IATA's World Air Transport Summit in Cape Town, South Africa kicked-off with strong calls for African governments to take full advantage of aviation as a catalyst for growth and development.
“Nowhere is the potential for aviation greater than on the African continent,” said Tony Tyler, IATAs director general and CEO. “This is the home to a billion people spread across 20% of the world’s land mass. Economic reforms and political stability have spurred growth and development. South Africa is the newest member of the BRICS grouping of states. And the 50th anniversary of the African Union reminds us of its vision for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.
“Aviation is well placed to contribute to these and the other long-term goals so vital to the development of Africa,” he said.
Formal addresses from the VIP guests including South Africa’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and the minister for public Malusi Gigaba echoed calls for African governments to shake off the shackles of colonialism and invest in transport infrastructure to enable intra-African trade and moverment.
This message was reinforced by Tyler.
“Global connectivity enabled by aviation has a very powerful role to play both in integrating the 54 national economies of Africa and in connecting them to the world,” he said. “With a few kilometres of tarmac, even the most remote destination becomes a part of the global community. But this will require the commitment of governments to solve some major issues.”
Safety is the biggest challenge facing African aviation.
“IATA’s 20 Sub-Saharan members are performing in line with the global average on safety as are the 24 Sub-Saharan airlines that have met the 900+ standards of the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA),” he said. “But if we look at the entire African industry, safety remains a challenge with an overall accident rate many times the global average. This AGM is an opportunity to send a clear signal to the region’s governments that world class safety is possible in Africa and that we support their commitment to achieving it by 2015.”
Other key issues in Africa include the high cost operating environment which places the continent’s airlines at a competitive disadvantage. Fuel costs for example are 21% more expensive in Africa than the global average, Tyler said.
“Government policies towards aviation in Africa tend to see it as an “elite” product, rather than as a critical component of the continent’s economic infrastructure. As a result, it is heavily taxed - often in violation of International Civil Aviation Organization principles that prohibit the taxation of jet fuel for international operations. Moreover, despite high infrastructure charges, the failure to invest in fuel supply infrastructure has resulted in frequent supply disruptions that cripple the operations,” Tyler said.
Tyler was also critical of African government’s approach of taxation saying the continent’s travellers faced the impact of onerous direct taxes on tickets. “Solidarity taxes, tourism taxes, VAT, sales taxes and infrastructure levies and taxes all make connectivity more expensive. This limits the power of aviation to drive economic growth, which would be a much greater source of revenue for governments,” Tyler said.
"Aviation already has a significant footprint in Africa supporting $67 billion in economic activity annually and 6.7 million jobs", Tyler said.
PICTURED: South Africa’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe