Intra-African trade is projected to grow from less than 12 per cent in 2013 to 50 per cent by 2045, while global trade will rise from two per cent to 12 per cent. Regional Vice-President, International Air Transport Association (IATA), Muhammed Ali Albakri, disclosed this at the IATA Regional Aviation Forum held in Accra, Ghana.
Themed “Aviation: Business for Regional Prosperity,” Albakri stated that currently, air transport supports 6.2 million jobs and $55.8 billion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Africa.
He said that over the next 20 years, demand for air transport is expected to double, with a 4.6 per cent annual growth – the second fastest of all IATA regions.
This, he said, translates to an extra 199 million passenger journeys per year in 2037 for a total market of 334 million passengers with cargo volumes also expected to double over the next 20 years.
To him, aviation also plays a central role in achieving 15 out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
He lauded Ghana for including aviation as part of its National Development Plans under it’s UNSDG Action Plan, one of the few countries on the continent to do so.
Albakri urged others to follow; given the immense benefits that aviation can contribute to economic growth, development and job creation.
He stated that it is evident that aviation in Africa has the potential to fuel trade and economic growth, but lamented that several barriers such as weak and costly infrastructure, high ticket prices, poor intra-Africa connectivity and a proliferation of taxes and charges exist, which have done incalculable setback to the continent’s aviation sector.
Airport infrastructure in most African countries is out-dated and not built to serve the growing volume of passengers or cargo. Airlines and airports are often managed by government entities or regulatory bodies. Foreign investment is discouraged.
Yet, modernising infrastructure and operations requires both investment and expertise, ideally from public-private partnerships (PPP). Africa needs to open its doors for private capital investment.
Countries such as Côte d’Ivoire and Rwanda are heeding this call and making strategic bets in the sector while employing best practices to drive vibrant aviation growth.
On inter-connectivity, stakeholders have decried the cumbersome nature of travelling within Africa, which makes air travel very expensive and difficult to move around because of poor connectivity.
To bridge the gap, the Single African Air Transport Market introduced earlier this year aims to open up Africa’s skies and improve intra-African air connectivity has not totally succeeded.
So far, 28 out of 54 African countries have signed up. The movement is promising and will be more effective once all African countries come on-board they said.
To resolve all the issues, the IATA chief said the continent 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’
His words: “No state or airline can deliver the full benefits that aviation offers by operating alone; competition is part of our business, but collaboration and cooperation, must be the common denominator upon, which we all operate. Governments need to foster greater collaboration and coordination and develop and execute joint actions plans to maximize aviation’s impact.”
He reiterated that collaboration between airlines is also crucial if they want to improve connectivity and increase the share of African carriers moving traffic to, from and within Africa.
He explained that recently, South African Airways and Africa World Airlines signed a cooperation agreement, which will feed into improving African connectivity.
“But what are the regional priorities that we must address together?” he asked. “For Africa, we must focus our efforts on five issues of safety, infrastructure and capacity-building, financial sustainability, high industry costs and Africa connectivity, with the smarter regulation approach at the heart of how we work together.”
To him, safety is the industry’s top priority in every region, but he noted that sadly Africa tragically suffered the loss of ET302 in March.
However, 2018 marked the third successive year in which there were no African airline jet hull losses or fatal accidents.