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“North Africa: an opportunity for growth” by Ali Al Naqbi

13 February 2014

Copy for Aviation Business By Ali Al Naqbi, MEBAA Founding Chairman

“North Africa: an opportunity for growth” by Ali Al Naqbi

In one of my articles earlier this year, I had written about the importance and potential for growth of business aviation in North Africa, alongside the issues that could potentially stunt this growth. One of the major areas of concern for MEBAA was the lack of specific data for business aviation in the region which was discouraging operators wishing to enter into the market. This, along with feedback received from our members, especially those within North Africa, led us to host MEBAC Marrakech in October of this year, to address the regional issues pertaining to the industry. To address the lack of reliable data for the region, we commissioned WingX to research and examine the market size of business aviation in North Africa and break it down according to activity and aircraft category. The results compounded what MEBAA and commentators across the region have been witnessing over recent years, and that growth in business aviation in North Africa was outperforming the global average. WingX found that the number of registered aircrafts that facilitate business aviation in North Africa is growing at 6.3% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate), nearly double the global average. 

Aircraft Movements

Considering the MENA region began adopting business aviation in the 1970’s, it has made considerable leaps and bounds in comparison to more mature and developed markets, in just over 30 years. According to WingX, growth in the region has been extremely healthy until 2009, but had dropped off due to the global economic downturn and political climate in the region at the time. Despite these global and regional events, aircraft departures in the North African region grew for the first time since its peak in 2009. The entire region accounted for a total of 15,759 aircraft movements during 2012, which constituted a 1.1% increase in activity when compared to 2011. At the time of the study being conducted in September, there have been 14,832 business aviation aircraft movements YTD across Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Somalia and Tunisia. 

Destinations

It is evident that North Africa continues to be the gateway into Africa, Europe and the Middle East as our distinguished guests and members travelled from these regions and beyond to attend the MEBAC Marrakech. North Africa’s main destination, outside of the region, is France accounting for 1176 arrivals. However, interestingly enough, Russia represented the biggest growth in terms of destination at 81% this year. Also worth noting, Turkey and Belgium have shown an increase in activity of 23% and 13.6% respectively this year. From these growth figures, you can see that the reach of business aviation from North Africa is dynamic and reflects positively on the health of the business being conducted within the region.

Infrastructure

The correlation between transport infrastructure, and economic growth is a key indicator in the health of any economy. This is no different for business aviation and is paramount to the industry’s future within North Africa. From our conversations earlier in the year with our members, it was clear that the industry was facing a deadlock, as operators were hesitant in developing their business in North Africa without adequate infrastructure and/or FBO presence in place. This is where MEBAA can provide the bridge between its members and regulators to ensure that the industry’s concerns are addressed. At MEBAC Marrakech, H.E. Abdullah Bouhouche, Director General of Civil Aviation for the Kingdom of Morocco discussed the factors behind the kingdom’s rise within the business aviation market over recent years. A sentiment which was complimented by the fact that Morocco’s airports are the most active in North Africa, experiencing over 4000 movements in 2013 YTD. In terms of flight operations for 2013, private-filed flights accounted for 33% of activity and charter flights for 53%. As a whole, North Africa is on target to engender over $200m in charter revenues by the end of this year.

As with any growing business aviation sector, safety is of the utmost importance to ensure future success of the industry. The region’s Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) suppliers have become an essential component of the North African business aviation sector. Figures from the study show that the current MRO market for the region is estimated at over $16m with Egypt, Morocco and Algeria comprising 80% of the market. Based on current trends, the MRO is expected to reach over $18m by 2018 with Algeria and Libya expected to lead the way in growth over this period. 

In conclusion, it was evident to us at MEBAA, and our members in attendance at MEBAC Marrakech, that the North African market represents a tremendous opportunity for our industry to grow even further. The region’s potential has undoubtedly been recognised by Bombardier Aerospace, as they recently announced the development of a new manufacturing facility in Morocco. An investment like this will not only encourage growth for the sector but also lead to job creation and contribute towards the Kingdom’s overall economy, a move which MEBAA hopes to instigate across other nations in the MENA region.

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