African Airlines Raise Concerns over Expensive Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)

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The aviation industry is increasingly recognizing the importance of adopting sustainable practices to mitigate its environmental impact. In a thought-provoking panel discussion, industry leaders at a recently concluded AviaDev Africa event in Nairobi shed light on the challenges faced by African airlines in adopting Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). The panelists stressed the urgent need to overcome barriers related to the affordability and access to SAF, underscoring the industry’s collective responsibility to prioritize environmental sustainability while addressing financial constraints.

African airlines decry the high cost of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)

A prevailing sentiment among African airlines is the concern over the expensive nature of SAF. Jennifer Bamuturaki, CEO of Uganda Airlines, voiced the industry’s shared concern, stating, “African airlines say SAF is expensive, it’s three times the cost of Jet A1 fuel.” The financial limitations faced by African carriers pose a significant obstacle to their transition to more sustainable fuel options. Balancing the imperative of sustainability with the economic viability of airlines is a pressing challenge that demands collaborative solutions.

African airlines decry the high cost of SAF amid commercial Sustainability concerns

Mr. Eduardo Fairen, CEO of TAAG Angola Airlines, drew attention to the limited availability of new aircraft, stating, “If we need 1000 aircraft here [Africa], I wonder where they will be coming from, probably secondhand aircraft with old engines burning fuel and polluting.” The scarcity of new aircraft puts African airlines in a position where they may have to rely on older, less fuel-efficient planes, hindering their progress toward sustainability. Overcoming this challenge requires innovative thinking and collaboration among industry players.

Linden Birns, communications advisor to Airlink, emphasized the need for better collaboration and thinking among industry stakeholders. He highlighted the importance of leveraging existing solutions and expertise, stating, “We need to be focusing on those areas where the solutions are already available but require better thinking… You can’t have Environment Sustainability unless you’ve got the Commercial and the financial Sustainability.” Such collaboration can drive advancements in SAF production, distribution, and affordability.

Policy support and financial incentives are crucial

Allan Kilavuka, CEO of Kenya Airways, called for policy support and financial incentives to aid the African aviation industry. He posed the question, “Can we get subsidies? We don’t have scale, and that’s a fact… Bigger emitters should be penalized at our expense.” Kilavuka said  stressing the need for policies that level the playing field and provide support for African airlines. This would ensure a fair and sustainable transition to SAF while recognizing the unique challenges faced by African carriers.

KQ piloted the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) on its NBO-AMS flight as part of The Sustainable Flight Challenge by skyteam.

The panel discussion highlighted the pressing need to address the affordability and access to Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in Africa. African airlines strongly emphasize the expensive nature of SAF, which hinders their ability to adopt sustainable fuel options. Collaborative efforts, innovative thinking, and policy support are essential in unlocking access to SAF. The panelists voiced in unison the need to be actively involved in the entire SAF value chain to exert influence, explore alternative strategies, and advocate for financial incentives. By overcoming these barriers collectively, the African aviation industry can embark on a sustainable path, ensuring a greener and more responsible future.

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