The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has highlighted the benefits to Africa through its cooperation with governments across the continent. The aim is to facilitate air connectivity across Africa that is efficient, safe and sustainable. In turn, this will ensure the maximum beneficial socioeconomic impact of aviation across the continent.
“African aviation supports $55.8-billion of economic activity and 6.2-million jobs,” highlighted Iata director-general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac at the 50th Annual General Assembly of the African Airline Association, held recently in Rabat, Morocco. “To enable aviation to be an even bigger driver of prosperity across the continent, we must work closely with governments.”
The safety of African aviation has clearly improved. “Africa has had no jet hull losses for two years running and is two years free of any fatalities on any aircraft type – it’s clear that progress is being made,” he said. “But more needs to be done. We urge governments to recognise the Iata Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) in their safety oversight programmes. With IOSA carriers performing three times better than airlines not on the IOSA registry, we have a convincing argument.
“Similarly, States must push forward greater adoption of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS),” he urged. At the moment, only 24 African countries are compliant with at least 60% of the SARPS. “That is not good enough.” African countries should make global safety standards a high priority.
He called for a cooperative agenda between Iata and African governments, which had four main focus areas. These were developing effective infrastructure, ensuring a well-trained and diverse workforce, improving competitiveness, and modernising the regulatory framework, with a focus on global standards and connectivity.
“In Africa, we have infrastructure problems in two extremes,” averred de Juniac. “In some cases, it is overbuilt and expensive. In other cases, it is deficient and cannot meet demand. Dialogue between industry and government is critical to ensure that there is sufficient capacity to meet demand, that airline technical and commercial quality standards are met and that the infrastructure is affordable. Achieving that will create the platform on which aviation’s economic and social benefits can be maximised.”
Air passenger numbers in Africa are expected to quadruple over the next 20 years. This would require the expansion of the aviation workforce across the continent. Governments would have to develop polices to create the necessary training pipelines to support this expansion. Part of this should include increasing the number of women in the sector to help reduce Africa’s deepening shortage of skills.
Too many African airlines were uncompetitive. He pointed out that, on average, African airlines lost $1.55 for every passenger they carried. Many of the problems were external to the airlines themselves. “Africa is an expensive place for airlines to do business. There is no shortage of examples illustrating the heavy burden that governments [place on] aviation. Jet fuel costs are 35% higher than in the rest of the world. “User charges, as a percentage of airlines’ operating costs, are double the industry average. And taxes and charges are among the highest in the world. On top of that, $670-million of airline funds is blocked. Too many African governments view aviation as a luxury rather than a necessity. We must change that perception.”