Low-Cost Airline FlyAfrica Expanding To East, West Africa Thanks To Arms Manufacturer

Gabon’s low-cost airline, Fly Africa, will expand to fly new routes to destinations in East and West Africa thanks to funding from South African arms manufacturer Ivor Ichikowitz.

FlyAfrica launched 13 months ago offering service Southern Africa. Its business model of cheap flights was tested and refined in South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe, according to a report in BizCommunity.

FlyAfrica has shaken up the airline industry in Africa by offering the lowest airfares on the continent and proving that the low-cost model is sustainable, BizCommunity reports. Fares on the Johannesburg-to-Harare route were reduced 50-percent-to-70-percent.

The second phase of the airline’s roll out will include Gabon and other countries in East and West Africa. The airline said it will soon launch new routes to Namibia, Gabon, Benin and Zambia, Reuters reports.

Fly Africa is majority owned by the family of CEO Chaka Karase, according to Reuters. The airline will compete with national carriers such as Kenya Airways, Air Cote d’Ivoire, and West and Central African regional airline ASKY.

The airline’s expansion was made possible because of a “strategic partnership between the government of Gabon and African industrialist, venture capitalist and philanthropist Ivor Ichikowitz,” FlyAfrica siad in a statement.

Ichikowitz is founder and executive chairman of Paramount Group, an arms manufacturer that deals with defense, internal security and peacekeeping forces. Before he started selling and making weapons, Ichikowitz traveled throughout Africa studying African literature.

He is an entrepreneur and industrialist, advocating for South Africa and African manufacturing capacity and championing a developing engineering sector for the social and economic advancement of Africa, according to a guest column Ichikowitz wrote for BusinessDayLive.

In 2011 the Paramount Group launched the Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft, or AHRLAC, a long-range reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft and the first aircraft to be designed and built from scratch in Africa, according to AirforceTechnology.

In addition to his role at Paramount Group, Ichikowitz is the executive chairman of private equity group TransAfrica Capital, which invests in scientific research and development projects.

Air travel inside much of Africa is expensive and circuitous, Reuters reports. It is often cheaper to travel between African capitals via Europe. Air passenger growth in Africa is expected to be the highest in the world over the next 20 years as the population booms, according to the International Air Transport Association.

FlyAfrica.com will be the game-changer for Africa’s aviation industry, Ichikowitz said, according to BizCommunity.

“The aim of FlyAfrica.com is to break down the barriers and costs that currently exist to travel across Africa,” Ichikowitz said. “Prohibitively high fares, poor or non-existent services are playing their role in slowing down the development of this continent. FlyAfrica.com is designed to change that. FlyAfrica.com will lead the charge for unlocking Africa’s business and tourism potential by delivering world-class standards and low fares traditionally associated with airlines in Europe and Asia.”

The launch of the airline is part of Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s vision, the leader said at New York Forum Africa, held in Gabon, BizCommunity reports.

“My vision for Africa has always been that of an integrated continent,” he said. “An Africa where every citizen has the opportunity to afford air travel and take advantage of the benefits of being economically mobile. The launch of Gabon FlyAfrica.com, a pan-African airline, is an important step in implementing this vision.”

Source: Dana Sanchez, AFK Insider

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