AFRICA DRAWS CLOSE TO FREEDOM …As ICAO, ECOWAS, CAAs Push For Sustainable Air Transport Development In Africa

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L-R: Mr. John Tambi, Senior Transport Advisor to CEO/PICI Coord. , NEPAD; Dr. Benard Aliu, President, ICAO Council; Hon, Cecilia Dapaah, Min. of Aviation, Ghana; Mr. Simon Allotey, DG, Ghana CAA; Ms Iyabo Sosina, AFCAC Sec. Gen.; Mr. James Andrianalisoa, DG, Madagascar CAA; Ms Mercy Awori, Leader of African Delegation, Permanent Rep. of Kenya and East Africa at ICAO; and Mr. Mam Sait Jallow, Regional Director of ICAO WACAF at the conference

Getting Realistic

New initiatives to fast-track the improvement of air transport system in Africa spearheaded by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs) in Africa, regional economic as well as aviation institutions, now show stronger promise of achieving Africa's age-long objective of having a sustainable air transport industry on the continent.

The Second ICAO Meeting on Sustainable Air Transport Development in Africa held in the fast-rising city of Accra, Ghana, from March 28-31, 2017, provides greater hope for the achievement of easier market access for African airlines, and freedom of movement for people and goods within the continent through the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) in the shorter-term. 20 States have so far signed the Solemn Commitment to implement the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) by July 2017, and the Meeting in Accra specifically calls on African States to "commit to implement by July 2017 the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), aiming at enhancing air connectivity through implementation of the YD," as an urgent priority.

The industry has grown more passionate about realizing the benefits which a developed and sustainable air transport system can provide to Africa, as the continent strives to develop its economies for the long-term under the African Union's Agenda 2063 vision.

The Second Meeting on Sustainable Development of Air Transport in Africa aims at strengthening the achievement of the resolutions of the First ICAO Meeting of Sustainable Air Transport Development in Africa held in Antananarivo, Madagascar, in 2015, and more.  For continued effectiveness, the Third Meeting in this series is expected to convene in 2019, before which a number of very important deliverables identified in Accra are expected to have been accomplished by States.

Key areas of action as identified in Accra include support to infrastructure development initiatives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), consumer protection, signing of the Cape Town Convention and Montreal Convention of 1999 by more African States, and adoption of the African Civil Aviation Policy (AFCAP) taking guideline and support from ICAO. Other serious issues border on implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area by States in 2017, facilitation of tourism and boosting of air cargo by addressing issues identified in the Lome Declaration of the Sustainable Development of Air Cargo in Africa of 2014, among others.

ICAO Council President, Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, says "In order for air transport to play its role as an engine of economic growth in this region, States should liberalize market access in accordance with the Yamoussoukro Decision and in line with the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063." He reiterates "ICAO's commitment to support the development of civil aviation on the West African region in consonance with our no Country Left Behind initiative."

Sustainable African Airlines A Desideratum For Liberalization

The Meeting in Accra recognized not just that the outcomes of the Antananarivo Declaration have not been fulfilled yet; it however, identified the crucial need to create conducive operating environment for African airlines which are the primary role players in the entire air transport value chain, and for which other players including regulators, airports, passengers and service providers exist.

ikao3Because of the asphyxiating operating environment these airlines operate in, African airlines are endangered species, remarks Capt. Edward Boyo, CEO of Overland Airways, Nigeria's longest-serving and most consistent airline that has provided uninterrupted air services over the last 15 years, and renowned for integrating secondary and hub economies in Nigeria.

Overland Airways, which is IOSA-Registered and IATA Member, now poised to extend its services to drive regional integration in West Africa, is among West Africa's promising airlines that have survived on its excellent management in the face of Africa's stifling operating environment described as easily the worst globally. According to Capt. Boyo, without urgently addressing the issues of unbearable taxes, more airlines big or small will continue to disappear in Africa, just like the Air Afrique, Nigeria Airways, Ghana Airways, etc.

Capt. Samuel Thompson, Chief Operating Officer of Africa World Airlines (AWA), also speaks strongly on the need for increased market access for African airlines, calling for the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

The Meeting in Accra therefore emphasizes the crucial point that plans on liberalization in Africa must be matched with strategies to support African airlines to be able to optimize the benefits of liberalization to African economies and people. "Without African airlines, liberalization in Africa would be incomplete or meaningless," notes a participant. African States are therefore expected to enshrine the support of African airlines into their aviation development agendas to recognize it as a priority.

Aviation Yet To Be Demystified For Government

Another interesting issue identified in Accra is the worrisome neglect of aviation in terms of projects that facilitate integration of Africa especially at the level of the African Union's New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). Dr. John Tambi, Senior Transport Advisor to the CEO & Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative (PICI) Coordinator, New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), explains that the NEPAD Agency is also the implementation Agency for the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) from 2012 to 2040.

