African Aviation Facing an Uncertain Future

Mam Sait Jallow  -  photos hs
Mam Sait Jallow - photos hs

Did the 47th General Assembly of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) held in Brazzaville deliver workable concepts and adequate solutions to liberalize air traffic? Or was the gathering just an enjoyable two day get-together of industrial leaders, high ranking members of the Congolese government and renowned representatives from ICAO, IATA, ACI and other organizations?
We asked three delegates and conference panelists to deliver their views on the results of the meeting.

Q: Which main message was delivered by the 47th AFRAA conference?
A: Mam Sait Jallow, Regional Director ICAO:
“The key message sent out by speakers and delegates is the urgent need for African airlines and stakeholders like airport operators, civil aviation authorities and others to actively collaborate within the framework of the Yamoussoukro Decision. The pace demonstrated by a number of African states to move forward is way too slow. This, because they tend to service their national carries first, thus conflicting with the group's interests. So far, they prioritize their nationalistic interest instead of supporting a collaborative approach. This has to be changed soon, which I consider being the key message delivered by the relevant stakeholders at the 47th AFRAA meeting.”

Stephan Hannemann
Stephan Hannemann

Q. Is the Yamoussoukro Declaration (YD), often cited by speakers at the Brazzaville-held conference, the tool for African airlines, paving the way to fly into the promised land of open skies?
A: Stephan Hannemann, Manager Market Analysis Europe, Middle East, Africa and Central Asia of Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer:
“It seems to me that it's still a long way to go for the YD to be implemented. I think it's important to understand that the Yamoussoukro Declaration is only a platform that will not automatically connect Africans with Africans. However, it's a tool that could create many opportunities for African airlines to better service their continental market both in passenger and cargo. As an aircraft manufacturer we strongly believe that airlines need to be ready to grab those opportunities once they arise. One way of doing this is to operate the adequate equipment on intra-African routes. Traffic statistics clearly show that most of these flights are operated with less than 100 passengers on board and limited cargo loads, however, both significantly high yielding.” 

Ali Tounsi
Ali Tounsi

Q: Another hotly debated aspect at the AFRAA meeting were adequate steps to end the constant decline of African aviation in global air traffic, which currently stands at only three percent.
A: Secretary General Ali Tounsi of the Airport Council International (ACI) delivers these critical impressions:
“The main disadvantage of African aviation is the lack of knowledge. To not only understand but successfully run this specific business you need expertise which many people running airlines and airports unfortunately don't have in the way needed. This leads to a lack of security and safety that often don't comply with international standards, poor service quality and alike deficiencies, including missing out market opportunities.
Further, there is a lack of resources in combination with poor infrastructure. So this resembles a chicken-egg situation: No resources, no traffic, no traffic, no resources.
Another evil hindering African aviation to move forward is protectionism. In Brazzaville every speaker mentioned the necessity of continental cooperation, condemning policies to protect national carriers. However, when the industry leaders come back home they refuse supporting bills for liberalising African Aviation.
To put it in a nutshell, Brazza produced a lot of sweet talk, including the constant praising of the liberalization steps taken by the USA and the Europeans. To me, this is a copy and paste attitude since U.S. or EU concepts are not fully applicable to Africa. What we need are genuine African open skies solutions not copies of concepts that have been implemented outside our continent.”

Comments compiled by Heiner Siegmund

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