Governments and industries in Africa have been urged to focus on travel and trade as one of the priorities that will allow aviation to drive economic and social development in the continent.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said travel and trade is among four other priorities that will further enable the achievement of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
In a keynote speech given during the 51st Annual General Assembly of the African Airline Association (AFRAA) in Mauritius, IATA’s Director General and CEO Mr. Alexandre de Juniac stated that safety, cost competitiveness and gender diversity are other priorities that will see to the realisation of the SDGs.
“Across the African continent, the promise and potential of aviation is rich. Already it supports USD 55.8 billion in economic activity and 6.2 million jobs. And, as demand more than doubles over the next two decades, the critical role that aviation plays in Africa’s economic and social development will grow in equal proportion. With the right tax and regulatory framework, the opportunities aviation creates to improve people’s lives are tremendous,” he further said.
To improve safety aviation in Africa, the IATA boss called upon more states to incorporate the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) into their safety oversight systems.
Smaller operations, Mr. Juniac said, should consider becoming IATA Standard Safety Assessment (ISSA) certified as ISSA provides a valuable operational benchmark for carriers not eligible for IOSA.
African states, he added, need to implement ICAO standards and recommended practices in their regulations. Currently, only 26 states meet or exceed the threshold of 60% implementation.
“Our top priority is always safety. And we must never forget that global standards have helped to make aviation the safest form of long-distance transport. There is a good example of that in the safety performance of African airlines. The continent had no fatal jet accidents in 2016, 2017 and 2018. That is largely due to the coordinated efforts of all stakeholders with a focus on global standards, guided by the Abuja Declaration. But there is still more work to do. Taking these three steps will raise the safety bar even higher,” said Mr. de Juniac.
IATA called on governments to liberalize intra-Africa access to markets and urgently implement three key agreements that have the potential to transform the continent. The key agreements are The African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) – to boost intra-Africa trade through the elimination of import duties and non-tariff barriers, the African Union (AU) Free Movement Protocol – to ease the severe visa restrictions that African countries impose on African visitors and Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) – to open up intra-Africa air connectivity.
“My message to governments on this triumvirate of agreements is simple—hurry-up! We know the contributions that connectivity will make to the UN SDGs. Why wait any longer to give airlines the freedom to do business and Africans the freedom to explore their own continent,” Mr. de Juniac said.
IATA also called for the industry to do more to improve its gender diversity and for airlines in the region to support the recently launched 25by2025 campaign.
The 25by2025 campaign is a voluntary program for airlines to commit to increasing female participation at senior levels to at least 25% or to improve it by 25% by the year 2025. The choice of target helps airlines at any point on the diversity journey to participate meaningfully.
“It is no secret that women are under-represented in some technical professions as well as in senior management at airlines. It is also well-known that we are a growing industry that needs a big pool of skilled talent. Africa can be proud of its leadership in this area. But we need to do more. The 25by2025 initiative will help move our industry in the right direction,” said de Juniac.