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Second AfBAA Regional Symposium a resounding success

October 7, 2014 Conferences No Comments Email Email

The African Business Aviation Association held its second AfBAA Regional Symposium 2014 in Johannesburg 14 -15 September and welcomed leading international industry figures from the full spectrum of the Business Aviation sector. Discussions were kicked off following a keynote address from the Honourable Ms. Poppy Khoza, Director General of the South African Civil Aviation Authority. She stressed the importance of meetings that encouraged growth in Business Aviation commenting that it can be a major catalyst for development. “The CAA has a role to play defining the growth to ensure it can be leveraged to maximum effect,” she said adding that liberalisation is a key issue, as an open skies approach on the continent would encourage evolution. She added that a number of factors were critical for the future of the sector including aircraft financing, capacity development, and safety stating, “safety and security must not be a barrier to aviation growth but it (aviation) mustn’t grow at expense of them either.”

AfBAA’s Founding Chairman, Tarek Ragheb echoed much of Khosa’s presentation as he made his welcome speech outlining four pillars –  aircraft finance, safety and training, advocacy, in addition to data and analysis – that would framework AfBAA activity for the next year. He also stressed the need to advocate on behalf of the industry particularly to the government and regulatory bodies and encouraged stakeholders in the industry to take up this mantle too. Advocacy remains at the heart of AfBAA activity and Ragheb stressed this would continue to be the case arguing that tackling smaller issues one at a time would be the way forward.unnamed (3)

Demonstrating the Association’s commitment to increase the financing options available to the African buyers of Business Aviation Ragheb announced that AfBAA, successfully mentored a $290 million fund for Africa-based citizens to purchase Brazilian products. “Aircraft formed the central focus for this fund and we anticipate this will support new aircraft purchases in the region”. The Association is already in discussion with other such agencies to extend this opportunity.

International guest of honour Senior Vice President of the Export Import Bank of the United States, Robert Morin added to this thread as he spoke about how business aviation stimulates economic growth and unlocks opportunities. In proving the point he stated that his bank had provided over $7 billion for African aviation. Education at all levels needs to take place Morin stated and U.S. aircraft manufacturers must work with the ExIm bank to maximize it as a sales tool. Echoing a number of delegates’ thoughts he commented that partners are needed in Africa to make things happen and was pleased to acknowledge Investec and Air Finance as the banks newly appointed ‘qualified advisor’ partners in Africa. The ExIm bank has traditionally focused on financing aircraft, but Morin stated that in recent years the institution has begun to finance services and infrastructure such as MROs and FBO’s as long as the products involved link with the USA.

Underpinning the fact that all businesses need statistics to create strategy for growth Ragheb announced that JETNET IQ had developed, in association with AfBAA, original data about the current position of African Business Aviation. Responding to the constant demand for African data and statistics AfBAA commissioned JETNET IQ to collate the information. The quantitative data, available to AfBAA members only, highlights detailed information about the state of Africa’s Business Aviation fleet, details about purchasing intentions, aircraft usage, age of fleet, and the challenges to growth. Rolland Vincent of JETNET IQ also chose the symposium as a launch pad for a new survey, which will aim to bolster the original information with further details from leading stakeholders and AfBAA members.  This intensified research, which will explore the future of African Business Aviation, is to be readied for the AfBAA Rendezvous, open to AfBAA members only, which will be held in Angola in February 2015.

Demonstrating the effectiveness of AfBAA’s advocacy as an Association the operator’s panel began with Nuno Pereira of Angolan-based FBO and maintenance company Bestfly thanking the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) for responding to the role for improved support on the continent. Notably since the call for support went out at the AfBAA Regional Symposium 2013 the major OEMs have improved the availability of spares and access to maintenance knowledge as it was noted that one of the biggest challenges to sales was assuring owners that their assets would be secure in Africa. The improved maintenance, repair and overhaul offering, wider implementation of Safety Management Systems and an increased number of experienced aircraft management companies has served to support greater sales across the continent.

In the spirit of advocacy and building on Ms. Khosa’s comments regarding liberalization the suggestion was made to begin to develop regional open skies between allied countries rather than try to join the whole continent at once. “The journey of a million miles starts with a single step and by approaching the concept of open skies with a regional approach we may just make this possible,” added Ragheb. Five key points were outlined for AfBAA to focus on that would support this concept. Improving ease of access to over-flight clearances between countries, creating systems that enable more efficient access to landing permits, consistency of document acceptance including insurance and airworthiness papers at all African airports, and a consistent call through the meeting of more understanding from and education of local CAAs.

The final pillar that the symposium agreed should be a focus for the next twelve months was the need to increase safety and training on the continent. The safety panel suggested that AfBAA needs to design a clear-cut objective for safety and devise a means for communicating its efficacy to regulators. Acknowledgement was made that there are safety methods in place, but that a formulated approach would support continent wide uptake. In response a new AfBAA Training and Safety Committee dedicated to improving the understanding of these areas was launched. In support of this a free Safety Management Systems workshop, offered in conjunction with Litson & Associates, welcomed twelve attendees at the South African Aviation and Aerospace Defence show in Waterkloof. Lengthy discussions also discussed the importance of training and having consistent standards across the continent for safety, operational process and training standards.  Once again a call was made to engage with the regulatory bodies to help them better understand the differences between commercial and business aviation to underline the importance of these elements.

In rounding up the two-day event Rady Fahmy, Executive Director AfBAA,  stated that AfBAA continues to build momentum with a growth in membership and that it is gaining strength from increased participation from the members. “We are here to share the success, knowledge, and challenges of our colleagues and to use these as a means of shaping AfBAA’s future. The success of this symposium, which has been attended by a significant number of industry leaders of the highest calibre, demonstrates how interested stakeholders are in sharing their knowledge and experience. We have a framework for the future and this is enriched by the practical experience of our members. We must use this to maximise the significant potential the continent of Africa holds for the Business Aviation sector. We continue to encourage participation and look forward to the next Regional Symposium the details of which will be announced in the very near future,” he concluded.

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