Russia is eyeing a share of the African aviation market, through their Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ 100) and MC-21 aircraft.
State-owned Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company, maker of the SSJ 100, and Irkut Corporation have been negotiating with African governments and airlines to market the aircraft in a region dominated by Boeing, Airbus, Embraer and Bombardier.
Sukhoi and Irkut, subsidiaries of United Aircraft Corporation, the giant aerospace and defence corporation, have been holding roadshows in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Mali.
They are also targeting Angola, Namibia, Ghana and Zambia in future.
In Kenya, the Russian delegation met with Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia and senior managers of Kenya Airways, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and Kenya Airports Authority.
Evgeny Andrachnikov, the Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company senior vice president, said the manufacturers were aware of the ongoing efforts to increase air transport and drive intra-Africa trade and the Russians “hope to help the continent achieve these goals.”
African Import Export Bank (Afreximbank), which has set aside a $20 billion fund to support African airlines, estimates that should Africa manage to reduce transport costs by 10 per cent, trade would increase by 25 per cent, by boosting intra-Africa trade from the current 18 per cent to 43 per cent.
Currently, most of the continent’s airlines are upgrading their fleets to enable them grow and serve more destinations.
Last week, Tanzania received a new Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, the third plane to be bought by the John Magufuli administration, which has not just revived state-owned carrier, Air Tanzania, but is also upgrading its airports and their facilities.
Sukhoi and Irkut are marketing the SSJ 100 and MC-21, which are medium-range aircraft.
The SSJ 100 is a twin-engine plane that can transport up to 98 passengers and fly distances of up to 4,345km while the MC-21 is a single-aisle twinjet with a capacity to transport from 130 to 220 passengers with a range of 6,500km.
Sukhoi, whose first aircraft took to the skies in 2011, has a total 152 aircraft flying around the globe, and has already secured orders to deliver five planes to Zambia this year.
In Africa, the Boeing 737, Airbus A320, Embraer 190 and Bombardier Q400 dominate the medium range market.
“Africa is an important market for medium-range aircraft and we hope to secure orders after we complete test runs,” said Alexey Lyzin, Irkut director for regional sales.
“We hope to make our aircraft conquer the African skies,” added Mr Andrachnikov.
Russia is partnering with the Afreximbank, which is expected to help African airlines acquire or lease aircraft.
Last year, the Russian Export Center became the third largest international shareholder of Afreximbank after making a significant investment under the bank’s Class C shareholders.
Zambia has already signed on an export credit financing arrangement with Afreximbank to support purchase of the aircraft.
Rene Awambeng, Afreximbank’s global head for client relations, said that thy have also set up a leasing platform with the Russians and some African partners to support the leasing of aircraft.