Countries can carve niches for themselves in the global air cargo business, says IATA

19th March 2024

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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It was possible for a country to turn itself into a global hub for important air cargo flows, even if that country had no connection with, or involvement in, the commodity concerned. So pointed out International Air Transport Association (IATA) Regional Director for Operations, Safety and Security Kashif Khalid. (IATA is the representative body for the global airline industry.) He was delivering a keynote address at the Wesgro Western Cape Air Cargo Conference 2024, in Cape Town, on Tuesday. (Wesgro is the Western Cape trade, investment and tourism promotion agency.)

He cited the case of Saudia Arabia and its national flag carrier, Saudia. This airline, he reported, flew more fresh flowers from East Africa to Europe than any other. Saudia Arabia had made itself the global hub for this trade. This proved that a country could create a niche for itself in the global air cargo market, provided it made the necessary infrastructure investments. This was, he suggested, an example for South Africa in general, and the Western Cape in particular.

There was, he pointed out, a growing international demand for fresh and perishable goods, a sector that was of particular importance for the Western Cape. Currently, African countries exported perishables to Europe and increasingly to the Middle East. But African countries, including South Africa, should look at developing new export routes, into other emerging countries, particularly China. Tastes were changing in China, and the demand for fresh foods was increasing there.

He also noted that 30 years ago, Dubai didn’t have an aviation ecosystem. Then the government decided to invest in the development of the requisite aviation infrastructure. Now it was one of the world’s leading commercial aviation hubs.

Globally, he reported, air cargo in January had grown 18.4%, year-on-year. Total air cargo capacity had likewise increased by 14.6%, while airline belly-hold cargo capacity had jumped 25.8%.

One of the forces driving this global growth in air cargo was e-commerce. And this growth in the digital economy required the air cargo industry to change the way that it did business. International air cargo was still based much too much on paper. The passenger side of aviation had already gone digital. Cargo needed to do the same. Going from the current paper-based system to a digital system would make it easier to do business, and those countries that did so would attract more business.

IATA was seeking to facilitate this transformation through its ONE Record initiative. This had the aim of harmonising air cargo data in a shared format. (Many countries categorised types of air cargo differently.) “Digitalisation is not only important, it’s essential, for our future,” he affirmed.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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