South African Airways acting CEO Nico Bezuidenhout has called for improved cooperation within the African aviation industry. He was addressing the Fourth African Aviation Stakeholders Convention at OR Tambo International Airport, east of Johannesburg, on Wednesday.
"This year's theme, 'Building and Sustaining Strong Partnerships', Is more relevant than ever," he stated. He highlighted the role of aviation in uniting the continent and stimulating its development. Road and railway development will not be as rapid as the development of aviation across Africa.
"Passenger growth in Africa is forecast, by the aircraft manufacturers, as being among the world's fastest," he reported. The development of aviation infrastructure has had a "profound impact" on the movement of goods and people.
A key question, he posed, is whether the African aviation industry has cooperated properly and whether its members have worked with each other. Liberalisation of the African air transport market will have its effect. "Our market will undoubtedly be an area of focus for international operators," he noted. "How ready are we?"
"Events such as these [liberalisation] serve to foster cooperation." Such cooperation would support the creation of a more connected Africa and develop more efficient African airlines. "We have a real opportunity to place the African aviation industry on an upward and sustainable trajectory," asserted Bezuidenhout. This would benefit the people of Africa.
The development of a sound air transport system for Africa has the support of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which is a specialised agency of the United Nations. This was highlighted at the convention by ICAO Eastern and Southern Africa Office regional director Barry Kashambo.
He pointed out that sustainable and affordable air transport aids development and benefits the public. ICAO fully supports the complete implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision, which mandates liberalisation of the African air transport market. Removing the current restrictions in the market would open "a new era of air transport in Africa," he predicted.
But the industry must be open. "Transparency is a factor we must take into consideration as we forge ahead."