National Aviation Services (NAS) is the fastest growing aviation services provider in emerging markets. In the following interview, Group CEO Hassan El-Houry gives his views on the state of the aviation industry in Africa and outlines the company's plans for growth on the continent
How was 2019 for you as a group in Africa, and where are you seeing growth and opportunities across the continent?
The world-renowned Economist magazine once dubbed Africa the "hopeless continent". In 2019, in a stark contrast, they published a cover that read "The new scramble for Africa". National Aviation Services (NAS) was fortunate to have discovered the opportunity in Africa's aviation sector about 10 years ago and since then we have been heavily investing across the continent. Some markets are more immediate whilst others are investments for medium to long term.
In 2019, we are proud to have broken ground in Liberia, acquired a full ground handling licence in Nigeria, launched operations in Mozambique, and opened new lounges in Morocco and Egypt. Of course, our existing operations in Uganda, Cote d'Ivoire, Tanzania and others continually benefit from investments in technology, training and new equipment.
We are only present in about 13 countries in Africa. There are 54 countries in the continent and so we truly believe that we have a long way to go. While there is room for growth geographically, we are also looking more at airport technologies and training. These are two key sub-sectors of aviation where we see opportunity to partner with governments and service providers to improve the state of the industry.
We've just seen the South African government bail out SAA. At the same time Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana are talking about launching national airlines. How is the aviation sector faring, and what can be done to accelerate growth?
We are witnessing a paradigm shift in Africa's aviation sector. A decade ago, most governments viewed aviation as a luxury through which to tax the wealthy. Today, decision makers and the populace at large accept that aviation is an engine of economic growth and prosperity throughout the continent as it supports many sectors, including tourism, agriculture, education, healthcare and so on. Aviation in Africa has created 7m jobs and $80bn in economic activity.
The demand for air travel is expected to double in the next two decades and the potential of the aviation sector in Africa is immense. The International Air Transport...