The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on African governments to prioritize the development of aviation nationally and at a pan-Africa level to bolster economic growth and development.
Delivering his speech the regional Vice president, Africa and Middle East, Hussein Dabbas said Africa was set to be one of the fastest-growing aviation regions over the next 20 years, with annual expansion averaging nearly 5%.
Dabbas said it will open up incredible economic opportunities for the continent’s 54 nations adding that 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.
“Aviation has the potential to be a much greater strategic catalyst for growth if governments would stop milking the industry for taxes and enable it with smarter regulations focused on safety and the development of connectivity. The commitments are already there with the Abuja Declaration and the Yamoussoukro Decision. It’s time to achieve them in partnership with industry,” said Dabbas.
The IATA African Aviation Day in Abuja, Nigeria with theme ‘Driving African Economies through the Power of Aviation’. Key elements essential to air transport development in Africa are on the agenda.
On safety in Africa, Dabbas said it was a the top priority noting that governments have committed to achieving world-class safety levels in the Abuja Declaration with improvement on safety, Africa had the highest accident rate among regions in 2015, at 7.88 accidents per million sectors.
He explained that IATA’s Operating Safety Audit (IOSA) has shown the power of global standards underpinning safety operations saying that the 32 sub-Saharan airlines on the IOSA registry were performing 3.5 times better than non-IOSA operators in terms of accidents.
Dabbas called on African governments to improve safety oversight and adopt IOSA together with ICAO’s safety-related standards and recommended practices (SARPs) noting that as of the end of January 2016, only 21 African countries had at least 60% SARPs implementation.
He welcomed the recent signing of a ‘Solemn Declaration’ by 21 African heads of state re-affirming their commitment to breaking down the artificial barriers obstructing air transport service expansion between African nations by implementing the Yamoussoukro Decision and urged all African nations to expedite its implementation, which will stimulate economic growth and development with at least 5 million more passenger journeys a year on the continent.
“Infrastructure development – Cost-effective and appropriate infrastructure development is critical to the sustainability and expansion of African aviation. Consultation and collaboration among airlines and their infrastructure partners during planning and development is crucial. No one knows better than the airlines the level of airport charges that enable a route to be viable, and the kind of amenities they need to support their passengers and aircraft efficiently. All too often in Africa there is no real engagement with the airlines prior to development. This leaves airlines burdened with paying for excessive and unsustainable development costs”.
According to him, IATA was concerned about the viability of some planned airport developments, including Ndjamena in Chad, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and Dakar in Senegal called on the Governments in these countries to take the lead in consulting the users of the infrastructure to ensure that the end product provides maximize benefits and rationalizes costs for all.
He urged African governments to tackle the excessive surcharges on fuel, which can make fuel purchases on the continent up to 20% more expensive than the global average. Airlines operating to Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana and Kenya are particularly affected by above market fuel costs adding that these surcharges increase airlines’ cost burden when they were already operating in a challenging environment and they also hinder growth in an industry that delivers extensive socio-economic benefits.
Dabbas said the aviation industry was committed to achieving carbon-neutral growth from 2020, and cutting net emissions 50% by 2050 compared to 2005 saying that the industry was working hard to achieve these goals with improvements in technology, operations and infrastructure.
He noted that to be fully successful that a global market-based measure (GMBM) was needed and that must be agreed by governments through ICAO.
“The aviation industry is calling for a mandatory global carbon offset scheme as its preferred measure. Already many African nations, including Nigeria, have rallied for the establishment of an equitable set of market-based measures to offset carbon emissions”
Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika, has listed the high cost of aircraft maintenance, cost and availability of aviation fuel and foreign exchange remittance as some of the challenges that must be tackled for aviation business to thrive in the country.
He enumerated the challenges while delivering a keynote address at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Aviation Day 2016 with the theme, “Driving Economies through the Power of Aviation’ in Abuja, Nigeria.
This is just as he solicited the support of ICAO member countries present at the event to ensure that the President of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council, Dr Bernard Aliu, who is a Nigerian was re-elected for a second term in office.
Speaking further Sirika stated that the Federal Government was in the process of establishing a major Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility through Public Private Partnership (PPP) to allow for an A to D checks of most aircraft type, adding that the MRO would have an engine, battery, wheels and brakes, upholstery and galley shops among other sections.
On foreign exchange remittance, which is one of the major challenges to aviation business in the country, the Aviation Minister hinted that this temporary problem was receiving full attention of government and would surely be a thing of the past.
On the cost and availability of aviation fuel- also known as jet A-1, which takes 40 per cent of airlines revenue, the minister stated that arrangements had reached an advance stage to commence the production of aviation fuel in Nigeria in order to bring down the cost and regularise supply, adding that investors are welcome to put there resource in the setting up of a refining facility for local consumption and export.
He averred that despite the many aviation business opportunities in the Nigerian aviation industry, there are challenges that must be addressed and that the government was putting in place measures to mitigate the impact of these challenges.
Other challenges listed by the Aviation Minister include; shortage of management manpower, which he stated the Federal Government was partnering with ICAO, donor countries and agencies to establish an aviation university in Abuja.
On the dilapidating airport infrastructure, Sirika said that the concession of some assets would address this and that the Federal Government would aggressively focus at improving the critical ones.
He stated that he would have attend the forum but that he had to be Turkey to solicit only for support for Nigeria to retain its part 2 status in ICAO council but to drum up support for Dr Bernard Aliu to be re-elected as President of the ICAO Council.
The Aviation Minister stated that the theme of the forum, ‘Driving Economies through the Power of Aviation’ was quite apt as it was relevant to where Nigeria is as a nation today.
According to him, “I believe it is of immense significance, not just to Nigeria, but to the entire African continent. Aviation connects people, businesses and ideas across borders in a way no other industry can; it shortens distances and bridges cultures and is at the core of every socio-economic endeavor. Therefore, it is with great confidence that I state that the ‘Power of Aviation’ is a major tool in the great task of national development and economic rejuvenation, which this administration has set for itself and is working assiduously to achieve”.
Nigeria as a nation, he posited is sitting graciously on the mid-belt of Africa, serves the West and Central African aviation market and that this belt with a population of 600 million people has no significant aviation businesses, adding that despite this, Nigerian aviation remain largely untapped.
In his words, “There is no strong carrier, no major Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Centre (MRO), no efficient airport, in fact not even a significant catering company”