With many of the air cargo industry’s big players heading down to Johannesburg for the air cargo Africa conference this week, 21-23FEB23, CargoForwarder Global (CFG) asked Conor Brannigan (CB), Magma Aviation CEO, about the company’s strong business links to the African continent, expectations, and experiences.
CFG: Air Cargo Africa is coming up soon and Magma Aviation has a booth there - what are your expectations of the event and what success stories have arisen from it in the
CB: We are very excited about Air Cargo Africa 2023. This will be the first time the event has been hosted since 2019, and it feels good to have it back. When people think of Magma Aviation, they think of Africa. While Magma Aviation’s network has diversified over the years, Africa will always remain the cornerstone of our operations and we have our great partners and customers to thank for that. As with return of industry events since Covid restrictions have been relaxed or eradicated, Air Cargo Africa will be a fantastic opportunity for us to meet with current and prospective partners for the first time in years. While we have all adopted technology to allow us to interact with our partners around the world, there is a lot to be said for face-to-face interaction, particularly after such a long time. Magma Aviation has always found the show to be a success and have come away in the past with new relationships and initiatives to work on. I’m sure the 2023 Air Cargo Africa will be no different. Magma Aviation’s booth will be located at C05 and we look forward to welcoming everyone there.
CFG: Why, when people think of Magma Aviation, do they think of Africa? What is the story? Where did it all start?
CB: Magma Aviation, since the company’s conception, has been very Africa-centric. There is good reason for this, the three founders of Magma Aviation all worked for MK Airlines and brought with them their 50+ years’ experience and passion for air cargo in this incredible continent. In fact, one of the founders of Magma Aviation, Ross Wilson, grew up in Africa. This passion still flows through the company today, and even though our network has expanded globally over the years, Africa is a key part of our overall network and will continue to be.
CFG: How many of Africa’s 54 countries has Magma Aviation served to date?
CB: Magma Aviation has operated to 44 countries in Africa since the company was founded. Magma Aviation is a regular visitor in some of these countries, and some have been one-off stops over the years for ad-hoc flights/charters etc.
CFG: Your website states: “Working in partnership with our worldwide network of GSAs, we coordinate regular cargo deliveries from Europe to airports across Africa.” Is the business all
only one way?
CB: We do both import and export from the African continent. We operate to a wide range of destinations in west, south and east Africa from Europe for our import cargo flows, and then the majority of our export flows are perishable driven, from both Nairobi and Entebbe back to Europe.
CFG: What are the main commodities transported to (and from?) African destinations by Magma? Top routes?
CB: We have a very varied portfolio of import commodities into Africa, such as cars/automotive parts, hi-tech goods, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, and industrial machinery. In terms of the commodities we export from Africa, this made up mainly of perishables, such as flowers, vegetables, and herbs.
The majority of our African import capacity is focused on west and south Africa, with regular flights into Douala, Kinshasa, Johannesburg and Lusaka. On the export side, our capacity is very much deployed on Nairobi and Entebbe.
CFG: The African aviation sector was worst hit of all due to the pandemic – how did this affect Magma Aviation’s operations?
CB: In terms of demand, we were impacted in a positive way, and this of course was driven by the grounding of passenger jets due to the restrictions imposed globally on passenger travel. From an operational perspective, flying to and from Africa (and other markets) became more complex and cumbersome. Dealing with various restrictions and regulations at country and sometimes city level, meant that we could not be as flexible as we would have liked. We lost the ability to lay over crew in certain countries and therefore in some cases, lost the ability to operate to those countries. Despite this, we made it work and adjusted our network and operation accordingly. We are hugely indebted to our partners in Africa always, but in particular during Covid when their partnership and support made our flying program possible. We are proud that we remained in Africa throughout the pandemic, when others pulled out to deploy capacity on other markets, such as Asia.
CFG: What is holding the continent back from developing a robust and wide-reaching continental air cargo network?
CB: There has been significant improvement in continental connectivity within Africa. There are domiciled carriers in Africa with lots of connectivity via belly and maindeck operations. From a regulatory standpoint, the landscape is quite complex, and perhaps that hinders further development, however I would be quite optimistic of positive change in this area. In terms of inter-continental connectivity, I believe, from an air cargo perspective, that Africa is very well connected and is an important market for many global cargo carriers.
CFG: What was the most interesting/unusual African shipment to date?
CB: Over the years, Magma Aviation has moved many interesting shipments into and out of Africa. Just in the last few years, we have moved solar powered refrigerators to Madagascar, construction equipment to Kigali, WRC rally cars and a helicopter to Nairobi, and aircraft engines to from Kinshasa. We have also moved many types of live animals on our aircraft, to sanctuaries, which we are proud to support.
CFG: Aside from GSAs (and GHAs?), does Magma have any local offices on the African continent?
CB: We as Magma Aviation do not have our own offices on the continent of Africa. We instead have a presence via our partners there, such as GSAs, GHAs, etc.
CFG: What have been the greatest challenges in ensuring reliable services on the continent?
CB: Having local knowledge, experience and support is crucial. We have built many fantastic partnerships in Africa over the years, and this has allowed Magma Aviation to maintain and build our presence there.
CFG: Where does Magma see the greatest potential and what countries is it looking to build up in its network?
CB: Our current focus is on our existing network, particularly as we adjust to life after the pandemic. Our experience and agility in Africa allow us to capitalize on ad-hoc charter and part-charter programs, and moving in to 2023, we will look to do more of this.
CFG: Any particular Magma sustainability initiatives taking place on the African continent?
CB: We are currently working hard on our ESG strategy and we will be indeed be looking to implement initiatives on the African continent that bring about positive change via means such as sponsorship, charitable donations and carbon offsetting.
Many thanks for your insights, Conor Brannigan.
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