Giant Europe-based aerospace group Airbus has affirmed that aerospace technologies can play a key role in dealing with many of the socioeconomic challenges confronting Africa. It did so in a report, which it called a White Paper, that was released at the end of last month at a special event in Toulouse, France. The event brought together government officials, policy-makers, businesspeople and entrepreneurs from Africa, as well as representatives of intergovernmental agencies and multilateral development organisations.
“The aerospace industry offers solutions to many of the socioeconomic challenges Africa is facing on the path to sustainable development,” said Airbus Africa and Middle East president Mikail Houari. “A paradigm shift from thinking about aerospace as an isolated industry to a key enabler of socioeconomic change is necessary to realise its benefits for a prosperous future. That is what this White Paper is aiming at by highlighting different ways in which aerospace technology can support social and economic development in Africa.”
The Airbus report argue that different segments of the aerospace industry can meet different challenges across the continent. They could do so by advancing education, training and innovation; demolishing barriers to the movement of people and goods across Africa; improving the availability of healthcare; increasing food security by boosting the competitiveness and sustainability of African agriculture; and providing innovative products and solutions to empower businesses.
Thus, with regard to agriculture, although this sector currently employs more than 60% of Africa’s population, it generates only some 15% of its gross domestic product. Yet it could be the most important foundation for the sustainable development of the continent. Aerospace technology can help. Precision farming, which is based on imagery from satellites, aircraft and remotely piloted aircraft systems (or drones) and which employs satellite navigation systems to create very accurate maps of fields, could allow African farmers to grow more crops with less inputs (such as fertiliser).
In Africa, healthcare remains a major concern for many people in rural areas. Air ambulances already exist but other aerospace technologies will “further change the dynamics of access to medical care and emergency response in terms of quantity, distance and data collection”, stated Airbus.
Then there is the direct role of aviation itself. This connects people, products and markets across the continent. The issue is to do these things in a manner that is cheaper, faster and more efficient, thereby maximising aviation’s contribution as a driver of both the African economy and increased continental integration.
Not least, there is the potential for some African countries to become involved in aerospace manufacturing, thus boosting industrialisation. “[M]any African countries are final consumers in the global aerospace value chain,” observed the group.