PUSHING THE SINGLE AFRICAN SKY VISION

interrMr. Mohamed Moussa, DG, ASECNA, here details his passion to achieve the Single African Sky concept, while driving infrastructure upgrade and proper funding for air traffic management systems among Africa's air navigation service providers (ANSPs). He takes a strong position on liberalization in Africa and improved ANSPs' support, while hinting on Africa's relationship with future ATM programmes like the EU SESAR and the US NextGen, among others.

Mr. Mohamed Moussa, Director General, ASECNA

 

Excerpts:

 

Q:Congratulations on your new role as the Director General of ASECNA. How would you describe your first few months in this office?

A: I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to address your readers, but beyond your readers, to address Africans, and to share with them my vision for ASECNA, my vision to build an African Single Sky.

 

As you are aware, in 2016, the Committee of Ministers of the 18 State Members of ASECNA gave approval to the program that I had presented to expand ASECNA's leadership in the field of air navigation on the continent and the world. Following my appointment by the Board of Directors, I was installed as Director General on January 3, 2017. It has been a little more than five months since I have been leading this prestigious institution responsible for the provision of air navigation services in an airspace of more than 16 million square kilometres, that is one and a half times the size of Europe.

 

I devoted the first months of my governance to a repositioning of our institution in order to renew the motivation and commitment of the whole staff around my vision based on the triptych "Dialogue, efficiency and performance". In this regard, we have carried out an inventory of the Agency, a new organization has been set up, the entire management team has been appointed and we have shared our vision with that management team and the social partners. The extraordinary board of directors on March 16, 2017 decided the main thrust of my mandate and handed me the letter of mission signed by the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers on behalf of his peers.

So, it has been months of hard work, and the machinery is launched.

Q: You speak passionately on the harmonization of the air navigation frameworks in Africa possibly under a single ANSP. How can this be achieved in Africa, especially given the example of ASECNA which already provides ATM for 18 African States?

A: When I speak of the Single African Sky, it is neither less nor more than harmonization: harmonization of working procedures, harmonization of regulations. To this must be added a key aspect, that is interoperability of air traffic management (ATM) system, communication, navigation and surveillance (CNS) systems. This is the aim of ICAO through the Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP) and the Aviation System Bloc Upgrade (ASBU) methodology.

Quote 1I must confess that forming a single air navigation service provider for the African continent is something quite complex that cannot be achieved in the short-term. The most important is to create a framework for cooperation between African service providers to ensure harmonization, ensure interoperability, optimize our resources in terms of investment.

The confidence that will be strengthened through this cooperation, with the necessary political will at the highest level of our States, will help to regroup, for larger service providers to be able to face the challenges of the modernization of infrastructure for the safety of air navigation. ASECNA is a model and it is first and foremost the political will and commitment of the Heads of State concerned to build a solidarity-based institution.

The African peer review mechanism launched by Dr. Bernard Aliu, the President of ICAO Council, for safety and quality insurance is a very important milestone.

I am convinced that the African Union, which is also interested in the civil aviation sector, thanks to a greater dynamism of the AFCAC its technical body in this field and ICAO, will have to play an important role in the process of constructing this African Single Sky. That's why in the organizational chart I set up, I created an ASECNA delegate to the African Union, in order to make our model more widely known and promoted across the continent.

Q: How do you plan to address the challenge of shortage of qualified ATM professionals given the projected increase in Africa's air traffic by 5% over the next two decades?

A: Addressing issues challenging the availability of human resources in terms of number and quality is the key to the sustainability of any system, particularly in the field of air navigation safety, because it is the life of many passengers that we should preserve. To meet this challenge, there is no alternative but to create good governance conditions in our air traffic management organizations that must be attractive and focus on the training of young people who are the future. ASECNA has three specialized training schools, all of which are part of the ICAO Trainair Plus program. And I intend to reinforce this acquis in order to become schools of excellence.

We will also need to strengthen our cooperation in training to pool our resources. It is thequote 2 interest of the Association of African Training Organizations (AATO) in the field of civil aviation that ASECNA has the honour and pleasure of leading for some years now.

I should also point out that, conscious of the challenge of having qualified human resources, ICAO has set up a Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), of which all the ASECNA member States are donors, thanks to the mechanism of solidarity, and therefore can benefit from it.

Q: African Heads of State and Government are pushing for the achievement of Single African Air Transport Market in July, 2017. Do you think this date is realistic, and how ready is ASECNA for the keenly awaited liberalization in Africa?

A: I have no reason to doubt that this objective is achievable. The issue of liberalization is political will, and once the Heads of State and Government are committed, it is clear that the political will is there. I should also recall that this process has been launched since 1989, so there is already nearly thirty years, with the declaration of Yamoussoukro which became Decision of Yamoussoukro. It should also be noted that over the past two years the process has experienced an acceleration with the ratification of this Decision by a number of states.

