Your guide to the latest developments in the international airfreight industry
THE POTENTIAL OF AFRICAN AIRFREIGHT
AFKLMP CARGO’S DEEP ROOTS IN AFRICA
AFRAA LOOKS TOWARDS NET ZERO
Graced by vast natural resources and an expanding young workforce, Africa is forecast to see strong traffic and aircraft demand growth in the next two decades. And to get there, industry observers point to collaboration and strategic partnerships holding much promise for the African airfreight industry.
“Follow the money” is a catchphrase popularised by the 1976 film All the President’s Men; it can also paint an immediate picture of one of the key brakes on airfreight demand and supply on the continent. For comparable distances, passengers in Africa pay twice as much as for similar comparable distances in Europe or in the USA and up to three times more in India. Consequently, when aggregated with the GDP per capita, an African middle-class citizen can afford only 1.1 trips by air per year while counterparts in North America take 33 flights.
This stark fact points to a dampening of passenger demand, in turning depriving the sector of bellyhold capacity in many regions of the continent.
At the same time, African airlines face many challenges such as high fees, taxes and charges. They contend with high finance/insurance costs for their aircraft acquisitions. Add to that the dismally poor intra-Africa connectivity, market access limitations and high cost of jet fuel. In Africa, jet fuel accounts for over 35% of the total airline operating costs and a significant part of that jet fuel cost is levied by the authorities in one form or another.
This means that the African aviation sector operates in one of the highest cost environments in the world. These conditions negatively impact on the ability of African airlines to grow their footprint.
The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) is engaging and encouraging its members to take up the initiative of co-operating and co-ordinating their efforts on various fronts. AFRAA is co-ordinating various task teams in this regard to address common objectives such as aeropolitical, fuel purchasing, taxes and charges, training, distribution, cargo and technical operations. The ultimate objective could be the creation of an African airlines alliance as the culmination of the Route Network Co-ordination project that has seen 23 Interline agreements implemented and 11 code-share agreements signed among AFRAA members.
In addition to passenger operations, air cargo forms an essential component of air transport and international trade. However, the bulk of freight within the African continent is transported by rail or
THE POTENTIAL OF AFRICAN AIRFREIGHT
road. Through collaboration, stakeholders can address the issues constraining the development of air cargo in Africa for proper coordination and functioning of this important component of air transport.
The AFRAA Cargo Committee seeks to identify areas where African airlines could co-operate to reduce costs and enhance revenues in collaboration with other relevant stakeholders. The Committee further identifies areas to lobby authorities to facilitate smarter regulations, reduction in industry costs, development of e-freight and the improvement of cargo infrastructure.
The potential offered to air cargo executives can be painted by a few numbers. The continent is conventionally broken into four geographical regions – East, West, North and Southern – while its 1.2 billion population is shared with 54 internationally recognised countries. This beats Asia’s 48, Europe’s 44, South America’s 12 and North America’s three countries (four if you are French and count Saint-Pierre and Miquelon islands).
While many of Africa’s countries are poor and often bankrupt, the continent also includes South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria who feature on many international scales of airfreight activity. At the same time, Africa now has the fastest-growing middle class in the world. Some 313 million people, 34% of Africa’s population, spend $2.20 a day, a 100% rise in less than 20 years, according to the African Development Bank.
The bank’s definition of middle class in Africa is people who spend the equivalent of $2 to $20 a day ($730 - $7,300 a year) — an assessment based on the cost of living for Africa’s near one billion people. It is acknowledged that many living on $2 to $4 a day could easily slip back into poverty. But even taking these people out of the equation, the bank puts the stable middle class at 123 million, 13% of the population. By 2060, says the bank, the number of middle-class Africans will grow to 1.1 billion (42% of the predicted population). It is, as George Soros has pointed out, the world’s fastest-growing middle class.
With the growth of middle class demands, higher education and growing manufacturing opportunities, the one word that can describe the land mass is – potential.
