in Air Transport / Features

China developing its partner role

Posted 16 May 2017 · Add Comment

China is becoming a vital partner for the development of Africa's transport links and aviation is leading the charge. Alan Peaford reports.

Xu Bo, vice-president of the Chinese aerospace giant, AVIC, took to the stage at the Aviation Africa summit in Kigali in February and the conference hall was packed.
An audience of ambassadors, government ministers, airport and airline chiefs, were waiting to hear how the Asian superpower was viewing prospects in Africa.
While, in the main, the west has held back from investment in Africa, China has raised the stakes for the continent with a series of partnerships and infrastructure deals – and the good news from Xu is that the investment is set to continue.
China has become Africa’s largest trading partner, with trading value of $265 billion in 2016 – an increase of 6.5% from the previous 12 months. According to Xu, the country has more than $30 billion invested in Africa.
A key element of this is the China-Africa Regional Aviation Cooperation Plan, which has been driven by AVIC and has primarily been led by investment in the training and technical support sectors.
“Our plans over the next five years will see us have two regional marketing centres on the continent, as well as the training centre, two maintenance facilities and three spare parts centres,” Xu said.
AVIC is one of China’s top 20 companies. The state-owned enterprise, set up in 1979, has more than 100,000 employees and, last year, reported a turnover of $24 billion. It has been growing its presence across the continent over the past 30 years with some 27 subsidiaries and representative offices. According to Xu, these include Algeria, Ethiopia, South Africa, Egypt, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Gambia, Uganda and Gabon.
In March AVIC confirmed its new maintenance centre in Brazzaville for MA60, ARJ21 and Y12 aircraft is ready for business almost a year earlier than expected.
The company has its African headquarters in Nairobi, and its recent flagship infrastructure projects include the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and the new 787 hangars for Ethiopian Airlines in Addis Ababa.
Another long-term flagship investment is the South African training academy, AIFA, which is accredited with both the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and the CAAC (China) as a Part 141 Air Training Organisation.
“It provides world-class training from modern facilities on a modern fleet of aircraft, state-of-the-art aircraft simulators, and operates from three training bases in South Africa – George Airport on the Garden Route, Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo, and Beaufort West in the Great Karoo,” Xu said.
The three bases are home to 40 training aircraft and 60 flight instructors.
“AIFA employs more than 150 people. It is a key project to bring through 250 cadets each year and with an annual training capacity of 50,000 flight hours.”
Fifty potential pilots from Congo have been agreed as part of the new joint-venture with the Congolese government. Xu sees the Chinese investment and partnership with Africa as a “win-win situation”.
“Our goal is to help improve Africa’s civil aviation activities by enhancing the local aviation infrastructure and to assist our African partners to improve operational and maintenance capabilities. Projects such as the technical support centre in Tanzania see us assist in improving operational and maintenance capabilities, and we are training more aviation experts for sustainable development.”
China plans to train at least 500 aviation personnel from Africa each year, according to
Shu Limei, the commercial councillor for Asia and Africa in Guangdong Province.
Speaking at the China-Africa Aviation Forum in China’s Zhuhai City, Shu said: “We will help Africa to deal with challenges, such as backward infrastructure and low financing.”
In 2005, the Republic of Congo purchased three MA60 civil aircraft from China, becoming the first African country to fully operate the China-manufactured civil aircraft. They have operated for 10 years, exceeding 6,000 flight hours and 200,000 passengers.
In November 2012, Cameroon purchased one MA60 aircraft, which has since clocked over 1,700 flight hours, 1,200 take-off and landings, with at least 60,000 passengers hauled. It added two more aircraft in 2015 and, since then, AVIC has delivered a total of 14 MA60s to eight African countries.
Several African countries are also believed to have signed sales contracts or memorandums of understanding with AVIC for the new ARJ21 regional jet – the target for AVIC’s technical support centre in Tanzania, which will handle repairs and produce accessories facility for the ARJ21.
 

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