The fourth edition of Air Cargo Africa brought together a record number of 80 exhibitors, 533 global industry decision makers as registered delegates and an impressive number of 3027 trade visitors from across 29 African countries and 32 countries from other continents.

Industry players could not have asked for more when STAT Trade Times first organized Air Cargo Africa in 2011, which brought together the air cargo industry stakeholders together on a single platform. Businesses prospered thereafter with better networking and with each edition, the event raised the bar.

Air Cargo Africa 2017 registered even bigger number participation of industry stakeholders, this time with the shippers onboard, which made the three-day conference-cum-exhibition a resounding success.

To unearth the growth potential of the African continent, the global air cargo community converged at the Air Cargo Africa 2017 at the Emperors Palace in City of Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg from February 21-23.

The event, under the theme, “Air freight in Africa: Building tomorrow’s market today” was inaugurated by the guest of honour Dr. Ismail Vadi, Gauteng Member of Executive Council for Roads and Transport and Dr. N Xhakaza, Member of Mayoral Committee, Finance and Economic Development, City if Ekurhuleni along with Tleli Makhetha, General Manager, South African Airways and RK Patra, Group Editor-in Chief, STAT Media Group.

Welcoming the delegates to the fourth edition of Air Cargo Africa, RK Patra, Group Editor-in Chief, STAT Media Group spoke about the revolutionary changes that the aviation industry is going through, where drones and unmanned aerial vehicles are being employed to deliver cargo and Hyperloop is a proposed new way to move people and freight at airline speeds for the price of a bus ticket. Emphasizing on the importance of cooperation he said, “At Air Cargo Africa, through the deliberations in the next three days, we intend to become a facilitator for greater cooperation and collaborations to enhance trade across borders” and thus set the ball rolling for the proceedings over the next three days.

Making his inaugural address, Dr Ismail Vadi pointed out that significant innovations are compelling people to “rethink the way they live, interact, transport domestically and internationally”. They are influencing people to rethink about all the “well established norms and practices”.

Musa Zwane, CEO (Acting) South African Airways, in his keynote address said, “For South African Airways, the air cargo is an important and significant part of business.” He goes on to add, “We are singularly proud that our country is playing host to this event, which seeks to highlight and enhance the development of the air cargo and the opportunities in the African region. We are also excited that for the first time this year, shippers and forwarders are participating fully in the event to both exhibit and deliberate.”

Important talking points
Panel discussions over the three days touched upon topics ranging from unlocking Africa’s civil aviation potential to dealing with overcapacity and declining yields in a volatile market to understanding trade agreements in the African context and bringing to the fore innovations in cargo delivery.

The first panel of the day saw the likes of Glyn Hughes, Global Head of Cargo, IATA; Graham Perkins, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, (EMEIA), Atlas Air, Inc.; Barry D Nassberg, Group Chief Operating Officer, Worldwide Flight Services; Rudolf Steiner, Senior Vice President Cargo, Global Accounts & Commercial, Swissport International; Rainer Mueller, Vice President, Commercial, Saudia Cargo and; Jan de Vegt, Chief Operating Officer, Kenya Airways discuss Africa’s civil aviation potential.

Mueller highlighted that even though the infrastructure is somewhat in place when it comes to handling the import shipments or the export shipments at the African airports, there is need to improve the ground transport. “What I would be hoping is, we as an industry manage for setting up an effective ground transport product in addition to what we are having as an air cargo product.”

Steiner however said that investments are being made to improve the current scenario. “We invested in brand new facilities in Africa. We have opted for facilities in Dar es Salaam and Kenya. It is an absolute must to invest in Good Distribution Practices (GDP) and core facilities, we have done that. Are we yet there? Most probably not, but compared to two years ago we took a big step. We have to work closer to the producer, in order to further improve in the logistics chain,” he said.

According to Barry D Nassberg, a lot more can be done and that airports need to be a willing partner in looking at how it would develop a policy where it allows a necessary investment to happen.

