The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is launching its “Focus Africa” initiative to expand the aviation industry’s contribution to socio-economic development on the continent.
Focus Africa will bring together public and private stakeholders to improve connectivity, safety, and reliability for African passengers. Aviation is critical in connecting people and services and can significantly boost a region’s economic activity.
Africa is a vast territory, home to about 1.4 billion people, nearly 20% of the world’s population. However, its contribution to world air travel is very minimal, contributing about 2.1% of global passengers. IATA plans to leverage the continent’s vastness to enhance connectivity, job opportunities, and growth offered by aviation.
Challenges faced in Africa
Africa’s aviation sector is heavily underserved, lagging in development and economic activity. Slow adoption of global standards, high operating costs, lack of connectivity, regulatory restrictions, and shortage of skills all contribute to the underdevelopment of aviation around the continent.
Photo: Andrzej Lisowski Travel/Shutterstock
All these factors affect the passenger experience and the viability and sustainability of African airlines. The continent’s carriers suffered cumulative losses of $3.5 billion between 2020 and 2022, and IATA predicts further losses of up to $213 million this year. IATA Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East said in a media briefing:
“Many airports in Africa have systems and processes which do not offer a good passenger experience. Another shortcoming that we’ve noticed is Africa as a continent also has the slowest adoption of passenger Data API programs, with only a handful of governments that have implemented passenger data programs. When implemented using industry guidance and best practices, they can strengthen first of all borders, of course, but also support airports and governments to move towards advanced processing capabilities.”
Utilizing opportunities in Africa
Sustainable intra-Africa and global connectivity are critical for bringing people together and creating investment opportunities. These align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) for Africa of lifting 50 million people out of poverty by 2030.
Africa has a solid foundation to promote aviation’s contribution towards its development. Trade and tourism rely on aviation to create jobs, reduce poverty, and boost economic activity. Pre-COVID aviation supported 7.7 million jobs and $63 billion in economic activity around the continent. IATA projects demand to triple over the next twenty years.
Many of the challenges faced in Africa are uniquely African and require African solutions. Through strategic planning and outstanding leadership, many of these problems can be solved in a heartbeat. RwandAir CEO Yvonne Manzi Makolo is the new Chair of the IATA Board of Governors (2023-2024), making her the first African and female to hold this position.
Looking at RwandAir’s success, her leadership will promote the association’s focus on Africa and will be an opportunity to solve many challenges faced in the industry. Yvonne Makolo said in the press briefing attended by Simple Flying;
“Africa stands out as the region with the greatest potential and opportunity for aviation. The Focus Africa initiative renews IATA’s commitment to supporting aviation on the continent. As the incoming Chair of the IATA Board of Governors, and the first from Africa since 1993, I look forward to ensuring that this initiative gets off to a great start and delivers benefits that are measurable.”
Six critical areas
Focus Africa is not just an initiative invented by IATA and being prescribed for Africa, it is being defined through extensive consultation and by the key policies that characterize the industry. Innovation is critical for African aviation and by overcoming challenges, airlines will be able to accelerate their growth.
The challenges being faced in the industry can be fixed and put it on a path of fast recovery. Traffic in Africa is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years. IATA Director General Willie Walsh said;
“The limiting factors on Africa’s aviation sector are fixable. The potential for growth is clear. And the economic boost that a more successful African aviation sector will deliver has been witnessed in many economies already. With Focus Africa, stakeholders are uniting to deliver on six critical focus areas that will make a positive difference. We’ll measure success and will need to hold each other accountable for the results.”
The regulatory authority will focus on these six critical areas:
- Improvement of operational safety through critical analysis and collaborations to reduce accidents in the aviation sector.
- The development of effective, efficient and transparent aviation infrastructure to enhance the customer experience.
- The promotion of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) to enhance inta-Africa air travel.
- Implementation of secure and transparent monetary services.
- Assisting Africa in achieving the industry’s goals of net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
- Promotion of aviation careers and assuring that skills remain and are used in Africa.
The opportunity for development is present, and it starts with addressing these ideas. According to IATA, the aviation market is recovering faster than the industry at large. Instead of focussing on the industry’s underdevelopment, the board suggests that it is time to act and accelerate economic growth.
The right time for action
Africa continues on the path to recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Air cargo is 31.4% over 2019 levels and air travel is 93% of pre-pandemic levels. A good example is the Tanzanian aviation sector which edged very close to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.
Full recovery is expected in 2024, so this is the right time for action. A key strategy to further develop African aviation is to have partnerships. Through partnerships, stakeholders will effectively pool their resources, research, expertise, time and funds to support the common goals of the six critical areas.
The partners will be announced at the official Focus Africa launch in Addis Ababa on 20-21 June. IATA Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East Kamil Al Awadhi concluded;
“The tasks for Focus Africa are not new. Work is already underway as part of the work of IATA and other stakeholders in Africa. But after the financial trauma that the pandemic brought to African aviation, we are at a unique time of rebuilding. By launching Focus Africa now, we can ensure that the recovery from COVID-19 moves aviation to an even better place than we were in 2019.”Source : Simpleflying