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AFRAA LOOKS TOWARDS NET ZERO
The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) concluded its 54th Annual General Assembly (AGA) in December with an emphasis on concerted actions to drive air transport industry sustainability. Held in Dakar, Republic of Senegal, the AFRAA and Air Senegal led the event, staged under the patronage of the government of Senegal. The assembly, which brought together 456 delegates from 42 countries under the theme “Acing the Roadmap to Sustainable African Aviation,” called upon African airlines and air transport stakeholders to act on initiatives and strategies that will drive the sustainability of the air transport sector to realise its potential.
Among others, these include: the Air Transport Sustainability Roadmap, the effective implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), the Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and the Free Movement Protocol.
In his welcome address, Alioune Badara Fall, president of AFRAA and CEO of Air Senegal stated: “I pay tribute to the extraordinary work by stakeholders in putting in place projects and programmes to build together a more united future for a sustainable African aviation, for the full benefit of African economies and populations.”
The ultimate goal, he noted, will realise the improvement of connectivity between African countries, build truly efficient carriers both operationally and financially, attain structurally competitive
tariffs in order to offer African populations the ability to travel, meet and exchange much more easily through new routes and increased frequencies.
Abdérahmane Berthé, AFRAA secretary general, noted with satisfaction and great interest the importance given to the development of the aviation sector by the State of Senegal and Air Senegal through investments in aeronautical development infrastructure.
“In memory of the particularly difficult times during this ongoing phase to restore air transport activity, I would like once again to express AFRAA’s solidarity with the entire chain of players in the aeronautical industry. As the aviation community, we must continue the ongoing joint efforts to support recovery and foster a sustainable and resilient air transport system in Africa.” he stated.
Among the resolutions, in line with the industry commitment towards achieving net zero emissions by 2050, the assembly urged all industry stakeholders to commit to addressing the environmental impact of their policies, products and activities with concrete actions and clear timelines. The assembly further encouraged all AFRAA member airlines to continue improving their operations’ efficiency to achieve sustained in-sector emissions reductions and to support the transition to reliable, cost-competitive Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF).
“I pay tribute to the extraordinary work by stakeholders in putting in place projects and programmes to build together a more united future for a sustainable African aviation, for the full benefit of African economies and populations”
The AGA elected LAM Mozambique as the chairman of the executive committee while Kenya Airways was elected as first vice chairman and Air Algérie was elected as second vice chairman. The AGA elected Uganda Airlines as the president of the association. Uganda Airlines will host the 55th AGA in Uganda from 19 - 21 November 2023.
AFRAA launched the first edition of the History of African Aviation Report at the AGA. A first of its kind in Africa, the report contains a rich mix of information to enrich the understanding of the development of African aviation.
The recovery of aviation activity continued in 2022. After a contraction in 2020, Africa’s GDP rebounded by 6.9% in 2021. The prospects for economic growth in Africa are highly uncertain. The effects of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict could lead to a larger decline in global production than currently expected. Compared to February 2020, African airlines have reopened almost all international routes. Some have extended their network to new destinations, particularly in West and North Africa. From January to November 2022, offered capacity reached 75.4% for the same period in 2019, while traffic reached 74.7%. The recovery of the level of activity in 2019 is still in progress. AFRAA priorities for 2023 include implementing the roadmap actions for the sustainability of air transport in Africa and to
continue to roll out the AFRAA Five-Year Strategic Plan.
“Our industry must build its resilience and sustainability in the face of future crises like COVID-19 and stop the progressive marginalisation we have suffered over the past 40 years,” Berthé emphasised.
The African Airlines Association is a trade association of airlines from the member states of the African Union (AU). Founded in Accra, Ghana, in April 1968, and headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, AFRAA’s mission is to promote and serve African Airlines and champion Africa’s aviation industry. AFRAA membership of 44 airlines cuts across the entire continent and includes all the major intercontinental African operators.
Air Senegal was established in 2016 and launched its commercial flights on May 14, 2018. Air Sénégal relies on the AIBD (Aéroport International Blaise Diagne) regional hub. Its mission is to serve national and international routes. The company currently operates a fleet of two Airbus A330-900Neo, two Airbus A321, two Airbus A319 and two ATR 72-600, one A220-300, one A340 in West Africa, Morocco, Central Africa, France, Spain, Italy and the US.