Graham Perkins pointed out that with regards to the readiness supporting e-commerce, African people are ready to take this on but the question is whether Africa is ready to take it on. He said that custom infrastructure is a major issue as it does not support e-commerce. “In many cases a lot of countries have customs rules and regulations that dates back decades and they are being used unfortunately,” he said.

Another significant topic was the Yamoussoukro Declaration that is most likely to be implemented by December 2017. It was adopted out of the recognition that the restrictive and protectionist intra-African regulatory regime hampers the expansion and improvement of air transport on the continent. Commenting on Africa’s Yamoussoukro Declaration and the debate on opening skies, Jan de Vegt said Africa needs to take cautious steps and not rush to open skies outside Africa. “We have to come to a situation, where Africa has an open sky within Africa first,” he said.

The panel moderated by Glyn Hughes concluded that for all countries across Africa, harmonisation is critical, particularly as the continent has got a growing population, and a young labour force, which would be able to become a young workforce and then a young consumer market.

In the session on trade agreements, the moderator Tom Crabtree, Regional Director, Airline Market Analysis, Marketing & Business Development, Boeing Commercial Airplanes put forth three important questions before the panel: Are trade agreements drafted with any particular mode in mind? Can trade agreements liberalise market access by themselves? What can we as industry stakeholders do to make our voices heard?

Crabtree was joined on the panel by Glyn Hughes, global head of cargo, IATA; Tleli Makhetha, general manager, South African Airways and Vladimir Zubkov, secretary general, TIACA.

Hughes responded to Crabtree by sharing a timely news of WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) coming into force. Global trade reforms received a big boost when the number of WTO members notifying their acceptance of the Trade Facilitation Agreement touched 110 which provides the minimal two third threshold required for its operationalisation, when Rwanda, Oman, Chad and Jordan provided their letter of acceptance to the director general of the multilateral trade forum on February 22.

“The reason why this is so timely and beneficial for air cargo because there are a number of measures within the TFA that are pro-air cargo. First of all, any trade agreement leads to growth and growth results in prosperity. Anything that can promote and encourage and facilitate simplification of trade is something that we as an industry should support. The TFA agreement will lead to reduction in trade costs. And for developing nations, it will lead to 15 per cent reduction in trade costs. This is through reduction of border restrictions and simplification of border management. Secondly, when you can streamline border processes and harmonize the processes like e-customs and simplification of border management processes, it allows air cargo, whose predicated value proposition is based on speed, to move through the supply chain that much quicker. Any trade agreement that will help facilitate simplified border crossings, will help strengthen air cargo’s value proposition,” said Hughes.

Zubkov pointed out to an interesting fact. “When the air cargo traffic in a country increases by one per cent, then trade grows by 6.3 per cent. So, air cargo is the biggest contributor to the development of trade. That’s why those nations which understand the importance of trade and connections, they give industry stakeholders a chance to develop and support the trade,” he said.

However, Makhetha was cynical of trade agreements in terms of its implementation. Hughes agreed with Makhetha that it is very difficult to come up with trade agreements with neutralized benefits for all parties. Hughes also agreed to Zubkov’s point that the most difficult part of the trade agreement is on implementing the trade agreement. “Trade agreements can only be successful through the desire and willingness of the member states who have signed it to implement it. If everybody enters into an agreement with that same objective it is very difficult to come up with neutralized benefits, which is why bilateral or mutual trade agreements are very delicately balanced,” he said.

Another important discussion on “Over capacity and declining yield in a very volatile market: What is the industry’s strategy to strike a balance?” evoked a lot of interest from participants.

The expert panel was chaired by Shahe Ouzounian, Chief Operating Officer, Chapman Freeborn. Joining him were Gareth Joyce, President, Delta Cargo; Peter Musola, Acting General Manager, Cargo, Kenya Airways; Bongiwe Pityi, General Manager, O R Tambo International Airport; Slavey Djahov, Regional Head of Air Freight (MEAC), Panalpina World Transport (Dubai) DWC LLC and Meshack Kipturgo, Managing Director, Siginon Aviation.

