Africa’s ‘untapped’ airfreight potential

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City centre, Nairobi

Africa is one of the world’s last untapped air cargo markets and one which is offering growth potential across the sector, the recent Clear View 3.0 conference in Bangkok was told.

Currently Africa has 2.2 per cent of the global air cargo market but the opportunity is there, along with some problems, Nairobi-based Siginon Aviation, general manager, Maarten Klijnstra, told the Industry Thought leadership conference at Clear View. “Is this maybe an area where we can grow as a community?” he asked.

On the advantage side “everything is imported,” Klijnstra said although integrators already have a presence.

One part of the problem side is the lack of exports from many African origins. “It’s a trade imbalance in general. It’s either a lack of inbound or a lack of outbound,” he told Air Cargo Week.

In terms of hardware, the airports are already there which solves one problem but connectivity links such as road and electricity for cold storage are still needed. Much of what is moved in is pharmaceuticals as health care needs are high but local capacity limited. Africa is battling an AIDS epidemic.

One problem is the bureaucracy with “too much paperwork” and multiple stamps being required he said. “There is no pre-clearing option at the moment,” he added.

Among the positives is the willingness of Africans to work and build trading communities such as SADC, ECOWAS, Comesa and EAC, said Klijnstra. In the private sector there is also some pharmaceutical and vehicle manufacturing business emerging in South Africa in the Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth regions.

“The human capital is educated but they have no opportunity,” he said of the workforce.

This has helped the continent adapt quickly to new technology such as cashless payments via systems such as MPESA which is driving the creation an e-commerce sector.