Niche and Independent is the recipe for success
Cargo activity at New York, USA-headquartered GSSA, Aviacargo, is certainly delivering a solid start for the first quarter of 2023. Despite a number of commercial headwinds and not all client carriers yet back up operating the same size fleets and capacity as before the pandemic, the indicators for the rest of the year remain positive.
IATA market statistics show African airlines overall have seen cargo volumes decrease by 9.5% in January 2023 compared to January 2022 and capacity running at 1.8% below January 2022 levels, but Kenya Airways freight has maintained its traffic from the USA.
“It’s an impressive start to the year and with new capacity coming on during the year combined with the growing importance of Nairobi as an African hub, we are optimistic for the rest of 2023,” states Aviacargo President, Michael Cox. His continued optimism is based on more than 20 years as a specialist GSSA in the USA and where he believes having a lean, customer-centric organisation is key to its success. “Niche, independent GSSAs who have complete transparency with their airline customers rather than hiding behind multiple brands is a straight forward, attractive proposition for carriers looking for representation here,” he says. “With Kenya Airways, we have a broad and strong range of commodities being exported from the US including eCommerce, pharma products and machine parts with about 65% of that business transiting Kenya and being bound for onward destinations such as Johannesburg (South Africa) and Lusaka (Zambia),” adds Cox.
Following the success of cargo only flights during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenya Airways has increased interest in freight from a growing customer base it was able to develop during that time. It is planning to lease two B737-800 freighter aircraft later this year which will enable it to better meet the growing demand for its cargo services.
“This strategic move will really help the airline to develop its cargo operations even further,” states Cox. “The new freighter aircraft have a better range than existing equipment and will enable KQ to carry around 20 tonnes of freight to a wider range of onward destinations in the Middle East, India and Europe”. Aviacargo is now gearing up its operation in readiness for the return of daily flights between the Kenyan capital and the main eastern seaboard hub in the USA. “This will be another step forward in the development of the airline’s services which in the first instance are likely to focus on aid and pharma traffic,” says Cox. In addition to expanded services from the Kenyan national flag carrier, another client airline, Air Mauritius is also increasing its service frequency. Aviacargo currently sells Air Mauritius’ cargo services offline via LHR (London Heathrow) or CDG (Paris, Charles de Gaulle). “Of particular importance here for our customers in the US is that the airline will be upping its frequency and offering daily services ex-UK to Mauritius (when it switches to operating from London Gatwick) in October 2023,” concludes Cox.
QATAR AIRWAYS CARGO’S PERISHABLE CARGO OUT OF AFRICA BLOOMS
Guillaume Halleux, chief officer cargo at Qatar Airways, is a man who is happy with the carrier’s operations and presence on the continent. He has good reason to be. QR Cargo is in all the most important African markets and takes more from the continent than it delivers.
He says: “We are glad to be able to support our customers and businesses in the African continent and we are always looking for ways to enhance our network in the region. The balance between exports and imports is very close, with exports out of Africa being slightly higher than imports into the continent. Between 1 February 2022 to 31 January 2023, imports on our flights into Africa was more than 79,750 tonnes while exports from Africa was more than 83,460 tonnes in terms of chargeable weight.”
Reflecting its role in supporting some of Africa’s most important export business in the cut flower and agriculture business, QR Cargo’s activity is skewed towards perishable shipments.
Halleux says: “Some 80% of our total exports from Africa consist of perishables like flowers, fruits, vegetables, seafood products and fresh meat and is shipped throughout our network. For Valentine’s Day, we even added 10 Boeing 777 freighters over our regular scheduled flights from Nairobi to Liege to cater for the huge export of roses and other flowers.”
Fast growing populations
Halleux recognises that Africa has one of the fastest growing populations in the world and “a growing middle class, with prospects of generating significant GDP growth”. The continent is rich in natural resources and will continue to profit from increasing demand for oil, natural gas, minerals, food and other natural resources.
He says: “It is great to see that the authorities are addressing logistical challenges that will enable the continent to seamlessly export and import cargo intra-Africa and globally.”
At present, QR Cargo is investigating intra-African traffic: “Please stay tuned for updates,” he quips.
Nairobi in Kenya creates the most cargo traffic for QR Cargo, with exports over 32,400 tonnes and imports into Nairobi being over 5,700 tonnes between 1 February 2022 to 31 January 2023. In regards to the non-perishable cargo handled by the airline, it uplifts oil and gas shipments from West Africa, especially Nigeria, on ad hoc basis.
