“Passion” is a word often used by Hermann Zunker, Director Africa at Lufthansa Cargo, when speaking about his company’s commitment there. This he did last week when giving the media an insight into LH Cargo’s current African activities and plans.
Without longstanding passion in combination with knowledge and skills, running any air freight business successfully on the African continent is nearly impossible, states Hermann. Based in
Johannesburg since nine years, he knows the many ups and downs experienced during the last decade by the local cargo industry and the carriers serving the continent.
The wind of change blows through Africa
Whilst in the past Africa was mainly associated with civil wars, corruption, political unrest, environmental catastrophes and other negative aspects, the wind has changed in the last two years, Hermann emphasized. There are still failed states like Somalia or Libya, attacks by jihadists in Mali or Nigeria, for instance, but all in all things have turned much to the better lately, he resumes.
This is evidenced by U.S. President Obama’s trip to Kenya and Ethiopia last July or Pope Francis’ visit to a number of African states during the past days. “Those visits clearly show that Africa’s reputation has improved lately,” the manager exclaimed.
So did the economy in most of Africa’s 54 states, generating GDP growth rates between 4 and 5 percent this year. Other impressive figures are the 316 million new cell phone subscribers since 2000 or that meanwhile more than 20 African companies surpass annual revenues of US$ 3 billion, thus knocking at the doors of the major international league.
Africa is on the verge of taking the fast track
And the perspective looks even brighter with Africa’s consumer spending exceeding $1.4 trillion by 2020 or also that 128 million African households will have a solid discretionary income by 2020. “Airport infrastructure is also improving notably in contrast to most sea ports, making air transport increasingly attractive,” notes Zunker.
Another figure might be interesting, particularly for aviation managers: by 2030, the portion of Africans living in cities will reach 50 percent.
Currently however, the only problem child, apart from the failed states, is South Africa, the former economic powerhouse whose GDP has increased only moderately during the last two years. “All countries surrounding South Africa are growing significantly faster,” Hermann said.
This hurts his airline’s business to a certain extent, since South Africa is by far the most important continental market served by LH Cargo, demonstrated by 267.700 tons flown in and out by the carrier during the first seven months of this year. Runner-up is Kenya with 197,000 tons, followed by 131,200 tons of exports and imports to and from Egypt transported between 1st January and 31st July of this year.
Egypt gives LH Cargo much pleasure
“Although it’s mainly seasonal business, among all African sub-markets it is Egypt where we are growing fastest,” Zunker stated. In this context, he announced a sharp increase of capacity by upping MD-11 freighter flights between Cairo and Frankfurt from previously three to five weekly rotations, beginning immediately.
Simultaneously LH Cargo has engaged in a joint venture project with an Egyptian investor, securing the utilization of a new cargo terminal comprising 52,000 sqm at Cairo’s Airport, which has a three module subdivision for varied usage.
While LH Cargo’s Egypt business is running strong, other destinations served by all-cargo aircraft are Johannesburg, Nairobi and Dakar. All four cities are staffed with own personnel, “securing us top quality and the adherence to our high standards,” says Hermann, again stressing the passion issue.
Ethiopian aviation policy is a hard nut to crack
According to Ivo Seehann, LH Cargo’s general manger East Africa his airline considers Addis Ababa as becoming the next candidate for freighter flights but Ivo regrets the fact that the Ethiopian regulator is pursuing a very strict air traffic policy.
Based in Nairobi, he says that Kenyan exports of perishables dominate all other products, accounting for a lion’s share of 94 percent, while standard freight contributes only 5 percent to all Kenyan exports flown to Europe or beyond by his airline.
Locally, the German carrier cooperates with Astral Aviation, a Kenyan company that operates seven freighters in its fleet. “This is a very fruitful partnership, giving us access to places in East and Central Africa served by Astral,” Ivo states.
This collaboration can even be intensified, he indicates, since Astral has plans to build sub-hubs in Johannesburg and Lagos next year.