Aviation: A Runway for Travel, Tourism, and Trade - 2023 U.S.-Africa Business Summit
On Thursday, July 13, 2023, as part of the U.S. Africa Business Summit, the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) hosted a thought-provoking panel discussion entitled “Aviation: Runway for Travel, Tourism, and Trade” session. The discussion was graciously moderated by Paul Ansah, Partner at Albright Stonebridge Group, the discussion centered around the African aviation sector, which supports over $80 billion in economic activity, airline connectivity issues, and the effects of COVID-19.
Hon. Philda Nani Kereng, Minister of Environment Tourism of the Republic of Botswana, began by emphasizing the importance of seamless travel in and out of Botswana as a crucial tool for the host country’s tourism sector. Minister Kereng further highlighted that the post-tourism sector in Botswana has shifted as visitors are seeking more thrilling adventures. Botswana, for instance, is investing in more types of entertainment in addition to its gorgeous wildlife and game drives to make the destination to Botswana more attractive to visitors and potential business ventures. In support of the Minister’s views, Chaitan Jain, Director, Policy at United Airlines, shared that the airline has begun flying on the continent over the past four years during the pandemic and thanked his partners from Ethiopian Airlines and Airlink, who have played a critical role in United’s growth in expanding its African operations. Chaitan further shared that the airline noticed the strength of the African diaspora and the trends of customers traveling to visit their families regardless of all the COVID regulations. This has led the airline to capitalize on this observation and begin operations in West Africa.
On the topic of the pandemic, Rodger Foster, CEO at Airlink, shared that during COVID, no Airlink employee had lost a single job thanks to the airline’s cautionary finances and strong partnerships with other airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines and United Airlines. Additionally, Rodger highlighted Airlink’s strong performance since the pandemic. Samson Arega, Regional Director for the Americas, Ethiopian Airlines, shared Ethiopian Airlines’ success on the continent and its diversified investment in facilities such as the biggest cargo terminal on the continent, largest aviation university, biggest hotel in Africa with over 1,000 rooms, and the biggest catering facility in Africa, an e-commerce cargo warehouse to augment e-commerce activity on the continent. He also attributed a great part of the success to their partnerships with other airlines to increase their footprint on other continents and increase connectivity to and from the continent. On his part, Jonathan Miller, President of Airborne Lifeline Foundation and a seasoned professional in the aviation industry, shared his experience on the continent, such as the time he was able to evacuate volunteers on the continent using dream liners out of Addis Ababa thanks to Ethiopian Airlines. Additionally, Jonathan highlighted that in addition to infrastructural challenges, the lack of inter-airline agreements adds to the connectivity issues faced on the continent.
The panelists concluded by discussing the importance of collaborations between airlines, the government reinforcing air traffic regulations, and the need for a paradigm shift to sustain the African market by strengthening the existing airline operations by forging relationships and allowing the private sector to be involved in the industry.
In summary, the panel discussion highlighted the importance of the African aviation sector and the need for partnerships, inter-airline agreements, infrastructure improvements, and regulatory support to sustain the industry.
Click here to watch the recorded session.