WE NEED OPEN SKIES IN AFRICA

JoaoBoeing has been in Africa for some decades providing invaluable support to air travel and aviation development. Mr. Joao Miguel Santos is the Managing Director for Boeing International for Sub-Saharan Africa, currently based in Johannesburg. Boeing has strong support for a liberalized air transport market in Africa, and Mr. Santos here looks into the future market and expresses Boeing's poise to play actively in the unfolding SAATM environment in Africa.

Q: What is your impression about the launch of Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM)?

A: It's 50 years late, but it is never too late. Yamoussoukro Decision was launched 50years ago, it has taken a long time to get to this point. Officially 23 countries have said we have opened skies, which is good. We need open skies in Africa, Africa is growing enormously with the middle-class quite growing, organizations expanding dramatically, more people want to travel, more people have disposable income to travel, more people want to come back to trade inside Africa and travel more efficiently. We need open skies to build the economic growth that Africa deserves to have.

Q: From the manufacturer's perspectives, how does Boeing play in the SAATM environment in Africa?

A: Well, we have been here in Africa for so many years, myself and my colleagues, Chamsou Andjorin, and other colleagues participating in seminars, panels, working groups, promoting the view that open skies is good for the market. It fosters the airlines, fosters a more competitive market; it will lower the cost of travel, for those airlines that are efficient and strong they will survive and the passengers will be able to travel.

If we have more passengers traveling, there is going to be a need for more aircraft. So, from a manufacturer's point of view, we have seen open skies work well in the United States, it then worked well in Europe, it then worked well in Asia and China and now in Latin America.

Africa is the last continent without an open skies aviation environment. We need open skies. Open skies will promote growth and for us directly there will be requirement for more airplanes. And more airplanes means more people to work. Of course, with new airplanes, we need more pilots, mechanics, engineers, cabin attendants, and more people to operate the airplanes. And that has to do with Boeing airplanes which will provide more jobs in these economies.

Q: There are some islands of resistance, as some airlines and States say they are not ready. In this regard what do you think will make the airlines ready, maybe in terms of improving their fleets which is usually a challenge?

A: Airlines need to develop a very strong commercial operating environment like the Ethiopian Airlines which is a 100% government owned but is operated by commercial means; implying that the Ethiopian government doesn't interfere with the day to day management of the Ethiopian Airlines. If other airlines could follow suite and start applying the commercial operating principles to the way they manage their airlines, they would expand, they would grow and there is a lot of room to grow.

Not every country can have an airline, we have to be realistic. There are 54 countries in Africa and we cannot expect to have 54 airlines just like we cannot have 54 regulatory agencies. So, some countries are going to have to combine and work as one airline, like they have done in Latin America. In Latin America basically today, you have four major airlines. There are like 25 countries or so in America but there aren't 25 airlines. For example LATAM, which is a combination of LAN in Chile TAM in Brazil, operates by commercial means and they are doing very well. So, we're going to have to do the same thing in Africa.

Q: Africa is seen as an emerging market for manufacturers and other beneficiaries in the industry. How are you positioning as Boeing for this market under SAATM?

A: We are very well positioned. We have been in Africa for many years since the very first 720 was delivered to Ethiopia on an order by Emperor Haile Selassie in the early 60s. And today we have 64% market share. My goal is to reach a 65% market share for Boeing. We have great customers like the Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Comair, Fly Safair, TAAG Angola Airlines where I come from, Royal Air Maroc, Air Algerie, Egypt Air which has a large fleet of Boeing planes. There are a lot of good airlines in Africa with Boeing products; we are well-established, and we will just need to continue supporting our customers.

Q: How do you support the smaller airlines coming up?

A: We are working, for example, with a small airline that just started two years ago in South Africa; and in their second year of operation, this airline is profitable, they are growing, and they need more airplanes - that's Fly Safair. Though we work closely with them they haven't bought any new aircraft from Boeing, they have bought used aircraft from Boeing; but we work with them, assisting them in the product, with studies and in any way we can.

There are things we can do, and there are things we can't. We are not experts on catering systems, we are not experts on reservation system but we can help airlines with their commercial studies, with their financial analyses and financial projections. So we work with smaller airlines and Flight Safari is doing very well.

Q: So what's your projection under SAATM, in two to five years time?

A: I hope that five years from now every country would have signed the open skies in Africa. It would be good. And I think there is enormous potential for carriers to be competitive.

Q: What is your word to your potential clients in Africa, going forward?

A: Operate airlines by commercial means. The government can be an owner, that's fine; but operate the airlines by commercial means to make money.

"We need open skies in Africa, Africa is growing enormously with the middle-class quite growing, organizations expanding dramatically, more people want to travel, more people have disposable income to travel, more people want to come back to trade inside Africa and travel more efficiently. We need open skies to build the economic growth that Africa deserves to have."

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