March 12, 2013

Lacking reliable roads, rails or scheduled air service to every corner of its 11.7 million square miles, Africa’s 1 billion people and 54 nations need business aviation. To advocate for the infrastructure that will enable business aviation to make its full contribution to Africa’s economic development, 19 operators, original equipment manufacturers and suppliers, advised by former NBAA President Jack Olcott, founded the African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA) in 2012.

The goal, explained AfBAAExecutive Director Rady Fahmy, is to establish business aviation as an “asset that is recognized, valued and supported by governments, their respective aviation authorities, enterprises, entrepreneurs and business leaders throughout Africa.”

To reinforce its pan-Africa mission, AfBAA established its headquarters in Rwanda, a landlocked central African nation. Fahmy explained, “Africa is divided into regions, each with a distinctly different culture.”

AfBAA is almost a third of the way through its three-year strategic plan. A white paper, “African Business Aviation Infrastructural Challenges,” outlines the hurdles the association faces, including: safety and security; high access fees; an underdeveloped network of airports, airways, navigation, air traffic control, and facilities to teach necessary aviation skills; and restrictive tariffs and legal restrictions, not to mention a lack of understanding of business aviation as a tool for economic growth.

Instead of lobbying for new airports or terminals, AfBAA asks for the opportunity to showcase business aviation’s many economic contributions, and suggests simple ways government officials can incorporate its needs into their aviation planning.

AfBAA then explains business aviation’s economic contributions and opportunities. First among them are fixed-base operators and maintenance, repair, and overhaul facilities that care for the diverse fleet of business aircraft that serves the continent.

AfBAA’s International Relations Committee, led by Hind El Achchabi, chairman of Dalia Air, spearheads its advocacy efforts. In this first year, unique messages paint a big picture: safety and security are paramount, and business aviation is good for the economic development of Africa, but taxes and restrictions “might not make economic sense.”

Understanding that developing business aviation in Africa will not happen overnight, AfBAA is pacing itself, taking one step at a time. The association will address the training of pilots, technicians and others sooner rather than later, and by the end of this year it plans to establish a trial regional chapter.

But AfBAA never loses its continent-wide focus, said Fahmy, “because business aviation enriches the areas it serves.”