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Champagne And Caviar In Private At 30,000FT

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The glamorous world of private jets is no longer the domain of the super-rich. Private aviation is set to soar in Africa as business keeps checking in.

Well-heeled women glide in and out of an opulent mansion in a leafy suburb in Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile.

The champagne-colored granite of the stairway meets the elegant tips of their Manolo Blahnik stilettos.

This is a medical aesthetic and holistic wellness center called Anti-Aging Art in the posh suburb in Johannesburg.

It is a home-turned-medical center belonging to Reza Mia, a doctor and co-owner of the clinic patronized by the rich and famous. Mia also happens to design jets, as the founder and CEO of Pegasus Universal Aerospace, an aviation company based in South Africa with the sole purpose of creating innovative aviation solutions.

Between surgical facelifts and building sophisticated jets, Mia finally makes time for an interview at 5PM on a Friday afternoon.

Dressed in navy blue scrubs, he sits on a luxurious leather sofa as he tells FORBES AFRICA about his connection with aviation.

Mia is currently designing a vertical take-off jet that he says will add to the convenience of private travel.

The aesthetic surgeon has been developing the Pegasus One Vertical Business Jet (VBJ1) since 2012, which he says will be completed in three years.

It’s an attempt to revolutionize luxury air travel in South Africa.

“It can land and take off like a helicopter anywhere a helicopter could, in fact more places because it doesn’t have a spinning rotor blade and it is quieter especially for built-up areas and neighborhoods. It can accelerate and fly at the speed of a business jet which is almost 800km/h so that is about four times the speed of a helicopter,” he says.

Cool-air fan technology allows the jet to take off and land anywhere, he adds, which means it’s less hassle for customers.

Photo by Gypseenia Lion

Privacy and convenience count as currency in this business.

Business aviation company, ExecuJet Aviation, currently operates and manages four bases for private jets in Africa.

The Johannesburg base is located at Lanseria International Airport, about an hour’s drive from the city.

The flashy cars in the parking lot speak about the kind of travelers taking off from here.

Staff meander in and out of the private terminal on this busy day, yet there is no millionaire in sight in an expensive Armani suit jetting off for his next business trip.

You never see them, they are that discreet about client privacy.

On a global scale, the company manages and operates about 260 aircraft and is also in Kenya and Nigeria, with the newest entrant in Seychelles.

With almost three decades in the aviation industry, the company has kept a close watch on the rising market of business aviation in Africa.

Stationed on the apron is a white Bombardier Challenger 300 worth about  $26 million.

The nine-seater aircraft boasts a bathroom and features glossy cherry-wood surfaces.

This gloss is all-pervasive and there is not a speck of dust in sight.

The soft, plush carpet is a shade lighter than the grey leather seating decked with comfy cushions that enhance the elegance.

ExecuJet’s Africa Vice President, Gavin Kiggen, says despite the demand and increase for private travel on the continent, perceptions of the industry can be misleading from both a business and client perspective.

“The margins are extremely low and the competition is very strong because you have new entrants who are trying to get market share.

“The perception is that it’s lucrative because of the kinds of tools and services we offer but it is a tough industry to be involved in,” he says.

As a developing region, Africa needs to prioritize infrastructure while attracting sales to uphold the competitive edge in the global business aviation market.

This can be achieved through innovative ideas. Promoting the economic benefits of the market will lure investors from all over the world.

Time waits for no man, and Africa’s elite, exclusive travelers know that only too well.

According to a review by Mordor Intelligence, Global business jet market – growth, trends and forecast (2018 – 2023), the exclusivity of private jets has ceased to be the domain of the extremely wealthy.

This change is owing to time-share and fractional ownership of aircraft.

ExecuJet reports Africa has 481 registered private jets and the year-on-year growth for the business aviation industry in Africa is 44%.

Private aviation is still a growing market in Africa in comparison to the regions where it is fully developed.

Approximately three quarters of the sale of business jets is in the west, mainly in North America and Europe.

