US news TV group CNN has highlighted the importance of air cargo in underpinning the African commercial aviation industry during the Covid-19 pandemic. Air cargo formed a “lifeline” for African aviation, the network reported.
The African airport which handled the largest amount of cargo last year was Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), in Kenya. And the continent’s number one dedicated air cargo operator, Astral Aviation, is also Kenyan and based at JKIA.
“We have very big plans for expansion in Africa,” said Astral Aviation CEO and founder Sanjeev Gadhia. “The first thing that we are planning to do is to increase our fleet from 14 to 20 aircraft. In addition to that, we are setting up a hub in West Africa and we’re setting up a hub in Southern Africa.”
A number of passenger airlines were placing a greater emphasis on cargo as well. One of them was Kenya Airways (known as KQ for short, from the company’s International Air Transport Association [Iata] code designation). “Until now, cargo has been about 10% of our business,” reported KQ CEO and MD Allan Kilavuka. “We want that to grow progressively to over 20%, in other words to double it, within the next three to five years.”
Iata itself believed that air passenger traffic across the continent would increase significantly, with the adherence of more and more States to the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM). “Once we get past that hurdle [fully implementing the SAATM], I think you could see a [passenger] boom that will probably make history in Africa,” affirmed Iata regional VP: Africa Kamil Al-Awadhi.