Africa has huge potential and challenges to overcome

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Air Cargo Africa panel discussion 1, 'Unlocking Africa’s civil aviation potential: the time is now to set the rules for tomorrow'

Africa is expected to make up 20 per cent of the global population by 2050, creating a huge potential labour force and consumer market but the numerous challenges were a major talking point in the first panel discussion of Air Cargo Africa in Johannesburg.

During the session, ‘Unlocking Africa’s civil aviation potential: the time is now to set the rules for tomorrow’ on 21 February, delegates heard how, according to the International Monetary Fund, 11 of the top 25 countries by GDP growth will be in Africa, but 18 of the bottom 20 nations with the lowest GDP per capita remain in Africa.

Other interesting statistics included that Egypt, Kenya and South Africa are the only African countries among the top 50 on the logistics performance index, while 13 of the bottom 20 are in Africa.

The session was moderated by International Air Transport Association global head of cargo, Glyn Hughes, who said: “It is the youngest continent with a lot of labour force potential and large consumer market. If infrastructure is in place, it could be leading the global labour force if things are addressed.”

Hughes was joined by Kenya Airways chief operating officer, Jan de Vegt, Saudia Cargo vice president – commercial, Rainer Mueller, Swissport senior vice president cargo – global accounts & commercial, Rudolf Steiner, Worldwide Flight Services group chief operating officer, Barry Nassberg and Atlas Air vice president – sales and marketing (EMEIA), Graham Perkins.

De Vegt explained cost structures in Africa are some of the highest in the world, which has a negative influence on development, saying: “If costs were used for important structures, we would be better off.”

He also said African airport runways wear out tyres five times faster than elsewhere, while overfly and landing rights are seen as an easy way of making money.

De Vegt described Africa as still being in “baby shoes” and needing more time to develop internally before opening everything up. He said there were advantages to not being protectionist but measures need to be taken step by step.

Mueller believes import and export infrastructure is generally good but pointed out: “One of the biggest challenges on ground transport is combining air cargo with road feeder services. Something is lacking, it cannot be that difficult to set up.”

Nassberg told delegates told African airports did not have an integrated approach to develop cargo, saying: “Facilities are treated as ancillary or a simple opportunity for land revenue or tenancy revenue without giving any thought towards a cohesive development of cargo policy.”