READ MORE: Moments Before An Air Crash

Predictions are that India and China are well on their way to become market leaders by 2020.

With continued industrial growth in Africa, consequently, there has been a rise in business travel.

Despite the lag in competitiveness on a global scale, private aviation in South Africa, which is Africa’s second-largest economy, has the potential to take the continent to new heights as business keeps checking in.

Private jets are commonly used by high-net-worth individuals, business executives, sports teams and government officials.

Time efficiency is the core reason why these jetsetters prefer private aviation over commercial planes. Greater control over flight schedules and operation of the aircraft forms part of the package.

Add privacy and a dash of luxury and the high-flyer is ready for take-off.

The Jet Traveler Report 2018, the global perspective on who flies privately and how, by Wealth-X, categorizes high-fliers into three types to make a comparison based on their flight preferences. These include owners, members and the wider ultra-high-net-worth audience.

Unsurprisingly, 35% owners of private jets are worth more than $500 million as per The Jet Traveler Report.

The majority are over 60 years old. ‘Members’ are frequent fliers on membership programs.

Private jets have now also become more accessible and appealing to the wider executive population.

The report states that on-demand private fliers are the youngest and least wealthy ultra-high-net-worth individuals.

In comparison to the wealth of members and owners, these jetsetters have average wealth of $67 million.

Editor and publisher of SA Flyer and FlightCom magazines, Guy Leitch, says although the South African market is showing signs of recovery, there are shortcomings.

“Poor on-the-ground infrastructure for aviation, poor access to aircraft finance and the lack of aircraft does not ensure adequate support for development,” he says.

The same can be argued for the rest of Africa.

According to the Mordor Intelligence review published in April, lack of infrastructure is one the biggest limitations that affect business jet sales in South America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific.

The costs of building the much-needed infrastructure are so high operations may not be feasible.

Regions like Europe and North America with higher private aircraft demands have lower costs. Flying privately in the regions is charged on a one-way basis, therefore costs are reduced as opposed to Africa where charges are doubled.

“In those regions, there is always an aircraft available that’s going to your destination and you can pay a reduced rate because it is considered an empty leg. Our industry is unfortunately not that far ahead yet,” says Kiggen from ExecuJets.

Industry data by Global Jet Capital released in 2017 indicates that 2025 will witness more than 25% growth in the market.

Private Jet. Photo by Gypseenia Lion

The influx of new aircraft on the continent is forecast to have a value of $3.9 billion, or just under $500 million per year.

The emergence of the “African affluent” demographic on the continent has become an important emerging segment for the private aviation sector.

These individuals are younger than their European counterparts and are on average 40 years old, according to a report by ExecuJet called The Evolution of Charter Into Africa 2018. 

Smartphones and technological mobility make it easier for young flyers on the go, and as a result, gives the market more visibility and mileage.

“Social media has also brought a phenomena called the influencer; these are rich kids or media personalities who document their travel through social media (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter),” says Kiggen.

These jetsetters snap the glitz and glamor of private flying and share it with other influencers. This also makes it easier for private charter companies in Africa to attract clients from different spheres of life, thus changing the perception that jets are only used by the ultra-rich and famous.

In addition, an increase in enquiries for hiring the jets, from even car manufacturers for their marketing events, shows the market is paving the way for more diversified business.

Jeremy Nel, the CEO of Luxury Brands, a South African luxury marketing group based in Cape Town, argues that although high-flyers use their mobile devices to source best rates and most direct routes, the reputation of the private charter as a brand is something potential clients continue to look out for.

“The branding of the aircraft is also aligned to be the best fit, most clients who outright purchase an aircraft will take the plethora of advice as to the most suitable model for their needs and then choose from the best breed of operators,” says Nel.

Inner-circle referrals and the relationship the client has with the company, in addition to the preference of a specific pilot, can further influence decision-making.

Back in the richest square mile of Africa, Sandton, in a modern office adorned with waterfalls and earthy décor, a tall man dressed in a blue shirt walks in.

