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Africa in bloom

One of the few continents to have trade lanes with double-digit growth, Africa is becoming increasingly busy. But can this growth support all of the capacity coming in? Ian Putzger finds out

In January, Coyne Airways unveiled a network covering Africa, with service to over 30 destinations on the continent for clients from all over the world. The network is built on interline agreements with over 30 airline partners and utilises three hubs in Africa – Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg – to transport cargo bound for Africa to its final destination.


“We set up a service that is designed to work well for small- to mid-sized shippers, mostly for project traffic. We are not competing in the main hubs; our main focus is on the second leg out of these hubs to the final destination,” says Coyne Airways chief executive officer, Larry Coyne.


He aims for slow growth, stressing the need for reliable service, which is built around two elements – a local presence and status updates. All shipments are funnelled through one of the three designated African gateways, where the cargo is received by an agent for Coyne, who updates the status information and then places the cargo on the flight to its destination. Customers receive automatic status updates when their shipment passes a milestone.


ECS, the Paris-based general sales agent (GSA) network, is also pursuing growth in Africa through a stronger presence on the ground. Last year it acquired a controlling interest in Niger Air Cargo, an all-cargo carrier launched earlier that year with one freighter aircraft, serving 10 destinations in western Africa from its base in Niamey.


“We are considering a second weekly freighter into Niamey,” says Adrien Thominet, senior vice president of sales at ECS.


The GSA is feeding traffic to Niger Air Cargo through block space agreements on Brussels Airlines and AV Cargo, the reincarnation of Avient Aviation. “AV Cargo has given us almost all the countries to cover except two or three,” says Thominet.


Another important link for him is with China, where the GSA opened up shop earlier this year. Interline agreements with Chinese carriers allow ECS to offer China-Africa routes to its clients, a sector that Thominet is eager to develop.


Freight forwarders are also on the advance. “Many forwarders look at Africa with greater interest. I do not know if this is because other markets are saturated or if there is serious interest,” observes Hermann Zunker,  regional director for Africa at Lufthansa Cargo.


Statistics from Airports Council International show that African airports saw a collective 2.5% increase in cargo last year, whereas their counterparts in North America and Europe posted declines. Asia-Pacific airports, meanwhile, boosted their combined throughput by a paltry 0.1%.


Double-digit growth may not be the norm any more, but it still happens. Dube TradePort (DTPC), a logistics complex near Durban, South Africa, that describes itself as ‘a catalyst for global trade and a portal between KwaZulu-Natal and the world’, clocked up 31.5% growth in imports passing through its cargo terminal in fiscal 2012/13, while exports went up 22.5%. One factor was the arrival of Boeing 777 services to the airport, courtesy of Emirates.

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