The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged governments in Africa to maximise the positive social and economic power of aviation by working together to promote safe, sustainable and efficient air connectivity.
The Director General of IATA, Mr Alexandre de Juniac, gave the advice on Monday while speaking at the 50th Annual General Assembly (AGA) meeting of the African Airline Association (AFRAA) in Rabat, Morocco.
A copy of de Juniac’s speech was obtained by NAN in Lagos.
“African aviation supports $55.8 billion of economic activity and 6.2 million jobs. To enable aviation to be an even bigger driver of prosperity across the continent, we must work closely with governments,” he said
The IATA boss highlighted safety as a positive example of progress through collaboration, noting that Africa had recorded no jet hull losses for two years running, and was two years free of any fatalities on any aircraft type.
“It is clear that progress is being made. But more needs to be done. We urge governments to recognise the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) in their safety oversight programs.
“With IOSA carriers performing three times better than airlines not on the IOSA registry, we have a convincing argument. Similarly, states must push forward greater adoption of ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS),” de Juniac said.
According to him, only 24 African states comply with at least 60 per cent of ICAO SARPS which is not good enough.
On closer cooperation with governments, the IATA boss called for an aviation agenda to focus on improving competitiveness, developing effective infrastructure, modernising the regulatory framework focusing on global standards and connectivity; and ensuring a well-trained and diverse workforce.
He said airlines in Africa, on average, lose $1.55 for every passenger carried, stressing that establishing competitive cost structures that enable growth and reducing blocked funds was essential to improving the competitiveness of African aviation.
“Africa is an expensive place for airlines to do business. There is no shortage of examples illustrating the heavy burden that governments extract from aviation. Jet fuel costs are 35 per cent higher than the rest of the world.
“User charges, as a percentage of airlines’ operating costs, are double the industry average. And taxes and charges are among the highest in the world. On top of that, $670 million of airline funds are blocked.
” Too many African governments view aviation as a luxury rather than a necessity. We must change that perception,” de Juniac said.
He also noted that aviation infrastructure problems in Africa were in two extremes, maintaining that it was sometimes overbuilt and expensive or deficient, and cannot meet demand.
According to him, dialogue between industry and government is critical to ensure that there is sufficient capacity to meet demand, that airline technical and commercial quality standards are met and that the infrastructure is affordable.
He said achieving that would create the platform on which aviation’s economic and social benefits could be maximised.
The IATA boss expressed strong support for the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative.
“The low density of the African intra-continental network makes it impossible to realize the potential benefits of a connected African economy. SAATM— if implemented — gives Africa the potential for economic transformation.
“History has shown that opening markets leads to rapid advances in connectivity.
“To date, 27 African governments have committed to SAATM and IATA encourages the remaining 28 African Union member states to come on board quickly to enjoy the potential benefits of a connected African economy,” de Juniac said.