The importance and potential of, and challenges facing, commercial aviation in Africa were highlighted at the International Air Transport Association (Iata) Regional Aviation Forum, in Accra, Ghana, on Monday. “Aviation is a key enabler for economic and social prosperity in Africa,” highlighted Iata regional VP: Africa and Middle East Muhammad Ali Albakri in his address to the forum.
He stressed that aviation was a strategic factor with an “extremely important role” in the socioeconomic development of the continent. “This is properly encapsulated in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 which anticipates intra-African trade will grow from less than 12% in 2013 to approaching 50% by 2045, and global trade will rise from 2% to 12%,” he said.
At the moment, air transport maintains 6.2-million jobs and supports $55.8-billion of gross domestic product across the continent. Air transport demand in Africa is forecast to double over the next 20 years, with an average annual growth rate of 4.6%. This will mean that, in 2037, there will be an extra 199-million passenger journeys a year. The total African market will then total 334-million passengers. Cargo volumes are also expected to double over the next 20 years.
But currently, the development of aviation in Africa is hampered by a number of barriers. These are: inadequate and expensive infrastructure, expensive airline tickets, poor connectivity within the continent, and numerous charges and taxes.
“[W]e must ensure a strong dialogue and partnership between government and the aviation industry if we are to deliver the economic and social benefits to our citizens,” he affirmed. “No State or airline can deliver the full benefits that aviation offers by operating alone….”
The priorities that African governments and airlines have to address are, as listed by Albakri: safety, infrastructure and capacity-building, financial sustainability, high industry costs and intra-African connectivity, “with the Smarter Regulation approach at the heart of how we work together”. (The association’s website states: “IATA’s smarter regulation initiative seeks to promote partnerships with governments that result in regulation that delivers clearly defined, measurable policy objectives in the least burdensome way.”)
“The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is arguably the continent’s most important policy initiative now – not just for aviation, but for trade and all the ancillary socioeconomic benefits aviation brings,” he asserted. “Properly harnessed, the benefits of the SAATM will far exceed expectations.”