Restrictions in the aviation sector are hampering economic growth in SADC

12th March 2024

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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The economic potential of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is being constrained by restrictions on the region’s aviation sector. This was highlighted at the recent Southern African Industrialisation Forum, held in Sandton, Johannesburg.

“We can talk about a free trade area and regional integration, but if people and goods can’t move efficiently, it’s all just empty promises,” highlighted SADC Business Council Tourism Alliance lead Natalia Rosa. “The current state of aviation in SADC is a massive own goal for our economies.”

Airlines face a number of regulatory obstacles across the region.

Thus, regulations governing commercial aviation across the region were fragmented, and misaligned. This hampered the development of greater regional air connectivity. Common ground had to be found, to eliminate these misalignments. In this endeavour, global standards would be important, but even more important would be the consideration of the views of SADC airlines, when bilateral policies and agreements, that affected operations, were being considered.

Likewise, licensing requirements across the region – for example, for pilots – were often disharmonised. This imposed unnecessary complexity on airlines and increased their costs.

And bilateral aviation agreements are too often inconsistent.

“Without substantial involvement of airlines in drafting aviation rules, suboptimal regulations often emerge that inhibit cross-border operations – whether due to protectionist agendas or simply lack of practical industry input,” pointed out Airlink executive manager corporate cervices Dr Namhla Tshetu. “Rectifying this limited participation will be integral to unlocking connectivity and forging viable, integrated air networks across the SADC region.”

Further, the competitiveness of the SADC region is hampered by excessive airport taxes, fuel levies and other charges. These deter airlines and increase costs for both businesses and passengers. In consequence, the growth of the tourism sector in SADC is being restricted. The SADC Secretariat is conducting an air access study and one of its priority areas is the achievement of affordable aviation charges and taxes.

There is a need for a thorough programme of policy reform. This will include the adoption of the Single African Air Transport Market and the creation of a conducive operational environment for airlines. It will also include the authorisation of public-private partnerships for the development of infrastructure.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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