Air Cargo Africa 2019 started yesterday in Johannesburg and the first conference panel discussed liberalisation and modernisation in the African continent, reports Chelsea Kerley from South Africa.
During the event’s first session, the industry professionals took the stage to share their thoughts and experiences of African cargo, logistics and modernisation in a panel moderated by IATA’s global head of cargo, Glyn Hughes.
Turkish Airlines chief cargo officer, Turhan Ozen, who was on the panel, said: “Africa is definitely an important part of global strategy. We are integrating strategies to help the business of Africa become integrated into the world’s markets and Turkish Airlines has world-class connectivity with the one of the best networks in the world.”
Talking about future strategies to tackle challenges of cargo into Africa, Astral Aviation’s chief executive officer (CEO) and founder, Sanjeev Gadhia said: “We have been flying in Africa for the last 20 years and our strategy is very simple: to provide connectivity to a disconnected continent.
“This is something we’re going to be doing over the next five years, which is to grow our network into Africa and invest in Southern Africa.”
Gadhia also said Astral is looking into the use of cargo drones in Kenya and other counties across Africa. The company’s objective is to provide accessibility and connectivity within Africa, not only the primary and secondary airports. He said: “We want to go to every village and town in Africa—to open up Africa for other Africa countries.”
Saudia Cargo CEO, Omar Hariri said: “In the beginning of 2016, Saudi Arabia launched Saudi Vision 2030 and one of the main pillars was logistics. The provision aims to make Saudi the main logistics provider for the region, connecting to Europe, Africa and Asia.
“Our priority is tackling challenges of transit into Africa. We are situated perfectly to serve the African market and we are committed to supporting cargo into the continent successfully.”
According to Hariri, Saudia has invested around $350 million in infrastructure, concentrating on making it a gateway, particularly to Africa.
Discussing the transportation issues in Africa, Kenya Airways chief operating officer, Jan de Vegt said: “Part of the problem is, with cargo that should not be on aircraft that should go by boat. Kenya Airways are really looking at ways to facilitate business and to grow business, because more than anything, aircraft is where our future is.”
Vegt said the company is looking at building sustainable boats as well as sustainable aircraft that flows smoothly to allow for cargo.
Moderator Hughes said developing logistics companies is most important for continued growth in all aspects.
“African countries do not trade with each other. This has to change. As well as trade more with Europe, increasing trade within the logistic sector,” said Ethiopian Airlines CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam.
South African Association of Freight Forwarders CEO, David Logan said: “All our members are both forwarders and customs brokers. We lobby the government, including the department of transport, to provide them with a service on cargo issues that we take to government departments, where we discuss issues and resolve them—hopefully.
“We also have grants here in South Africa, funded by the Transport Education Training Authority and we disperse about 15 million rand a year to our members in terms of learnerships so that new youngsters can come into the industry.”
Discussing ECS Group’s strategy, CEO Adrien Thominet, said it is difficult to talk about Africa as some countries are making investments when others are not. He said it is crucial that governments create a stable political policy.
Thominet concluded: “ECS is very interested in getting our own airline certification for flying aircraft into Nigeria. We do consider that maybe there is room, in this region, for putting ground service solutions for the carrier. We are also interested in developing the next-gen leaders to attract them into the industry.”
Offering a more positive feel was Brussels Airport’s head of cargo and logistics, Steven Polmans, who said: “More than 30 per cent of my volume comes from Africa. Brussels has a very strong network into Africa and with the new support from Lufthansa, I have a feeling that African connection is becoming even more important. My biggest cargo carrier is also an African carrier, so there is a very strong and growing trade in Africa.”
During the conference – the way to push frontiers of excellence in air freight industry in Africa – panellists also discussed the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), a flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063 an initiative of the African Union, signed by 28 countries.
According to IATA, SAATM aims to create a single unified air transport market in Africa to advance the liberalization of civil aviation in Africa, acting as an impetus to the continent’s economic integration agenda.