When he is not flying over the shimmering turquoise waters of the Maldives, South African pilot Jack Coetzee is the Managing Director at Quintessential Aviation.

With over 1, 500 flying hours to his credit, Coetzee has seen private jet passengers with requirements ranging from Egyptian cotton linen to Kentucky Fried Chicken on the flight.

“It is aircraft-orientated; they like a specific type of aircraft.

“[The customer] knows how the seats work, he knows the pilots invariably that are flying the aircraft are competent,” he says.

As for aspiring owners, Leitch emphasizes they understand the importance of the technicalities of owning an aircraft, to avoid losing money.

The first step is to determine what it will be used for, and then take the size, range and price parameters into consideration.

“New or used [aircraft], it doesn’t matter. Make sure you can crew it, maintain it, afford it and then order it,” he says.

Much like commercial aviation, owners and private charter companies must comply with air laws and the strict regulations set by the civil aviation authorities.

Odette Basson, Charter Manager Africa, at ExecuJets, says some laws are airfield dependent.

This is based on where you are traveling in and out of, so compliance is critical.

“Yes, you can be an owner of a private aircraft but it doesn’t mean you can just do what you want. There are laws that govern the flying,” she says.

In addition to overseeing operations above the ground, regulators keep a close watch on the hours the crew fly, which aircraft they are flying and how frequently they go for training.

“Your crew must be trained specifically, the aircraft must be maintained specifically and according to the operator’s specifications. You must have a commercial license to operate and you must have an air service license. It is actually very well-regulated and governed to death,” says Kiggen.

And thus it is that millions of dollars fly over the richest and poorest cities of Africa.

The sky is a commodity. How much are you willing to splash out for a piece of it?

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How To Become A Billionaire: Nigeria’s Oil Baroness Folorunso Alakija On What Makes Tomorrow’s Billionaires

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One of only two female billionaires in Africa, with a net worth of $1 billion, Nigeria’s oil baroness Folorunso Alakija elaborates on the state of African entrepreneurship today.

The 69-year-old Folorunso Alakija is vice chair of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company with a stake in Agbami Oilfield, a prolific offshore asset. Famfa Oil’s partners include Chevron and Petrobras. Alakija’s first company was a fashion label. The Nigerian government awarded Alakija’s company an oil prospecting license in 1993, which was later converted to an oil mining lease. The Agbami field has been operating since 2008; Famfa Oil says it will likely operate through 2024. Alakija shares her thoughts to FORBES AFRICA on what makes tomorrow’s billionaires:

What is your take on the state of African entrepreneurship today? Is enough being done for young startups?

There are a lot of business opportunities in Africa that do not exist in other parts of the world, yet Africa is seen as a poor continent. The employment constraints in the formal sector in Africa have made it impossible for it to meet the demands of the continent’s working population of which over 60% are the youth. Therefore, it is imperative we harness the potential of Africa’s youth to engage in entrepreneurship and provide adequate assistance to enable them to succeed.

Several governments have been working to provide a conducive atmosphere which will promote entrepreneurship on the continent. However, there is still a lot more to be done in ensuring that the potential of these young entrepreneurs are maximized to the fullest. Some of the challenges young startups in Africa face are as follows: lack of access to finance/insufficient capital; lack of infrastructure; bureaucratic bottlenecks and tough business regulations; inconsistent government policies; dearth of entrepreneurial knowledge and skills; lack of access to information and competition from cheaper foreign alternatives.

It is therefore imperative that governments, non-governmental agencies, and the financial sectors work together to ameliorate these challenges itemized above.

The governments of African nations should provide and strengthen its infrastructure (power, roads and telecom); they should encourage budding entrepreneurs by ensuring that finance is available to businesses with the potential for growth and also commit to further improving their business environments through sustained investment; there must also be a constant push for existing policies and legislation to be reviewed to promote business activities.

