An African haven amid the global storm

Among the interesting turn of events brought on by the unprecedented downturn of 2009 was the unexpected flood of newcomers to African airports, including a handful of B747-400 freighters from Asia. By Donald Urquhart.

In search of markets that had escaped the savage yield declines of Asia in the early months of last year, carriers – in particular full freighter operators – identified Africa as a relative haven of stability.

“Africa has been pretty good over the last year, but if you look at the central part, the perishables part was affected by weather last year so that was an added challenge,” says Ram Menen, Emirates SkyCargo senior vice president.

“We also reduced our freighters because every man and his dog was getting into that market because of the crisis,” he adds.

From Asia came Shenzhen-based Jade Cargo Airlines starting services to Nigeria in mid-April, flying twice a week from Shanghai via Shenzhen, Chennai and Sharjah to Lagos, returning to China via Sharjah. Singapore Airlines Cargo adding Johannesburg to its African footprint and signing an interline partnership with Ethiopian Airlines.

US passenger carriers brought belly capacity with new flights to Africa, one of which was Delta, which mounted fourflights a week from Atlanta to Dakar.

European and Middle Eastern carriers also upped their flights to Africa.

Chasing the kilo
“It was pretty much a case of ‘chasing the kilo,” says Menen. “In the initial part of the crisis the part of the market that really got hit hard was China. A lot of people had a lot of capacity into China, so Africa and South America were the emerging markets that people put their assets to keep them deployed.