Connectivity is critical for African growth and development, supporting some 6.7 million jobs and US$68 billion (50.3 million euros) in economic activity. But aviation’s economic and social benefits can be undermined by the unintended consequences of government action.
“Global standards are the foundation upon which a safe, secure and integrated global air transport system are built. The system is so reliable that we don’t often think about the enormous coordination that makes it possible. That is why we need to remind governments of the value of global standards that support aviation and the vibrancy of their economies,” Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO, said in an address to the African Airlines Association’s 45th Annual General Assembly n Mombasa, Kenya.
Safety is the prime example of what can be achieved with a consistent, global approach. The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) is the global standard for airline operational safety management. Over the decade since it was established, there is a clear trend that the aggregate safety performance of airlines on the registry is above those airlines that are not on the registry.
“Improving safety is the biggest issue on the African agenda, and global standards play a crucial role in this area,” Tyler said. “Last year, nearly half of the fatalities on Western-built jets occurred in Africa. African governments recognized the need to improve safety in the Abuja Declaration’s goal of reaching world-class safety levels by 2015. IATA is actively contributing its expertise and resources to all the Abuja Declaration’s commitments.”
Key elements of the Abuja declaration include the completion of IOSA by all African carriers, the establishment of independent and sufficiently funded civil aviation authorities and the implementation of effective safety oversight systems.
To broaden the base of IOSA carriers, IATA is working with the International Airlines Training Fund to provide in-house training for 10 African airlines.
“Governments must also up their game with more effective safety oversight,” Tyler said. “As of the end of 2012, only 11 African states had achieved 60-percent implementation of ICAO’s safety-related standards and recommended practices, according to the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program. There has been some significant progress. But, to be very frank, overall I have not yet seen sufficient urgency in dealing with this fundamental issue. Meeting the Abuja Declaration’s 2015 commitment will require a major acceleration in the pace of implementation.”
The overall profitability of the African industry is around breakeven, Tyler said.
“But as Africa’s economy takes off, breaking even will not be enough to generate the investments needed for African aviation to seize the emerging opportunities and play the important role of stimulating development across the continent,” he said.
Tyler focused on the need for more robust consultation by governments with the industry to avoid unintended consequences of regulations, taxes or charges increases.
“Today, possibly without realizing it, governments are weakening the integrity of the air transport system by introducing different and sometimes conflicting passenger rights regulations, overly onerous taxes and charges,” he said.
The future of aviation in Africa has the potential to be bright. The African population of 1 billion people is spread across a vast continent, and the African economy is rapidly developing.
“Africa is the continent of opportunity for aviation. The future is still being created. By keeping global standards at the heart of our efforts, I am convinced that the future will be bright,” Tyler said.