The African Development Bank assembled top representatives from African airlines, aviation industry organizations, civil aviation and regulatory authorities, airplane manufacturers, financiers and development partners to discuss the future of aviation in Africa.
The Bank initiated the consultation to obtain the views of stakeholders as it prepares its action plan on aviation on the heels of the launch by the African Union of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative in January.
Alongside the main conference, two events took place, which were led by African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy Amani Abou-Zeid and Symerre Grey Johnson, Head of Regional Integration Infrastructure and Trade for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The meetings captured the conference outcomes in a coordinated roadmap for SAATM implementation in Africa.
“We are keen to support practical efforts by countries, regional organizations and companies from the aviation sector to increase connectivity and reduce and open up the African skies,” Pierre Guislain, the Bank’s Vice-President, Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, said in his opening remarks.
The central aspect of SAATM is to allow member airlines to fly to airports in other member countries to achieve ‘open skies’ in Africa, thereby boosting traffic and trade and achieving double-digit growth in the industry by 2023 in line with the SAATM initiative.
Much of the discussion at the conference revolved around the practical measures needed to achieve these goals and remove persistent challenges facing the industry, including high fares, fees and charges, poor infrastructure and expensive access to finance. Air fares in Africa are two or three times those in other parts of the world for comparable distances.
Numerous suggestions on policy and solutions emerged at the two-day event including a strong recommendation for a regional approach to accelerate aviation safety and security plans, and the extension of capacity building training to all aviation technical and executive staff.
Delegates called for a greater focus on fleet size, prioritizing narrow body and regional aircrafts in aviation financing. They also called for increased government commitment, and an alignment of national frameworks to international conventions. The meeting urged governments to adopt a more collaborative decision-making approach, with consultations at regional levels, for construction of both airport and air navigation services infrastructure.
Delegates frequently referred to a 2014 InterVISTAS study, commissioned by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which modeled the impact of an open skies agreement among 12 African countries. Passenger traffic in those countries was projected to increase by more than 80% to 11 million passenger movements from 6.1 million. The economic effect of open skies was even more impressive. The study estimated that GDP would grow by US $1.3 billion with the creation of 155,000 jobs.
The Director of the African Development Bank’s Infrastructure and Urban Development Department, Amadou Oumarou, said, “We are going to prepare an action plan, not just for the Bank but for all stakeholders. When that has been done, we shall devise the Bank’s aviation strategy framework.”
The African Development Bank has invested close to US $1 billion over the past decade in the construction and expansion of airport terminals, as well as aviation safety and aircraft financing.