While some lingering effects of Covid are still being felt by the Business Aviation industry in Africa, the consensus of the leading companies is that 2022 was a positive year, financially, and that private aviation’s recovery was faster than initially projected.
Further, there’s been a key trend in the making during recent years, namely consistent increases in emerging economies such as Angola, Uganda, Ghana, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo who are all becoming vital players in the industry.
While South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria continue to lead the way in terms of aircraft sales and charter demand, more actors with increased capacity to supply services is good news for the end-user.
So, what are the overall projections for Africa in 2023, and can these economies continue their momentum after a solid 2022?
Private Aircraft Sales Outlook
According to JP Fourie, Aircraft Division Executive Director at National Airways Corporation (NAC), there’s a concerning trend regarding the number of aircraft leaving the African market, compared to those entering it.
“Although private aircraft sales have been buoyant off a low base, they’re concerning because the import-export ratio is heavily skewed,” he explains. “Far more aircraft are being exported than new (or used) planes are entering the continent. European and US buying strength, markets, and currency exchange rates are the primary drivers behind this.”
For Justin Reeves, CEO of Comair Flight Services, things have been trending upwards. “Business Aviation aircraft sales are at an all-time high, and we’ve signed several new clients to manage their new and pre-owned aircraft,” he says.
“[Only recently] we took delivery of a Dassault Falcon 2000LXS that is now based in Cape Town, and in the next year we’re adding two brand new Pilatus PC-24s and a PC-12 NGX to the fleet.”
According to Robyn Clark, Deputy Director of Aircraft Sales at Absolute Aviation, for the time being “Private jet activity throughout the region remains thin with an older fleet of Citations, Learjets, and Hawkers dominating the activity.
“Maintenance for these aircraft types remains challenging, with either poor or non-existent maintenance support being available outside of South Africa or Kenya, the only two centers of capability.”
There might be a new pool of consumers in the making within the region, notes Jetcraft. The firm’s Five Year Pre-Owned Business Jet Market Forecast, which was released in September 2022, shows that buyers under the age of 45 account for 38.5% of Jetcraft transactions in the Middle East and Africa.
“Our forecast also explored the average purchase price in US$ in each region across the globe,” said Danie Joubert, Vice President of Sales in Africa for Jetcraft.
“In the Middle East and Africa, the average forecasted price from 2021-2026 is $20.8m – the second-highest figure in comparison to alternative regions.
“This is indicative of buyers investing more money in their private jet purchases, particularly in larger jets which are required to travel over longer distances across the African continent.”
The global trend of new first-time private jet charter users, and also first-time aircraft owners has been seen in the African market too, according to Sizwe Buthelezi, Sales Director of Helicopters at Absolute Aviation.
“During 2022 we noticed a shift in purchasing, from pre-owned aircraft to new,” he reveals. “OEMs are experiencing high demand and some supply chain issues (which have been solved at an impressive rate). Enquiries for new aircraft have been constant – nevertheless, buyers are becoming increasingly hesitant to commit, due to the long delivery times for new aircraft.”
Private Jet Demand Projections
In a continent where turboprops (and in a smaller measure Light Jets) are king, the trend toward larger aircraft purchases is mainly due to the continent’s large size and commercial aviation’s continued inefficiencies.
Nevertheless, some overlying regulations (in terms of aircraft registration) might hamper the projected growth in some economies.
“We’ve seen a continued demand for long-range and larger cabin jets across the continent,” Joubert explains. “As Africa has such a large landmass, larger jets are required to enable travel across the region and to other continents. The entirety of West Africa and regions of East Africa have also seen a distinct increase in enquiries.”
Economic strength plays a key role in aircraft purchases, and for Fourie some specific economies will be favoured under these conditions. “It would be fair to guess that Nigeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt, and South Africa will most likely be lead contenders for new jets, or any other BizAv and General Aviation demand projection for the next few years,” he suggests.
“This ties up with their regional relevance, underlying economic strength, tourism, and actual aviation requirement to service business needs such as exploration, infrastructural development, servicing outlying stations, attending meetings on viable schedules, and the like.”
Buthelezi similarly links the aircraft sales with economic development. “With major commodity (mining) infrastructure companies broadening their business activity outside of their borders, the need for business jet travel is bringing some positive attention.
“With end users preferring aircraft younger than 20 years, we expect to see an uptick in newer pre-owned and factory-new aircraft sales,” Bulhelezi projects.
However, Reeves worries about how local regulations might hinder market growth. “We continue to see strong demand in East and West Africa where there are many opportunities, but these markets continue to be hamstrung by regulations that require local registration of aircraft if you want to base them there, as well as costly and difficult trading conditions.”
We’ll continue our Business Aviation Outlook for Africa in 2023 next time with a look at how sustainability is likely to impact the industry, infrastructure developments, and some lesser noted trends that nevertheless have a big bearing on the health of the African Business Aviation market. Stay tuned…