African airlines chart path to success at industry forum

African airlines have been asked to forge strong partnerships if they hope to survive the stiff competition from bigger, richer international carriers.

Algeria’s Minister for Transport, Ammar Ghoul, told the just-concluded 46th Annual General Assembly of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) in Algiers that partnerships had the potential to broaden networks. He also urged African countries to support their national carriers’ strategic development plans.

AFRAA President Mohamed Salah Boultif, who is also Air Algerie’s chief executive, expressed confidence that African airlines would further strengthen intra-African connectivity to ease movement across the continent.

 Operating costs

He said African nations had no option but to accelerate the pace of the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision, named for the Ivorian city where aviation chiefs reached an agreement to deregulate air services and open regional air markets to transnational competition. This is expected to lower ticket prices and increase air traffic.

Mr Boultif also urged governments to contribute to aviation infrastructure development and lower airlines’ operating costs by reducing taxes, charges and fees payable on passengers, fuel and other services to levels closer to world averages.

AFRAA Secretary General Elijah Chingosho added that African aviation faces numerous challenges — such as high industry costs, inadequate infrastructure and high taxes — that are curtailing its potential to drive growth and development.

 Untapped potential

He asked aviation leaders to ensure the realisation of the African Union Agenda 2063 for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa that is driven by its own citizens, with safe, viable and efficient air transport.

“Connecting Africa through aviation is particularly critical to inter-African integration, trade tourism, economic growth and development,” Dr Chingosho said, adding that the airline sector is an important creator of jobs.

The three-day assembly that brought together 360 delegates from 46 countries also discussed African aviation’s largely untapped potential to drive growth and development, and the need to recover intercontinental market share. Africa holds 12 per cent of the world’s population, but accounts for less than 1 per cent of the global air service market, according to the World Bank.

Governments were also urged to speed up the process of liberalising air transport markets with a view to expanding air services to the rest of the world.

Further, the conference crowned Ethiopian Airlines the Airline of the Year for outstanding results in 2013, consistent profitability and strategic win-win partnerships with regional airlines.

South African Airways CEO Monwabisi Kalawe was elected chairman of the AFRAA executive committee, with oversight responsibility for the association. Air Burkina CEO Abdehahmane Berthe was elected first vice chairperson, and Tunisair CEO Saloua Sghaier, second vice chairperson.

The 46th assembly settled on ECAir, the Republic of Congo’s national carrier, to host the 47th annual general assembly in Brazzaville next year.

AFRAA, which has its headquarters in Nairobi, has 33 member airlines, including Kenya Airways. The country’s national carrier last week announced a net loss of Sh10 billion, which it attributed to travel advisories issued by European countries, cancellation of flights on West African routes hit by Ebola and high fleet costs.

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