Investing in the Africa advantage

The third iteration of Air Cargo Africa impelled the African continents ambition to be a leader in the global economy where the air freight industry would set the stage towards achieving this goal.

Arecord number of visitors attended the third biennial international air logistics conference and exhibition, AIR CARGO AFRICA 2015, held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 25 to 27 February. The event in the course of its three day duration attracted 527 delegates and 2,915 trade visitors. The exhibition featured 80 exhibitors, with 29 from across Africa and 32 from further afield internationally. The event garnered a great degree of interest from local and international visitors.
The executive mayor of the City of Ekurhuleni, Mondli Gungubele, opened the event, stating that the City of Ekurhuleni region had become the aviation, logistics and manufacturing hub of Africa while adding that OR Tambo International Airport was strategically positioned as a gateway to Africa. This was keeping in line with the theme of, ‘Air Cargo – Africa’s path to sustainable growth’.
Making a strong point on the continent’s growth, Nico Bezuidenhout, acting CEO, South African Airways said, “As for Africa, growth is imminent and opportunities are inevitable. Intra-Africa trade is a huge opportunity. There is ample scope to increase trade.”
Key topics raised during panel discussions and debates highlighted that trade within Africa itself must be addressed to garner better growth opportunities; an open trade environment within Africa would allow air cargo to act as a catalyst of growth throughout the continent. There was also a pertinent need for greater transparency and cohesion across the entire air cargo supply chain.“With an expected six percent increase in GDP growth by 2020, there is a lot of potential for growth in the continent,” said Fitsum Abady, Managing Director, Ethiopian Cargo Services on a confident note. On the other hand, Abady pointed out to a number of hurdles which come in the way of Africa’s rise. Being critical on the political situation, Markus Muecke, head of airfreight, Panalpina strongly affirmed that “red tape has to go from Africa.” Dealing with red tape within African countries presents a large issue, which strangles growth.
Barry Nassberg, Group COO, Worldwide Flight Services said, “We see growth in Asia-Africa trade and investments are dominated by countries like China and India.” While Africa is a somewhat closed continent as far as investment is concerned, Nassberg believes there is a desire for growth and the opportunity exists there.
How far are we from the near perfect supply chain when it comes to moving perishables by air? That was the central question in a round table discussion organised by Amsterdam Airport Schiphol on the inaugural day of the event. Different stakeholders of the air cargo value chain raised the challenges and shortfalls in the perishable transportation particularly with reference to flowers shipped from African markets to European destinations.
The second day of the event saw some lively debates featuring panel members representing Emirates, South African Airways (SAA), the National Air Cargo Group, DHL Global Forwarding, OR Tambo International Airport and the United Nations, focused on beating infrastructure challenges within air cargo and strengthening the supply chain. The intra-African cargo market is one of the fastest growing markets currently, with increasing demand for perishables and consumer goods like smart phones in particular.
A second shipper-centric panel discussion was on oil and gas industry which is crucial to many African economies. With the oil fields, mines and plants moving to more remote locations, the demand to deliver material is getting more complex for those in the oil and gas supply chain. A growing business for air freight, the industry is trying to play catch up with sea freight, a preferred mode of transport for oil and gas equipment. The panel discussion on oil and gas shippers hosted by Liege Airport focussed on key concerns of shippers and what airports and airlines have to offer.
Moderating the last panel discussion of the three-day event Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ regional director for market analysis, Tom Crabtree, explained that the rapidly expanding shares of these markets are presently gauged at 14.4 percent for the Middle East and 12.9 percent market share for Asia.
In recent years, Africa has seen major interests from India in terms of investments and also air cargo growth. “There is growth for specialised products such as pharmaceuticals into Africa. But the challenge lies in carriers with less direct connections into Africa,” said Manoj Singh, vice president and head, cargo, Mumbai International Airport.
Panelists agreed that Asian imports to the continent will be the principle driver for growth of African trade with Asia, and that e-commerce and the rising demand for consumer goods, particularly in India and China, will boost air trade growth in the Asia-to-Africa direction.
A major highlight of the event was the award night on the second day. The awards were given away to industry players for their excellence in various sectors of the air cargo industry in style amidst an evening of fun, entertainment and African culture.
The STAT Trade Times Lifetime Achievement Award went to Desmond Vertannes, the much-liked and well-respected previous global head of cargo at IATA. “A life time achievement award is given to someone because the person has made an impact in the industry that he or she represents and the person has a substantial number of years of experience. And in this case Des has both these,” said Glyn Hughes, Glyn Hughes, global head of cargo, IATA, who joined R K Patra, editor-in-chief, STAT Media Group, publisher of Indian Transport and Logistics News, on stage to honour Vertannes.