Dirk Goovaerts, Swissport International’s head of continental Europe, Middle East and Africa, and global cargo chair, explains to Air Cargo Management why it is important for the organisation to become a partner of the IATA ‘Focus Africa’ initiative and play a part in regional development.
Africa’s aviation sector has the potential to triple its economic footprint over the next two decades, thanks to its youthful demographic and vast opportunities. However, the region also faces significant challenges such as limited infrastructure, high operational costs, regulatory issues and the urgent need for sustainable practices.
In a partnership with the IATA ‘Focus Africa’ initiative, which is paving the way for a promising future, Swissport International is poised to play a crucial role in shaping the region’s cargo aviation landscape.
Unlocking the potential
Africa’s air cargo industry is on the cusp of remarkable expansion, driven primarily by the demand for foodstuffs and other perishable goods. “With volume forecasts predicting a substantial 15-20 per cent increase in trade volume within the next five years, the continent is expected to export over 300,000 tonnes of perishable goods by 2027,” explains Goovaerts. “This is a fantastic opportunity for African economies and Swissport International is highly interested in being part of that journey.”
Swissport International’s global leadership in the handling of perishables positions the company as an ideal partner to support this growth. “Our track record in delivering state-of-the-art perishables handling facilities in countries like Kenya and Tanzania showcases our commitment to the region,” explains Goovaerts. “As we continue to increase our global footprint, comprehensive services portfolio and ability to invest in infrastructure and technologies, African markets are a key and clear priority for us, and this is what we express in our participation. Together we focus on assisting passengers and cargo customers, all while boosting the continent’s economic growth.”
Sharing safety values
As African economies advance, modernising infrastructure is paramount to harness the potential of the aviation industry fully. Goovaerts says: “Efficiency, sustainability and digitisation are key elements in this endeavour. Swissport International’s unwavering commitment to health and safety aligns perfectly with the values of the ‘Focus Africa’ initiative. We are therefore more than happy to partner with organisations who share our safety culture.
“Digitisation and the development and support of handling technologies will be an increasingly important part of ensuring the spread of that safety culture as we continue to grow our footprint in Africa.”
Sustainability is a core principle at Swissport International, embedded in the organisation’s strategic objectives and decision-making processes. “We invest in employee training and equipment to ensure safety and health while being committed to environmental protection and service quality,” explains Goovaerts.
“Our pledge to increase the share of electric vehicles in our fleet to at least 55 per cent by 2032 underscores our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and creating a better workplace for our employees. Furthermore, we strive to achieve our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals with the support of local industries wherever feasible.”
An essential component of Swissport International’s journey in Africa is the development of a diverse talent pool. Goovaerts says: “We recognise that access to local talent is crucial for the growth and success of the African aviation industry. Swissport International is a people company, and it is part of our global identity to invest in people to retain and develop them. This approach applies globally which is of course also applicable in all our African operations.”
Goovaerts explains that Swissport International provides numerous opportunities for internships and entry-level positions across various roles in the aviation industry, including IT and systems, engineering, finance, compliance, management and ground and warehouse handling). “We also boost our employees’ career opportunities by providing international experience through working for other divisions or stations for assigned periods to assist career development and growth. We also provide a career platform that allows for a wide scope of development and experience.”
Swissport International’s partnership with the IATA ‘Focus Africa’ initiative represents a commitment to the sustainable growth and development of the African cargo aviation industry. Its focus on safety, infrastructure development, sustainability and talent development ensures that the continent’s aviation sector is not just keeping pace with global standards but leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.
This feature was first published in Air Cargo Management – November/December 2023. To read the magazine in full, click here.