The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) 50th Annual General Assembly (AGM) in Rabat Morocco hailed as significant the progress realized in safety with zero fatal accidents and hull losses for two consecutive years.
In his state of the industry remarks, AFRAA Secretary General Abdulrahmane Berthe attributed the achievement to joint efforts by various stakeholders but cautioned against complacency, calling for re-enhancement of the efforts to realize a much stronger African aviation industry in line with the AGM theme “Strengthening African aviation in a liberalized environment”
He said only 27% of the 195 international airports in Africa were certified according to the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) requirements.
Mr Berthe who was presiding over his first AGM after taking over at the helm last year said Africa required more pilots, engineers and cabin crew for its future aviation growth. “Industry forecast in has it that Africa will need 22,000 pilots, 24,000 engineers and 27,000 cabin crew in the next 20 years,” he said..
Kenya Airways was cited among African carriers that in 2017 flew more than 9 billion passenger kilometers. It was noted that African aviation improved profitability, albeit with a net after tax loss of US$100 million (KSh10 billion).
Mr Berthe said Africa’s traffic share in 2017 was 2.2% of the global market. “Growth rates were 7.3% for the Revenue Passenger Kilometre (RPK) and 22.9% for the FMTK Freight and Mail Tons Kilometre (FMTK).
He said the passenger load factor for African airlines slightly improved from 68.8 per cent in 2016 to 70.4% in 2017.
Mr Berthe described the Single African Transport Market (SAATM) as an idea whose time had come with myriad benefits in tow if effectively implemented and urged states that were yet to join to do so.
He said many African countries still protected their national airlines by traffic rights restrictions in the misguided belief that their carriers were not ready to compete with bigger ones.
“We at AFRAA strongly believe that small and large airlines should cooperate in a liberalized market in order to create a better connectivity through hub and spoke models,” said Mr Berthe.
He cautioned that new business models such as low cost carriers beneficial to the industry cannot emerge in restricted environments. He put the Low-Cost Carriers market share in Africa at 8.7% compared to 21.1% in the global industry.
Mr Berthe said the prosperity of African Aviation behoved the African Union and the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) as the Executing Agencies to ensure that legal frameworks were effective to allow for fair competition to avert the distrust among some Airlines and operators.
He said the high potential of cargo business should not be left behind in the process of market access liberalisation in Africa.
The Secretary General decried high costs in African aviation largely due to taxes and charges at African airports that are among the highest in the world.
He urged African governments to stop treating air transport as a preserve of the rich and a cash cow because high cost operating environment puts African airlines at a huge competitive disadvantage.
.Mr Berthe said taxes, airport fees and other charges should be levied in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), International Air Transport Association ( IATA) principles and recommendations. He said AFRAA was working to reduce the high cost of aviation operations in Africa.
He called on the African Union Commission to engage governments increasing airline woes with blocked funds in their jurisdiction and cited Sudan, Zimbabwe and An encouraging note, Mr Berthe noted that growth rates of African populations (26.6%) by 2050 and economies augur well for the industry.