“We are glad to be able to support our customers and businesses in the African continent and we are always looking for ways to enhance our network in the region”
AFKLMP CARGO’S DEEP ROOTS IN AFRICA
AFKLMP Cargo network covers 35 stations in 39 countries within the African continent which stands for 71% of the African countries served. This coverage allows Bénédicte Duval, vice president intercontinental area at Air France KLM Martinair Cargo, satisfaction in the sheer scope of operations she and her team can offer freight customers both inside and outside of Africa.
This coverage is growing. In November 2021, Banjul in Gambia was opened while Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania is opening for the summer season 2023, on 1 April.
Duval is in charge at a time when cargo related to the continent is on the increase. She says: “In 2022, export tonnage realised on AFKLMP flights from Africa was 9% higher vs export to Africa with 100.4 million tonnes loaded but the index for export to Africa had increased by four points vs 2021. Exports from Africa had decreased by eight points vs 2021. However, numbers of initiatives led by African governments and local companies allow us to think that both export from and to Africa should grow in 2023 and in the years to come.”
Industry observers have described there is a great opportunity for Africa in the diversification of local production of fruit and vegetables, a range of projects in pharmaceutical and textile production. There is also oil drilling activity that can be supported by AFKLMP.
Duval says: “Our point is to support our customers the best way possible and that’s what we did during the COVID period where AFKLMP clearly decided to continue supporting the flori-horti cultural industries rather than migrating the capacity towards more lucrative markets. This is a clear commitment and supported our customers and trade in continuing to deliver their products to Europe and via our hubs to the world.
“We’ll keep doing our utmost to propose our expertise (CEIV Pharma certification since 2016, AFKLMP Cargo first to be FlowerWatch approved in Kenya, IATA Safety Audit certificate for ground handling) and capacity also using our freighters to support oil & gas development for instance. We really aim at always developing partnerships with our customers.
“Supporting our customers in digitalisation is key to improve the logistics chain. True that cut off times do occur but overall, we can see that digitalisation is developing quickly in countries such as South Africa and Nigeria, for instance. Digitalisation of our industry has also made major steps within our airline in terms of self-booking systems, E-AWB and messaging transmission as well as involving official stake holders in digitalising the Phyto certificate process. Besides being a
paperless process, it also speeds up the customs and clearing processes. Air France KLM Martinair Cargo has invested heavily for many years in our digital tools for our customers (myCargo and several API’s) that we are proud to offer a state of the art, robust and customer friendly digital structure. This dynamic trend in digitalisation allows us to be confident in the future of better supporting our customers.
“Air France KLM Martinair Cargo is always adjusting its schedule to the demands of passenger side and the bellyhold capacity follows as consequence. Next to that, we also add freighter capacity to destinations where we have lots of demand. With this strong mix of our passenger network combined with our full freighter network, we believe that is one of the strongest points for our customers.”
Intra Africa traffic
Air France KLM Martinair Cargo handles cargo traffic between African countries. Duval says: “Our regular freighter network to Africa includes several stops within Africa making sure that we can transport intra-Africa as well. Next to that, we have some passenger destinations that have an intermediate stop enabling us to transport between those stations as well. Another way to offer to our customers intra-Africa traffic is via interline partners. We work with a wide range of carriers to also integrate that solution in our network offer to our customers.
“African countries are continuously looking at opportunities to grow their business and are very flexible to adapt their business model. We see a lot of opportunities in Africa being in fresh, oil and gas or pharma industries as there is a real wish from African countries to push their economy to be exported to the rest of the world. Of course, there are enough challenges; however, we see a strong flexibility of the African population to overcome those and work towards a better future.”
Sustainability on the agenda
Sustainability is high on the agenda of the airline’s grower customers, traders, and freight forwarders. Duval says: “We have been very successful in ensuring the industry is aware of our offer in terms of SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) and promoting the current new aircraft generation and the investments in our fleet to make it even more sustainable. And to ensure the CO2 zero target set for 2050 is an achievable one. The industry is asking for these investments but not always ready to support and compensate for their products to fly in an even more sustainable way by supporting the SAF available programmes. We’ll keep adapting to our customers to provide sustainable solutions fitting with their needs.”
