21 May, 2015

Strong Business Aircraft Growth Ahead In Africa


“Without data, you have nothing. There has been a distinct lack of data about Africa.” – Tarek Ragheb, AfBAA founding chairman

The African Business Aircraft Association (Booth A065) has released its first data-driven report that describes the state of business aviation in Africa and what association members believe needs to be accomplished to foster future growth.

The report is the product of research compiled by Jetnet (Booth Y077), the Utica, New York, aircraft market intelligence firm, including an online survey in which 84 respondents participated.

Survey respondents said their the top five priorities for business aviation in Africa are (1) training and skills development, (2) enhanced safety and security, (3) infrastructure improvements, (4) reduced taxes and fees and (5) improved airspace/airport access, according to Jetnet iQ market research.

“Without data, you have nothing. There has been a distinct lack of data about Africa. Jetnet, though, has been a believer in AfBAA from Day 1,” says Tarek Ragheb, AfBAA founding chairman. “We’re off to a great start and it [the data base] is going to get better every year.”

Two groups participated in the survey. Business aircraft owners and operators, including aircraft management and charter firms, make up the first group. FBOs, MROs, flight planning and flight services, brokers, financing companies, insurance firms, government agencies and aviation trade associations are in the second group. Four-fifths of those respondents are based in Africa. The other stakeholders have aviation business interests in Africa.

There are close to 450 turbofan business aircraft and nearly 800 turboprops based in Africa. “We looked at operators’ origins and destinations. We found that 72% of operations are inside Africa, 18% are between Africa and the Middle East and 6% are between Africa and Europe.” The average age of the African business aircraft fleet is 19.5 years, the oldest of any region monitored by Jetnet.

However, GDP grew 5.1% per year in Africa from 2004 to 2013, according to Jetnet. That’s the largest rate of growth of any region in the world. And GDP is forecast to grow at the same 5.1% rate during the next decade.

“There are a lot of bright spots in the African economy. South Africa is booming, there are rich mineral deposits in DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] and southwest nations, Nigeria, Zaire and Tanzania have hydrocarbons, Rwanda is developing its human potential.”

While Africa currently has a relatively small number of high net worth individuals, Jetnet research indicates that virtually the same percentage use business aircraft as in the U.S. and North America. This and forecasted economic growth bode well for the future growth of the business aircraft fleet.

Ragheb said he got the idea to start an African business aircraft association three years ago while flying over South Africa aboard a G550. “There was no organization that focused on business aviation there. We found that operators were excited to participate. We’ve grown from nothing to 93 members in three years.”

His personal goals for AfBAA are to foster development of the continent’s business aviation infrastructure, including FBOs and MROs, especially encouraging local airport authorities to make room for GA facilities; to improve pilot, technician and line service training; to expand business aircraft financing availability and to advocate for business aviation in Africa. He believes that business aviation growth in the region will be “a barometer of economic growth.”

Regarding fleet upgrades, Ragheb believes that Pilatus PC-24, Embraer Legacy 500, used Gulfstream V and new Gulfstream 650 aircraft will sell well in Africa.

He may be biased toward Gulfstream models, though, as he was with the Savannah, Georgia, firm from 1995 until 2012, when he retired as senior VP international sales. He was initially hired by Teddy Forstmann when Forstmann-Little owned Gulfstream. Forstmann lured him away from Martin-Marrietta with the promise of a moderate salary, but generous stock options. When Forstmann-Little sold Gulfstream to General Dynamics, Ragheb’s stock options were worth millions.

But Ragheb doesn’t just want to be remembered as a successful Gulfstream sales person. Now he intends to give back to the business aircraft community by investing his time and a considerable amount of his own fortune into AfBAA


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