He reveals that "in the PIDA PAP for 2012 to 2020 with a price tag of US$68 Billion, there are 24 Transport projects and only 4 of them are aviation projects," noting that "the Aviation sub-sector has been neglected for a very long time, and the 4 projects out of 24 Transport projects, is a reflection and testimony to this neglect." Mr. Tambi, puts this neglect of aviation down to "the complexities, regulatory and technical nature of this sub-sector."

Many, however, believe the renewed commitment of African States to achieve the Singleikao2 African Air Transport Market (SAATM) by July 2017 indicates that governments in Africa are fast realizing the benefits of air transport to the development of Africa's economy and the achievement of the AU Agenda 2063. So far, 20 States have signed the Solemn Declaration to implement the SAATM in 2017.

This does not, however, foreclose the importance of the industry engaging in strategic advocacy through high-level representations to explain to AU governments the essence of committing resources to Africa's air transport development, and of course creating conducive operating environments for African airlines to survive.

Hon. Cecilia Abena Dapaah, the Aviation Minister of Ghana, re-emphasizes Ghana's commitment to opening up market access in line with the spirit of the YD and Liberalization of air Transport in Africa, citing the upgrade of Ghana's airports. "We are also ready to assist or support other sister countries in whatever way to ensure that our dream of a vibrant and solid aviation industry is developed on the continent," she adds. Other key steps taken by Ghana, according to the Minister is "the scrapping of the 17.5% VAT on domestic flights, and the re-introduction of a national carrier, in collaboration with the Private Sector."

Towards the achievement of full integration in Africa, States like Rwanda, Mauritius, Ghana, Togo, etc. are lauded for creating ease of movement for Africans and connectivity for African airlines. Nigeria and Ghana have commendably provided for visa on arrival at their airports. However, there is pressure for African States to reduce visa fees; which for Ghana is $150 as compared to Rwanda's $30 visa fee, in order to attract more visitors and stimulate economic activities.

ANSPs Infrastructure

Efficient, harmonized and interoperable air traffic management system is essential for successful implementation of the YD or the SAATM in Africa. Mr. Mohammed Moussa, Director General of ASECNA, emphasizes the need for building up infrastructure and seeking private and public collaboration in this regard. He calls for cooperation among African ANSPs as seen in collaboration between ASECNA and ATNS South Africa. He speaks passionately on the need to achieve Single Africa Sky with 54 African States having a harmonized ANSP, following the example of ASECNA which serves 18 African States.

2017 SAATM, Liberalization, YD Timeline

ikao5There are apprehensions that the YD has taken longer than necessary to be implemented. However, Ms. Iyabo Sosina, Secretary General of the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), the Executing Agency of the YD, believes the new quest for YD implementation and pursuit of the Single African Air Transport Market in Africa just began in 2015 with the signing of the Solemn Declaration on the SAATM by AU States now 22 in number. According to her, AFCAC as the Executing Agency (EA) of the YD requires improved resources to strengthen the agency deliver on its mandates on Safety, YD, Training and Security programmes in Africa.

While the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is convinced that African governments would listen to the fervent call for liberalization if they are shown the demonstrable benefits of improved air transport and liberalization, Dr. Samson Fatokun, IATA's Area Manager, South-West Africa, says "Airlines need to be profitable to support connectivity. He underlines the importance of competitiveness in the industry, as well as "regional coalition for connectivity," with AFCAC, ECOWAS, AFRAA and IATA working to achieve success in that regard.

Air Transport and Tourism

costs discourage tourists, while airlines heap costs from the operating environment on the passenger, which in turn reduces tourism visits and economic activities that emanate from such visits. Part of such costs comes from aeronautical charges, visa fees, taxes, duties and sundry fees.

2017-2019

ICAO should work with States in all areas covered by the Antananarivo Declaration, by sharing data, best practices and information, and actively raising awareness of decision-makers on the positive impact of air transport on Africa's economic development.ikao4

In the run up to the 3rd ICAO Meeting on Sustainable Air Transport Development in 2019, key actions need be taken to move Africa to the freedom of movement, connectivity and development it deserves. While the meeting in Accra raised important questions as to why previous declarations, decisions and resolutions are not implemented in Africa, it raises new consciousness on core areas to be strengthened alongside the pursuit of SAATM and liberalization in Africa, which centre basically on governments creating the conducive operating environment in order for airlines to optimize the benefits in the operating environment in Africa.

And the industry is watching to see these support and changes unfold in reality over the next two years.

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