“Supporting our customers in digitalisation is key to improve the logistics chain”
THE AIRLINE THAT IS ECS GROUP’S ‘UNIQUE’ AFRICAN PRODUCT
Alain Boussard, managing director France, Niger Air Cargo (NAC), is certain of his company’s place in the Paris-based ECS Group’s global network as well as in the African continent.
Boussard says: “NAC remains a unique product in ECS Group’s global offering. It is a real added-value that strengthens the group’s African expertise and benefits directly from the GSSA’s know-how. We are much attached to Africa as it means a lot more to us than just a commercially strategic region. We feel strongly about maintaining an air bridge with this market to satisfy the local demand.”
NAC is noted for handling cargo associated with the armies of France, Germany and the US and their military presence, as well as some mail, perishable food, pharma and aircraft parts. This suggests the airline’s main network mainly connects to and from Europe.
He says: “In fact, we transport everything that is transportable for the needs of Niger. Stewardship for the military is only part of it, but most cargo remains civilian.
“ECS Group has been part of the African cultural landscape for a long time. We have been serving the needs of Niger and its sub-region for many years. We have always worked hard to develop the region and ensure a positive impact locally. We have even managed to maintain our activity during the Covid crisis. Today we are currently the only cargo operator in the region. Because we are convinced that it is essential to connect cargo and logistics to underserved markets, we are studying the possibility of extending our operations to other regions. “At the beginning of our activity, we assumed the handling ourselves. Although there have been recent evolutions, we continue to oversee the tracking of our shipments when they reach Niger.” ECS Group sells the airline’s capacity: “NAC is a pure ECS Group product sold and supported by its entire international network. We couldn’t have wished for a better organisation!
“Yes, absolutely and it was not difficult to appoint ECS Group as our GSSA!
NAC uses a 747-8F which departs every Sunday from its hub in Liege. The principle of its service is to offer upper deck capacity only for the southbound traffic.
He says: “We did not apply a specific COVID-19 fuel surcharge during the pandemic. I wish to highlight that only freighters were operated at that time and Niger Air Cargo was the only airline to operate weekly throughout the crisis. We managed to adapt week after week to the changing restrictions of each country we flew to and from. We are proud to have successfully operated all our flights without fail, being the only operator to serve Niger for months.”
AIR CROSS AND HAE GROUP LOOK FOR EXPANSION
UK-based HAE and its group brands offer GSA services online and offline, as well as owned offices and agencies in a number of key countries in Africa. Air Cross is its longest serving brand in Africa, established just short of three decades ago in 1994.
Bryn Woolley is managing director of Glen Marais, Kempton Park, Johannesburg-based GSA Air Cross. He considers that outsiders can often misunderstand how airfreight works on the continent. He says: “I think people often make the mistake of thinking African sales and operations will be similar to Europe and USA. Done correctly with long term partners, customers and staff, the challenges can be managed.”
It is said that Africa is graced by vast natural resources and an expanding young workforce, meaning that Africa is forecast to see strong traffic and aircraft demand growth in the next two decades. Does Woolley think there is any truth in this assertion?
“Yes, led by the South African economy and the close trading relationships many of the countries in Africa have, there is still many opportunities for growth.
“Our group has two cornerstone businesses: Air Cross in South Africa and HAE in Kenya. They both work with perishable shippers in their respective markets. The perishable market also includes food stuffs.
“We are in South Africa, Kenya and Egypt and we have a sub-agency network in four others. We often start off with sub-contracted agency agreements, work on building a partners business with them and then offer them a chance to join the group.
“We always use local teams. We also have a large offshore sales and operations team based in Kenya that supports a number of our network offices. They are all trained on our airlines systems, aviation security, DGR aware and sales trained as well.”
Air Cross sometimes tranships between offices for offline carriers when local services or direct services are not available. These ‘solutions’ are value adds to its airline partners. Woolley notes.
He is confident that there is good potential for HAE Group and Air Cross in Africa.
He says: “The next chapter for us is African expansion; we want it to become a core market for our expansion in the next 3-5 years.”