It’s no secret anymore that China has broad economic ambitions on the African continent.
These, up till now have been highlighted by steady industrial investments in specific African countries which are rich in raw materials much needed by China to keep its industrial machine ticking over.
These ambitions by the Chinese government are also aimed at Africa’s regional aviation development.
In this respect, the Chinese top men are pushing their main airlines to set up and support regional passenger and cargo operations throughout this vast region.
China presents “2123 plan”
Are western carriers and aircraft manufacturers going to miss out?
The Beijing government has set up what they term as the “China-Africa Aviation Co-operation Plan.”
The plan which runs under what the Chinese refer to as the “2123 System,” aims at having two main marketing centres for aircraft produced in China as well as two firm maintenance sites, a training hub and spare parts facilities, all in operation by 2020.
The development and structuring of air cargo operations and routes to serve Chinese material movement needs is said to be also high on this list.
CargoForwarder Global recent reports on African air cargo developments show that the country is in desperate need of viable and operationally structured intra-African air cargo sectors to distribute goods entering the country by air into main African hubs.
Chinese carriers are most aware of this need as part of their planning involves not only increased passenger services, but also air freight movements to serve their own needs and obtain the largest share of this potential market.
Badly needed feeding services
It probably won’t be too long before large Chinese freighters are a common site at Nairobi, Johannesburg, Addis Ababa and so on.
Feeding of time relevant cargo into the other African states where Chinese interests are just as important remains today still a problem.
Budding African regional and national carriers need support to keep in the air and China surely has these aspirants in their sights.
Chinese aviation marketing centres have already been set up in Kenya and Cameroon and the state owned aerospace company, AVIC, has set up a training facility in South Africa.
The list gets larger week by week. The Chinese have opened maintenance support bases in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Where are western airlines and airframe producers?
It seems, “nowhere to be seen.“ The exception being regular freighter services to various regions, but no intentions in getting further involved!
The Beijing government has instructed three major companies to obtain a firmer foothold in the African aviation market.
They are AVIC International, the Chinese aerospace arm, Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and the HNA Group.
Whereas the first two are more geared towards aircraft development and maintenance, training aspects, the HNA Group which is also owner of Hainan Airlines and soon of ground handler Swissport, is gradually setting itself up in Africa as a partner for the future.
HNA recently took a 6.2% shareholding in South Africa’s Comair for a mere US$12.9 million.
This is their second recent investment in Africa after having also taken a stake in the Ghana-based Africa World Airlines.
The Beijing controlled plan places much emphasis on the Chinese state-owned airlines launching more direct routes into Africa and teaming with new partnerships, joint-ventures or even takeovers of African carriers.
John Mc Donagh