Opinion: A Collaborative Approach Will Accelerate The Growth Of Africa’s Aviation Industry

Anbessie Yitbarek, Boeing VP, Commercial Sales and Marketing- Africa 

The pace of global evolution is accelerating. Rapid and ground-breaking developments now render true meaning to the timeless saying that change is the only constant in life. This evolution has presented a challenge for industries required to embrace, adapt, and thrive and those that will not, risk being left behind. And while we all reflect and seek out new ways of protecting the future of our businesses, recent case studies suggest collaborative strategies yield greater success, even with partners previously viewed as competitors.

The aviation industry demands unparalleled standards for safety and security. Collaboration among partners is critical in addressing any vulnerabilities in air safety. In light of these stringent requirements, collaboration is no longer a choice but a vital component, especially for industries whose profitability and growth rests on exceeding customer demands for efficiency and reliability.

We’ve many examples of these new partnerships…

In 2020, The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) and aviation service provider ACC Aviation Group announced a strategic partnership to provide market-leading services to support the development of Africa’s aviation industry. The partnership was designed to ensure expertise across various aviation services, including strategic consultancy and asset management, aircraft charter and (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, Insurance) ACMI leasing.

And, as part of the airline’s vision to develop an aerospace manufacturing industry in Ethiopia, Ethiopian Airlines, Boeing and the Italian company Geven-Sky Techno collaborated to create Ethiopian Sky Technologies. The companies are manufacturing thermo-acoustic insulation blankets tailored for the Boeing 737 MAX airplane through this tri-partite joint venture. 

This is only one example of Boeing’s engagement in Africa that goes beyond the sale of airplanes. Boeing is developing industrial partnerships, sustainability initiatives, and community investment to align with Africa’s pressing need for industrialisation and broader SDG goals. 

Currently, the organisation is working with aviation industry peers in five African countries. It has formed joint ventures such as with Royal Air Maroc and Safran, Morocco Aero Technical Interconnect Systems Aerospace to produce wire bundles and harnesses. It has also contracted South African aerospace firm Aerosud, to manufacture airframe parts.  

In upholding safety and security standards, the company closely collaborates with airlines, maintaining training programmes and sharing risk mitigation tools. Boeing is also engaging with regional aviation bodies like AFRAA and the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) to exchange information and best practices. Additionally, through the Regional Aviation Safety Group, the company supports aviation safety initiatives in Africa, contributing to activities such as co-producing the annual safety report. These contributions have significantly assisted many African nations in their pursuit of obtaining FAA Cat 1 status.

Whether it be a collaboration with African research institutes to develop a titanium ‘road map’ that explores integrating titanium powder into aerospace manufacturing processes or providing the Royal Moroccan Air Force with training, equipment, and technical aid in the  establishment of a metrology lab and a composite research centre, we have identified the imperative need to diversify our research sources and supply chains.

To keep up with approaching Global targets of harmful emission reductions, our African aviation industry will need to rapidly roll out the production of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs), which can slash CO2 emissions by as much as 80%. These fuels can be derived from various sources, including waste fats, oils, and greases, municipal solid waste, agricultural and forestry residues, wet wastes, and non-food crops grown on marginal lands. They can also be synthetically produced through a process that directly captures carbon from the atmosphere. The sustainability of SAFs lies in their feedstocks, which must not compete with food crops nor necessitate additional resource consumption like water or land clearing or loss of biodiversity.

Here in Africa, in 2016, we witnessed an inaugural passenger flight utilizing SAF in South Africa, using the 737 airliners. In 2023, Boeing, in partnership with the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials, published a report titled Fuelling the Sustainable Bioeconomy: Creating impact through landscape-level programmes. This report showed how SAF can generate jobs, stimulate economic growth, develop rural livelihoods and protect the environment. Last year, it was also proven that an airline can use 100% SAF, as demonstrated on the first-ever transatlantic flight using a 787 with Rolls-Royce engines. 

Since 2008, Boeing’s commitment to African communities has led the company to collaborate with more than 40 organizations to facilitate comprehensive enhancements in education. These community investment efforts have been rolled out across various countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, and Tanzania. 

Vital for Africa’s growing independence and sovereignty is a population educated in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) that will power sustainability targets across all Environmental Social Governance measurements. Thankfully there are many excellent initiatives focusing on sustainability education which have been initiated in Egypt, Morocco, and Senegal. One of the programs, a strategic collaboration with JA Africa, has equipped 5,000 young individuals across eight African nations with entrepreneurial and problem-solving skills. Computer Coding training and interest in space-related careers are capturing the imagination of our African youth. In Ethiopia, a Link Community Development partnership focuses on educating young girls. In fact, through the ThinkYoung Coding Schools located in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania 60% of the attendees are girls. In the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania, the partnership is focused on training, especially women farmers.

By collaborating and forming joint ventures and partnerships with like-minded organizations, airframers and others in our industry can leverage each other’s expertise, skills, and resources. This pooling of knowledge and capabilities has set a standard and foundation upon which we can all build. We are already seeing a significant increase in self-determination that will shape our evolution and strengthen our ongoing success which is absolutely fundamental to Africa’s economic well-being and innovation. 

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