The African Travel and Tourism Conference (ATTC), a new addition to the African (Akwaaba)Travel Market exhibitions which holds annually in West Africa, has achieved a massive success which its debut edition this year attracted an audience of over 2, 000 delegates.
The first session focused on ‘State of Aviation in Africa,’ while the second looked at the ‘State of Tourism in Africa.’
The conference which opened with a focus on aviation in Africa also looked at the challenges of infrastructure.
While supporting an open sky for Africa, the lead speaker and the panelists which comprised prominent aviation experts in Nigeria gathered and took a review of the situation and trends in aviation on the African continent.
The lead speaker, former Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. Richard Aisuebeogun and now Managing Director Avialog Company Limited and Director, Gulliver Global Services Solutions, kick started the conference on the day two of Akwaaba with the presentation of a scholarly paper titled, ‘State of Aviation in Africa.’
He reviewed the imperative place of aviation to economies of African countries, tracing their impacts and contributions to development.
“Africa is set to be one of the fastest-growing aviation regions over the next 20 years, with annual expansion averaging nearly five per cent (5 percent). This opens up incredible economic opportunities for the continent’s 54 nations.
“By transporting some 70 million passengers annually, aviation already supports some 6.9 million jobs and $80 billion of economic activity on the African continent.
“Most importantly, this presentation will dwell on how to achieve sustainable Airline operations in Africa which is at the heart of the Air Transport and Aviation Industry,” he said.
He explained that many failed airlines litter airports in Africa, both privately and government owned. And going forward, he traced a list of some of them which included Ghana Airways, Air Gabon, Seria National Airline, Air Afrique, Nigerian Airways, Cameroon Airlines, Chanchagi, ADC Airlines, Bellview Airlines, Air Zimbabwe, saying that, ‘the list is endless.’
Citing a report of survey carried out in May, 2016, Aisuebeogun revealed that over the past 12 years nearly 37 airlines were launched in Africa, and almost all of them had failed – 25 of which are from Nigeria. He also maintained that today, only about 12 Africa airlines have inter-continental operations.
“The more we realise that airlines are not a luxury but a necessity in our remote villages and hub cities, the more we can change our thinking and make sustained efforts to ensure that airlines are supported and developed for the accelerated development of our economies and improvement of our livelihoods,” he stated.
According to him, the potentials of Aviation in Africa are under-utilised, implying that there are huge opportunities for the sustainable airlines to thrive. “Therefore for the continent to realise its full economic potential, aviation – particularly, commercial air transport – must be prioritized,” he noted.
Doing an overview of the sector, he insisted that, airlines are the nucleus of the air transport industry.
He said: “Essentially, airlines are the main basis for the existence of all other players in the industry including airports, air navigation service providers (ANSPs), civil aviation authorities (CAAs) and support service providers such as caterers, spares suppliers, cleaners, security service providers, Aircraft manufacturers, & AMOs, and ATOs etc.
“The economic benefits of airlines are enormous and increasing, because airlines are not just part of the economy but a key economic catalyst recognised as vital to the growth and achievement of National, Regional and Global economic goals.
“Today, air transport is recognized as an important element in the achievement of the United Nation’s Vision 2030 Sustainable Development Goals which seeks to improve individual livelihoods in all corners of the globe.”
He maintained that Air transport is also vital to achieving the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063 which seeks to transform Africa’s economy from its current largely underdeveloped state to hugely develop economies.
Aisuebeogun harped on the ‘unfair competition,’ maintaining that though competition and liberalisation are excellent but airlines must be equipped to compete, especially in the face of adverse economy, low currency, charges, taxes and fees, that airlines in Africa already lose a lot and disadvantaged before they go into competition.
“That is why even with the best aircraft among African airlines’ fleets, they can hardly complete but pull out of lucrative routes as Arik Air pulled out of Dubai, or they are not able to venture into lucrative routes,’ he lamented.
He went on to say that despite several Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs) signed by African states their airlines can hardly exploit these BASA routes so the states depend on controversial royalties levied on foreign airlines who fly unrequited without reciprocity
He posited that perhaps, success stories of fellow African airlines would drive our inspiration to strive to achieve sustainable airlines for existing and intending airlines.
Pointing out to some positives in Africa, he listed that ASKY reported 4 million US $ net profit for 2015; Royal Air Maroc wins ‘European Award for Best Practices 2016; Air Mauritius readies for expansion with new air-crafts and hubs; Air Madagascar removed from EU blacklist; Camair-Co implements SITA’s new passenger management system and Air Namibia signs up to Travelport’s industry airline merchandising solution.
He maintained that Africa Aviation has come of age, insisting that the phenomenal growth of the Air Transport Industry, which includes the development of modern airports facilities, upgrade of navigation services, fleets upgrade/renewal amongst African airlines, globally certified aircraft maintenance facility and training institutions, and a robust legislation that supports civil aviation have all joined to stimulate and enhance the growth of civil Aviation in Africa.
The second session which focused on the ‘State of Tourism in Africa’ was anchored with by a lead paper presented by Zimbabwe’s Tourism Minister, Doctor Walter Mzembi, with the same title.
Mzembi who was represented by the Deputy Tourism Minister for Zimbabwe, Honourable Anastarcia Ndhlovu, opened her paper with two assertions, ‘Travel and Tourism is the new frontier that plays a critical role in the World’s economy today.’ It is the peace bridge that keeps people connected – Thus; tourism facilitates peace rather than a security threat.’
She went on to enumerate what she termed, ‘Six Major challenges to Africa’s Tourism, which are Underdeveloped Tourism Infrastructure upon which she outlined; Poor Intra-African Air Connectivity, Absence of Strategically-Integrated Product Development and Marketing, Visa restrictions, Poor treasury support to tourism Brand Africa-Poor image that affects African destination brands (poverty, strife, war, hunger, starvation diseases, and more).
The organiser of the conference and President of Akwaaba, Mr. Ikechi Uko, praised all the speakers who took out time to come to the event, and went on to say that ‘we need such opportunities to come together as experts to discuss issues affecting travel and tourism in Africa and to seek ways to chart the continent forward.
‘For this conference, we were able to bring together the best brains in aviation in Nigeria. If the Nigerian government is looking to assembling the best brains to manage a new national carrier, I think we have them assembled here during the discussion on the State of aviation in Africa’.
At the close of the conference, participants were given certificates of participation