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Unlocking Africa’s aviation potential

“The most pressing problem for African aviation today is safety,” said Tony Tyler during his speech.

DAKAR – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reinforced its commitment to African aviation and called on industry and government leaders in Central West Africa to work together to make aviation an even more integral part of African economic development and integration. Safety, regional cooperation and global standards for infrastructure funding were highlighted as key issues which must be addressed.

“African aviation supports 6.7 million high quality jobs and business activity totaling some $67.8 billion. Aviation could play an even bigger role in facilitating Africa’s growth and development. To achieve this, however, we need a team effort of government and industry focused on improving safety, adopting a coordinated policy approach and implementing global standards,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO in a keynote address to open IATA’s Aviation Day in Dakar, Senegal.

“The most pressing problem for African aviation today is safety,” said Tyler. In 2011, the continent experienced an average of one accident for every 305,000 flights using Western-built jet aircraft. This was an improvement over 2010, when the average was one accident for every 135,000 flights. But it was still nine times worse than the global average. “It should be as safe to travel by air in Africa as it is in any other part of the world,” said Tyler.

In May 2012, IATA, with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and a host of other organizations committed to an Africa Strategic Improvement Action Plan aimed at addressing safety deficiencies and strengthening regulatory oversight in the region by 2015. “The goal of the Africa Strategic Improvement Action Plan is to achieve world-class safety levels across Africa by 2015,” said Tyler. The Plan was endorsed as part of the ‘Abuja Declaration’ by the Ministerial meeting on Aviation Safety and Security of the African Union in July. The next step is ratification at the Assembly of the African Union in January 2013.

The Plan is based on key priorities:

  • Adoption and implementation of an effective and transparent regulatory oversight system including mandating the implementation of the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA)
  • Implementation of runway safety measures
  • Training on preventing loss of control
  • Implementation of flight data analysis (FDA)
  • Implementation of Safety Management Systems (SMS)

These priorities address the most pressing issues as identified through analysis by ICAO and IATA of Africa’s safety performance between 2006 and 2010. “For example, runway accidents accounted for about a quarter of the accidents over the period. If we target measures to address them, we will see results that will make a difference. This has already proven to be the case with FDA. Since making FDA available to all IATA members in April 2008, deviations from optimum flight trajectories were halved for those airlines in the program. FDA improves safety. And the spirit of the Plan is to work with governments across the region to make more broadly available across Africa tools, programs and standards that will improve safety,” said Tyler.

Tyler emphasized the importance of IATA’s two main audit programs—IOSA and the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO). “In 2011, the African accident rate was nine times the global average. But if we look only at the performance of IOSA-registered African airlines, the accident rate was similar to the global average. That tells us that applying global standards to African aviation will yield results. And the most effective way to increase the adoption of IOSA in Africa is for governments to mandate participation for all airlines.” IOSA is a condition for membership in IATA as well as in the African Airlines Association (AFRAA).

Strong regulatory oversight is also crucial. Global standard audit programs such as IOSA and ISAGO will also help improve safety oversight, a key responsibility for governments. “The commitment of governments to establish Civil Aviation Authorities with full autonomy, with sustainable funding and without political interference is fundamental,” said Tyler.

Common approach: using aviation as an economic driver
Tyler also called for a coordinated regional approach to aviation. “Africa faces many common challenges. In addition to safety, these include inadequate infrastructure, ‘brain drain’ and skills building, finding sources for capital, fleet modernization, building competitiveness and much more.”

An example of regional cooperation is the multi-state Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), which was established in 1959 and provides air navigation services across a vast section of the African continent. “We look forward to working with them to continually improve service levels and cost efficiency,” said Tyler.

However, Tyler noted that for many of Africa’s governments, aviation is not the top priority. “Eliminating poverty, improving health, raising living standards, and generating jobs rank much higher. My message is not to shift priorities, but to ask governments to see aviation as an economic driver and develop policies to support that important role.”

Appropriately funded infrastructure
One impediment to aviation’s ability to serve as an economic catalyst in Central West Africa is the proliferation of fees and taxes to support infrastructure development. “Infrastructure is critical to aviation. And it must be paid for. But there are established principles for such funding developed through ICAO. These include transparency, consultation with users and cost-relatedness. To ensure that the benefits accrue to those that have paid, pre-financing is not allowed unless specific safeguards for users are met. Unfortunately, these basic principles are not being followed in the case of infrastructure development fees in Africa. This can only have an adverse effect on the growth of aviation. And if aviation is taxed too highly, its ability to be an economic catalyst is compromised,” said Tyler.

Tyler noted that the Airport Development Fee in Senegal now stands at $68 per person—the highest in Africa. Benin, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone and Togo all have development charges  ranging from $9 per passenger to over $50.

“The example of Senegal is an immediate opportunity to work together, make improvements and help states in this region develop a clearer understanding that aviation is not a cash cow to be milked. It is a powerful work horse. Public policies should be designed to take advantage of aviation’s unique ability to catalyze economic growth,” said Tyler.

Commitment to Africa
Tyler noted that the 2013 IATA Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit will be held in Cape Town. “Africa has the greatest potential of any continent for aviation to contribute even more to its development. Supported by adequate infrastructure, the proper cost structure, and operating within a policy framework that values its contribution, aviation could play a much larger role in the African economy as a whole.”

“Aviation connectivity is about people doing business, products moving to markets and new opportunities being discovered. With a few kilometers of runway even the most remote location can be connected to the global village. This has a huge and positive impact on development. And that is the best reason for governments across Africa to care about aviation and work together to ensure its safe, efficient and sustainable progress,” said Tyler.

Vicky Karantzavelou
Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | Website

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales.

She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.