These policies must also be enforced, and punitive measures put in place to deter offenders; government regulations should also be flexible to constantly fit the dynamics of the business environment; corruption and unethical behavior must be decisively dealt with and not treated with kid gloves. We must empower our judicial system to enable them to prosecute erring offenders with appropriate sanctions meted out. There should be no “sacred cows” or “untouchables”. The same law must be applied to all, no matter their state or position in the society; non-governmental organizations can also provide support for them through training and skills acquisition programs that will help build their capacity; they could also provide finance to grow their businesses; more mentorship programs should be encouraged, and incubators of young enterprises should be supported by public policy aimed at improving the quality of these youths and their ventures; and also, avenues should be created where young entrepreneurs will be able to connect, learn and share ideas with already successful well-established entrepreneurs.

What, according to you, are the attributes needed for tomorrow’s billionaires?

There is no overnight success. You must start by dreaming big and working towards achieving it. You must be determined to succeed despite all odds. Do not allow your setbacks or failures to stop you but rather make them your stepping stone. Develop your strengths to attain excellence and be tenacious, never give up on your dream or aspiration. Your word must be your bond. You must make strong ethical values and integrity your watchword. Always act professionally and this will enable you to build confidence in your customers and clients. 

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Why Big Tech Is Heading To Africa

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By: Toby Shapshak, Forbes.com Contributor

As Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey demonstrated with his month-long trip in November, the importance of Africa for global companies keeps growing.

The increasingly frequent visits by high-level CEOs shows the importance of the continent, says Max Cuvellier, head of programmes at the GSM Association (GSMA) Mobile for Development (M4D).

Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and Square, Inc, raised some eyebrows in Silicon Valley when he announced he was moving to Africa in 2020. Africa is poised to take off as the next big tech market, and both America and China have taken notice.

Since 2015, the heads of the world’s biggest tech businesses have visited Africa. It started with Airbnb’s Brian Chesky and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella in 2015, with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg visiting Kenya and Nigeria in 2016. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai came in 2017, while then Alphabet’s Sergey Brin visited the following year. Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has come to Africa in 2017, twice in 2018 and again this year.

“What I like the most when I look at tech giant CEO visits is that they seem to recognise the potential of the continent not only as a market, but as a source of innovation and talent,” Cuvellier told me. “They dedicate more and more time on these trips to meeting local entrepreneurs, discussing emerging technologies with local experts and going to universities to interact with local students. Some might too quickly dismiss this as anecdotal, but when Jack Ma awards you with a prize (Temie Giwa-Tubosun of LifeBank in Nigeria last week) – or Jack Dorsey endorses you on social media as ‘the most incredible soul in all the world’ (Betelhem Dessie of iCog Labs in Ethiopia), I like to believe these things reflect positively not only on the individuals, but on the whole community.”

Cuvellier has created a map of these CEO visits which demonstrate “things are getting serious”.

Although it might be easy to dismiss the importance of these trips, especially as many people only see a few quotes or a handful of selfies with locals. The most popular article on Brian Chesky’s visit to South Africa in 2015 – the first visit recorded on the map – focuses on how short his visit was, says Cuvellier. 

“But I do believe that the trips in themselves are an indication of growing interest in the continent from ‘tech giants’. Jack Ma is on his third visit to the continent since July 2017 and has now visited seven countries, Jack Dorsey just spent a full month in Africa.”

By comparison, in the same period the Chinese president only made one visit to Africa (visiting four countries in July 2018) and none by the American president. 

“Most importantly, and beyond the visits, actual commitments are made: Google’s first AI lab in Africa (in Accra, Ghana) was announced by Sundar Pichai in June 2018 and was opened earlier this year; while Ethiopia and the Alibaba Group just inaugurated a global trade platform on Monday. I am hopeful the deals and the partnerships, not just the trips, will keep coming.”

He highlights that much of Africa’s innovation successes are based on the widespread adoption of mobile phones. 

