UAE-based aircraft management and charter company Empire Aviation Group (EAG) will look at opening a permanent base in West Africa after it opens its new Hong Kong base in January, a senior director told Gulf News.

“We already have eight aeroplanes operating in Africa and that fleet does continue to grow so it would quite logical that we have to do something,” said Steve Hartley, executive director.

Harley singled out West Africa before suggesting the company could open its first permanent Africa base in Nigeria.

Nigeria has become the region’s largest private jet market, ahead of South Africa and Angola, in line with the country’s recent economic boom.

EAG has a mixed fleet of 28 aeroplanes, including Dassaults, Embraers, Gulfstreams and Bombardiers. In the last 12 months, the group added six aircraft, and will soon add a Gulfstream G650 and Falcon 8X to its fleet in response to demand for larger aircraft.

“[The fleet] is certainly growing,” Hartley continued. “The fleet is definitely moving to the larger aeroplanes … range is a key driver for everybody.”

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In related news, Bahrain’s Ibdar Bank recently concluded a $100m deal with Ethiopian Airlines involving the acquisition and lease of four Bombardier Q400 Next Gen aircraft to the airline as part of a structured 12-year agreement.

“The deal was the first Sharia-compliant transaction in Africa’s aviation sector,” noted Basel Al Haj-Issa, CEO of Ibdar Bank. “It comes at a time when Ethiopian Airlines is embarking on an ambitious fleet expansion programme amid strong growth in African air travel.”

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The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has meanwhile pledged to bring about the full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration for open African skies by January 2015.

A study by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) indicates that the 12 AFRAA countries could generate $1.3bn and create extra 155,000 jobs by liberalising their markets.