WITH the liberalisation of African skies for African carriers, the African airspace is poised for greater heights that will bring the continent closer to its common goal of an integrated and prosperous Africa.
This is the view of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) Secretary General Abdérahmane Berthé as African countries enhance their efforts for the implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATIM) and address various challenges facing the aviation industry to realise its potential.
He says the airline business cannot grow and thrive without market access, which is one of the critical factors for airlines business to succeed. Currently, Africa is marching in an accelerated pace to maximise the positive social and economic power of aviation by working together to promote safe, sustainable and efficient air connectivity.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the African aviation industry supports $55.8 billion of economic activity and 6.2 million jobs.
However, for Africa’s aviation sector to thrive, various hurdles standing on the way of its success must be removed urgently. One of such hurdles, according to Berthe, is the high taxes and charges which are among the main factors that have resulted in high cost of operations in the African Aviation industry.
“AFRAA urges airports to adhere to the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) principle of user consultation in the determination and fixing of charges and fees to ensure that they are commensurate with the level of service delivered,” he says.
“The industry can only thrive in an environment where air travel is made affordable and more Africans are able to travel, all actors must ensure the sector is well-positioned for success.”
In line of the new strategic direction of the association, Berthe says that AFRAA has launched various new Task Forces for its members. Through the new projects, “we seek to several avenues to address pertinent challenges and identify common solutions to pave way for a stronger Association for our members.”
It is AFRAA’s objective to vigorously implement its Action Plan that will transform the industry as well as help fuel positive economic progress across the African continent.
As aviation is a critical economic driver, the AFRAA chief says it is incumbent upon all stakeholders to ensure the sector realises its full potential. Key to this is unlocking the immense potential of the able and youthful workforce.
To date, 28 African governments have committed to SAATM and the remaining African Union member states are encouraged to come on board quickly to enjoy the potential benefits of a connected African economy.
Aviation experts say that the low density of the African intra-continental network makes it impossible to realise the potential benefits of a connected African economy.
They say if implemented, SAATM–launched in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa in January last year--will give Africa the potential for economic transformation in the belief that history has shown that opening markets leads to rapid advances in connectivity.
AFRAA member states and aviation stakeholders met early last year in Rabat, Morocco, during the body’s 50th Annual General Assembly which brought together 463 delegates from 61 countries under the theme “Strengthening African Aviation in a Liberalized Environment.”
Chief Guest at the Morocco assembly was the country’s Minister for Tourism, Air Transport, Handicrafts and Social Economy, Mohammed Sajid, who told the delegates that “liberalisation of the air transport market in Africa ought to be supported by all the relevant stakeholders, so that it may translate into accelerated development, enhanced competitiveness and a better service offering in the sector.
It would also help to remove the many restrictions confronting the sector, whether in terms of regulations, tariffs, airport services, or any other areas.”
AFRAA President and Chief Executive Officer of Royal Air Maroc Group said that the 50th edition of AFRAA’s Annual General Assembly was “taking place at a time when the African air transport sector is at the cusp of a great revolution.
Which will undoubtedly signal an important turning point in the history of air transport in our continent. We hope that the political will currently expressed for the establishment of a Single African Air Transport Market will allow us to fulfill our common destiny.
To see all African states remove protectionist barriers, leading to air traffic growth on our continent, carried mainly by African companies, in the interest of the economies of our countries and our fellow citizens.”
The Assembly also called African Governments to facilitate youth development in aviation through affordable training and education for a safe and secure aviation in Africa, and encouraged member Airlines to prioritise youth development through their actions and put in place necessary programmes to bring this about.
Among the resolutions, the Assembly called upon African governments to reduce taxes, charges and fees especially those related to fuel and passengers and avoid imposing airport development levies on passengers.
Additionally, ministers responsible for civil aviation should update their counterparts in charge of taxation, in particular finance ministers, on the details and rationale behind ICAO’s policies on taxation.
Further, airports were urged to adhere to ICAO principle of user consultation in the determination and fixing of charges and fees and to ensure that they are commensurate with the level of service delivered.
African governments were also called upon to re-invest taxes relating to air travel in developing and equipping airports as recommended by ICAO. At the Assembly AFRAA’s Secretary General presented the AFRAA 2017 state of the industry report which provided an overview of the environment the African aviation industry is operating in with a detailed view of the performance of African Airlines, key challenges, and growth prospects for the sector. In 2017, Airlines globally posted US$3 8 billion after-tax profit representing US$9.27 average profit per passenger.
The African industry improved profitability but is still making a net after tax loss of $ 100 million. For AFRAA member airlines, the intercontinental passenger market segment remains the biggest with 49.5 per cent of all passengers.
The domestic market segment represented 23.4 per cent while the intra-Africa market represented 27 per cent. During the year, Africa’s traffic share was 2.2 per cent of the global market.
This figure clearly indicated that there is much room for growth. However, some positive figures have emerged with data showing that in 2017, four countries exceeded 10 million passengers: South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria.
The report however noted that, notwithstanding the challenges faced by African airlines, including the high cost of operations in Africa and market restrictions in a number of countries, the industry has much to look forward to. Indeed, the growth rates of African population and African economies are drivers of a huge traffic growth.
The African population will raise to 2.5 billion which equals to 26.6 per cent of world population in 2050.
This year’s 51st AFRAA Annual General Assembly is scheduled to be held in the Cameroonian capital of Yaounde from November 24- 26.