“These tech giants wouldn’t be looking at Africa if it weren’t for mobile technology,” says Cuvellier. 

As of July 2019, the GSMA estimated there were 456-million unique mobile subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa alone, and it remains the fastest growing region globally (4.6% year-on-year). Some 52% of these mobile subscribers (239 million) use mobile internet on a regular basis.

Connectivity is also getting much better:  in 2019, 3G has overtaken 2G to become the leading mobile technology in the region. 

“Mobile money – with 396-million registered mobile money accounts – provides access to financial services to many. Last but not least, the demographic bulge will result in large numbers of young consumers becoming adults and owning a mobile phone for the first time. They will account for the majority of new mobile subscribers and, as ‘digital natives’, will significantly influence mobile usage patterns in the future, not to mention they often are a key target of ‘tech giants’.”

The full list, according to Cuvellier, of tech CEO visits:

  • Brian Chesky, Airbnb (2015)
  • Satya Nadella, Microsoft (2015)
  • Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook (2016)
  • Sundar Pichai, Google (2017)
  • Jack Ma, Alibaba Group (2017, 2018*2, 2019)
  • Sergey Brin, Alphabet (2018)
  • Jack Dorsey, Twitter (2019).

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The Top 5 Emerging Crazy Tech

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A pick of some of the weirdest, coolest tech that could come hurtling our way this year.

  1. A bot that delivers toilet paper

Forgot to instal toilet paper in the loo? The Charmin RollBot is designed to carry a roll of toilet paper on two wheels. With the press of a button on your phone, the RollBot will help with your sanitary requirement.

Using Bluetooth, the bot will commence its mission; an infra-red sensor able to navigate its way to you. According to Business Insider, there’s no price or release date for RollBot, nor is it clear if it will ever be released as a consumer product. Charmin calls RollBot a “conceptual prototype”. The brand unveiled the bot last month at the CES 2020 expo in Las Vegas.

2. The Cyrcle phone

If for any reason you got bored of your rectangular handset, the circular phone is always an alternative offering a different view and take. According to the makers, the phone was designed with the Generation Z, female audience in mind. It’s round and features two headphone jacks. The device was designed by a US-based startup delivering a shape that it says is more “sensual”. The company reckons it will be ready to launch in a year’s time.

3. A smart bed

There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep. But it’s not always possible to have the best sleep every day. Or is it? There is a bed that’s guaranteed to give you your beauty sleep the way you want it.

Sleep Number Climate 360 has a mattress with features that warm your feet to help you sleep faster. It will also help you stay asleep by cooling your body, and balance your temperature with your natural wake and sleep cycles.

But what’s most intriguing is the fact that the bed also gives you a Sleep IQ score for personalized sleep insights. It measures your heart rate, breathing and movement, tracks your circadian rhythms and can show how your heart rate varies. The smart bed received the CES 2020 Best of Innovation award and is only expected to be available in 2021.

4. Self-changing trash can

For those who dread taking out the trash, this device is possible a no-brainer. Apart from its motion sensors to detect when you need to throw trash, when it’s full, it will automatically seal the trash bag and line the bin with a new one, all with a press of a button.

Even if the bin is overflowing, the top compartment will lift up so it can still seal the bag shut without any mess. The bin, called the Townew bin, was designed by a Canadian company, Knectek Labs.

5. Vertical TV

Just when we were getting used to wider TVs, it seems taller screens may soon be coming to your living room. Samsung’s Sero TV vertical-oriented will soon be hitting markets.

The TV can not only work in the traditional horizontal format, but is also able to turn on its side for playing vertical videos in portrait style.This might come in handy when watching videos from social media platforms such as TikTok or Instagram that deal primarily with vertical videos.

It sits on a stand that prevents it hitting the floor when turning, and can be paired with a phone so that it automatically orientates it correctly based on what’s beamed from the handset. According to TechRadar.com the pricing and availability are yet to be revealed, but the Sero will be leaving Korea and is headed to the US and “several global markets” later this year.

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