As far as ASECNA is concerned, the consequence of the liberalization of air transport is a predictable increase in air traffic that our control centers have to take over. And we are ready to face this responsibility in the best possible safety conditions. Indeed, in recent years, we have invested to improve our CNS and ATM systems, specifically the implementation of surveillance radar, high-performance means of communication based on satellite technology; and also in the training of qualified staff.

We have implemented a safety management system (SMS) that will enhance the performance. This investment program will continue under my mandate with the ambition to cover all our airspace by modern means of surveillance of traffic - terrestrial and space Based ADS B - and communication. We are also engaged in an SBAS-type satellite navigation program to provide more secure approach and landing systems at airports. All this will increase the capacity of our airspace and enhance the performance of our air traffic management system.

Q: Would you say African governments have responded adequately to ATM infrastructure improvement in Africa given the importance of air transport to the achievement of economic transformation of Africa?

A: African Governments are facing several challenges particularly to meet the population's basic social needs. I will mention access to basic infrastructure for health, education, drinking water, electricity. These are the high priority concerns for African governments. Nevertheless, we can see that some States are making effort to invest in the development and modernization of Air Transport and ATM infrastructure, generally through private-public partnership. This is encouraging. But as far as ATM infrastructure is concerned, some efforts need to be made and that could be achieved through cooperation between ANSPs.

Q: There are complaints about the charges on African airlines by service providers including airports and ANSPs in Africa. How would you respond to that?

A: It is true that there are complaints about the level of fees and other taxes borne by airlines in Africa. Not only that, passengers suffer directly through taxes on the tickets they buy, including a portion related to a fuel surcharge tax levied by the airlines themselves. This is partly related to the size of the air transport business in Africa, which represents 3% of the world's traffic that does not reach a critical mass, whereas operators must invest to achieve international standards. You will easily understand that this could represent a significant burden.

quote 3As far as ASECNA is concerned, especially for en route charges, we have done comparative studies with other air navigation service providers and we are not the most expensive. I would like to tell you that ASECNA has frozen en route charges rate for over 11 years despite inflation, and during the same period ASECNA has made huge investments to improve the quality of service. Normally, we could have raised these charges rates to recover the cost of the service; this is the basic principle of the public service that we provide. It was not until July 2016 that the Committee of Ministers of the Member States of ASECNA carried out a 3% revaluation of the rate of route charges, following consultations between the Directorate General and the Airlines, represented by IATA. So, I think all this has to be put into perspective, and airlines understand clearly the need for service providers to invest in improving the quality of their services, of course without affecting them, for a harmonious development of air transport.

Q: There are global efforts to achieve seamless interoperability of ATM facilities and operation under the future ATM systems such as the US NextGen and EU SESAR ATM programmes. What is Africa's response so far to key into these future ATM trends?

A: Yes, you're right. The International Aviation community has committed to achieve a global seamless interoperability of ATM facilities and operations. Indeed that was the result of some initiative taken in Europe and US through the SESAR and NexGen programmes in those continents. The ICAO ASBU concept that I raised at the beginning of my statement is a junction of the different regional or continental initiatives for harmonization and interoperability. And the entire aviation community has adopted in the Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP) that methodology to achieve what we call the Single Sky.

In the early 2000s, ASECNA had taken some initiative with its fellow African ANSPs that led to Cotonou Declaration 26 November 2010 to promote cooperation, interoperability of systems and harmonization and build the African Single Sky. Earlier, the Minsters in charge of Civil Aviation of ASECNA member States made a political Declaration on 12 January 2010 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, for the promotion of the Single Sky Concept for Africa.

We need to reinforce cooperation between African ANSPs and as I was saying previously the peer review mechanism launched in 2015 is a good initiative. We have to set up a roadmap for the development and interoperability of ATM infrastructures in Africa. We are not going to reinvent the wheel, we have the framework available that is the ICAO ABBU methodology and the linked modules.

In December 2015, the APIRG 20 adopted at the regional level i.e. Africa an Indian Ocean, the key performance indicators (KPIs) for ANSPs in Africa. We have just had a meeting in Freetown on 3rd-5th May where we have agreed on the need to conduct a gap analysis survey in term of ATM infrastructures under the auspices of ICAO. This will certainly lead to the continent level a plan to reduce deficiencies and to seek funding.

It is not easy because you have to build confidence and remove barriers, knowing that article 1 of Chicago Convention is dedicated to the sovereignty right of Contracting States in the Airspace above their territories. And in that framework Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (CGAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), ROBERTS FIR, and ASECNA are on the way to conclude Memorandum of cooperation for interoperability and creating a seamless airspace in the Gulf of Guinea. So I would say that we are a bit slow but we are on the track.

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