Africa: The rising stars of airfreight look to expansion
20 / 03 / 2015
While Ethiopian Airlines is likely to dominate Africa’s future cargo industry for a while, that does not rule out smaller operators staking their own claim.
In northern Africa, Air Algerie is planning to replace its Lockheed freighter with two 737-700 combis, and possibly spinning off its cargo division into a wholly-owned subsidiary.
“Air Algerie…needs to focus on its core passenger business and to give these services [cargo, catering and ground handling] a chance to develop,” says Zohir Houaoui, head of Air Algerie’s commercial department. “Initially, they will be subsidiaries, but they could be moved to partnerships.”
In Libya, state-owned Afriqiyah Airways and Libyan Airlines are planning to boost the country’s airfreight services.
Libyan Airlines is in negotiations to lease one freighter and is thinking of buying another second-hand, most likely an A300-600F. Afriqiyah is also planning to establish a freight subsidiary and to buy a freighter.
Meanwhile, the Libyan Civil Aviation Authority (LYCAA) has said it wants to turn Sebha airport in southern Libya into a cargo hub.
LYCAA’s director general, Capt Nasereddin Shaebelain, said: “We plan to make Sebha into a hub for airfreight, with a cargo village with hangars and temperature-controlled storage for perishables, such as food and plants, which would then be transported to Africa.”
All of these plans are subject to the country maintaining a currently unsteady peace.
Low-cost carriers (LCCs) traditionally have not focused on airfreight, as their fast turnaround times usually limit efficient cargo operations. However, Tanzania’s Fastjet has signed an agreement with BidAir to carry cargo on its fleet of Airbus A319s on its domestic routes. Initially, Fastjet intends to carry ‘dry’ cargo, such as post and newspapers.
In Central Africa, the Republic of the Congo’s ECAir has seen cargo traffic rise. The carrier’s chief executive, Fatima Beyina-Houssa, who is also 2015’s African Airlines Association (AFRAA) president, says that she is considering whether to invest in a freighter, potentially to connect with Dubai and Europe.
In Equatorial Guinea, fledgling carrier Punto Azul is also planning to move into cargo operations using an ATR 42 or a 737 combi.
“I’m looking to bring in cargo as soon as the AOC is issued,” said managing director Paul Richards. “It will be a small aircraft initially. We are trying to tempt European operators to use Equatorial Guinea as a hub so we can distribute their cargo throughout West and Central Africa,” he said.
Air Botswana is also looking to move into cargo. The carrier’s new general manager, Ben Dahwa, said: “We’ve got a world-class cargo facility at our hub that belongs to our shareholder.
Last year, the shareholder put it out to tender, which we won, to make use of it for the next five to 10 years.
“Cargo is a huge area that we’re looking at developing in terms of broadening our revenue and so we went into an ACMI arrangement with South African operator SkyClass Aviation, which operates a Turbo DC-3.”
In Mozambique, LAM Mozambique Airlines chief executive, Marlene Manave, wants to convert an Embraer 120 into a freighter, to develop LAM’s cargo business.
However, a new joint venture with French oil and gas logistics firm Bolloré means that LAM is now eyeing far larger aircraft.
“The Embraer 120 conversion was one of our options when we were thinking of doing it [the cargo operation] ourselves, but now it might be a bigger aircraft because we would be flying for the mining industry, which involves large equipment. They have been using a Russian aircraft, the Antonov An-26, from Johannesburg to Pemba so it might be something similar to that,” she said.
The partners are teaming up to create LAM Logistics, which will handle all of LAM’s belly cargo and dedicated freighter operations. The main freight flows will be between Maputo and the provinces, although LAM Logistics will also connect Palma with the port city of Pemba, both located in Cabo Delgado, the northernmost province of Mozambique.
With Africa being such a desirable market at the moment, it is obvious that non-African carriers, such as Lufthansa and Emirates, would continue to make a sizeable dent into these African carriers’ cargo business, but equally, these signs of growth and success stories suggest that in 2015 and beyond, Africa’s airlines will be a force to be reckoned with. ■