving the economy. Aircraft are serious business tools, so the more they levy taxes on us the more they stifle the economy,” he added.

Nuno Pereira said: “It is all about perception. Decision makers don’t want to engage with the business aviation community for fear of being seen as ‘fat cats’.

“One business person can affect the lives of one million others, so why are they perceived so badly? In Angola more than 100 people are employed within my company – that’s the reality of business aviation and its effects on the economy,” Pereira said.

Pereira added that in Africa a two-hour business meeting can take four days to complete using commercial airlines, once overnight accommodation is taken into account. “But with a private jet it can take less than half a day,” he said.

In terms of safety, Tarek Ragheb said it was paramount.

“We developing safety management systems, but we can’t force people to use them. But we can encourage operators to adopt them and get a seal of approval,” he said.

Nuno Pereira agreed, but said this isn’t something that will happen overnight.

Achuzie K Ezenagu added that just meeting basic aviation safety regulations is not enough. “What we find in Africa is that oil companies conduct their own safety audits, so we have to meet their much higher criteria.

“They wouldn’t fly any type of grey charter, so we are being held to their very highest standards,” Ezenagu said.

Wynand Meyer said that another problem is that there is a shortage of staff with specific business jet skills, highlighting a specific incidence where a ground handler had no experience of a corporate version of a commercial airliner with potentially disastrous results.

Tarek Ragheb said that specific business aviation training is often not available. “But that is changing,” he said. “This is going to be our training year.”

Overall, the panel members were very optimistic about the possibilities business aviation is bringing to Africa.

Achuzie K Ezenagu said Nigeria is going through a renaissance period in terms of its economic development, thanks to handover of power to President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari.

“I can comfortably say that Nigeria will lead the continent in terms of economic development.”

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