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Africa to become air cargo hub, expert says

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 15- The African market will be next frontier in the air cargo business in the next few years, an industry player has predicted.

Emirates Divisional Senior Vice President of Cargo Ram Menen said on Thursday that the development that is taking place across the continent presents an opportunity for airlines to capitalise by facilitating the export and import of goods.

“We are already seeing in many countries a large part of infrastructural development commodities moving and this is a good sign of evolutionary process of going from developing nations to developed countries,” he said.

“Africa has got the potential that you rarely find anywhere else. You now have the advantage of leapfrogging technology, this one of the reasons why we are putting more commitment, more production into the African market,” Mr Menen added.

He said Emirates had introduced many daily flights in various African routes as it seeks to position the airline to take advantage of this situation.

He predicted a double digit growth in the next three to five years for the industry in Africa particularly with the global economy showing signs of recovery.

“The air cargo relationship to GDP is that growth in the cargo business is two times the size of world GDP. So once you have the air cargo numbers of any region or any economy, you can tell what the GDP numbers will be,” he explained.

At a media briefing Mr Menen said Emirates was particularly looking at investing more capacity in the Kenyan market which has a lot of potential despite the challenges that it is currently facing.

Last year, Emirates carried about 25,000 tonnes of exports out of Kenya and brought approximately seven thousand tonnes of imports including telecom equipments, computer accessories and automotive spare parts into the country.

About 18,664 tonnes of exports were transported between October 2008 and September this year which represented a 25 percent drop. The decline in exports has been partly attributed to the ongoing drought which adversely affected the horticulture sector leading to reduced volumes.

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“These are temporary blips, we believe that as we go forward it is going to grow,” he enthused.

The recession particularly in the developed countries such as United Kingdom has affected customers’ purchasing power which has also reduced the demand for Kenya’s main exports that include fruits and vegetables.

Last year, the airline’s cargo business was about $2.1billion which represented a 14 percent growth compared to the previous year.

However due to the challenges in the world economy, Mr Menen said they did not expected a significant increase in the volumes this year.

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