The panel demonstrated how technology needed to become an intrinsic part of the entire air cargo supply chain - from ground handlers to freight forwarders and more - with the aim of speeding up end-to-end capacity and make a real impact on business optimisation. Musola pointed out that while the market scenario is not entirely pessimistic, the larger problem exists in terms of yields. “It is a wake-up call for all of us in the industry to see how do we inject more value in terms of our service offering,” he said. Djahov observed that the market in Africa is realizing the need for investments. According to Pityi, in the next ten years, they should be in a position to provide facilities with maximum handling capacity and automated systems.

The session reached a conclusion on the point, “Focus on being competitive in market. Run faster. Apply cost discipline, process optimisation and invest in technology in order to drive a high service delivery to your customers. If you are not the best, you can’t survive in a high capacity market. That is, be on time, every time and should a process fail, ensure that your team is ready to react to the customer’s demand.”
Apart from these plenary sessions, Air Cargo Africa went an extra mile this year to roll out commodity specific conferences offering an opportunity to the shippers and other stakeholders involved in the supply chain to meet and discuss opportunities and challenges. This year’s ‘Air Shippers Forums’ focussed on four key commodities – pharmaceuticals, perishables, automotive and humanitarian aid.

New exhibitors make their debut
While conference sessions set the tone of the convention, the exhibition received an overwhelming response of around 3027 visitors, a significant high from the event’s earlier editions. With 80 exhibitors on the floor, this year’s edition welcomed some new members from the community as well: BeCon Projects, Bahrain Airport Company, Cargo Composites, EasyClear, Express Air Cargo, Frankfurt Airport, Fujairah Airport, Hybrid Enterprises, Miami International Airport, M&C Aviation, Professional Aviation Services, Ultimate Air, World Courier, Zone 4 International and Hybrid Enterprises, the exclusive reseller of Lockheed Martin’s Hybrid Airships.

Awards Nite Razzmatazz
The STAT Times’ International Award for Excellence in Air Cargo was announced on Day 2 of the event. The awards, across fourteen categories, were given away at a Gala Awards Nite held at the Barnyard Theatre, Rivonia, Johannesburg.

Qatar Airways Cargo took home the ‘Global Cargo Airline of the Year’ award while Brussels Airport walked away with the ‘International Airport of the Year’ award. Saudia Cargo won the ‘International Cargo Airline of the Year in Africa’. The Air Cargo Brand of the Year in Africa was bagged by South African Airways while Etihad Cargo was adjudged the Global Air Cargo Brand of the Year. The clear winner for the African Cargo Airline of the Year was Ethiopian Airways Cargo while African Airport of the Year went to O.R.Tambo International Airport. Among all cargo carriers, Astral Aviation was awarded African All Cargo Carrier of the Year while Cargolux bagged the International All Cargo Carrier of the Year in Africa.

The highlight of the evening was the Lifetime Achievement Award that was conferred to Chris Leach, the chairman and founder of Air Charter Service for his outstanding leadership and contribution to the industry. Although he was not present to receive the award, a heartwarming ‘Thank You’ video for the award from him, which was played during the Awards nite, made up for his absence. Dan Morgan Evans, Group Cargo Director, Air Charter Service received the award on his behalf. Recipients of the awards were nominated and voted for by the worldwide readers of STAT TIMES via an online poll.

Curtains were drawn on the fourth edition of Air Cargo Africa 2017 on February 23 with a promise to get bigger and better in the succeeding year. Air Cargo Africa 2017 gathered a record number of 80 International Exhibiting Companies, 533 global industry decision makers as registered delegates and brought in an impressive number of 3027 trade visitors from across 29 African countries and 32 countries from other continents. The recaps in the pages ahead will give you a glimpse of what you may have missed if you were unable to make it to the event.

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