FACING UP TO AFRICA'S EMERGING SAFETY CHALLENGES

The AFI Plan is a catalyst to deliver sustainable aviation safety in Africa which has been associated with remarkable results so far. As the continent anticipates remarkable rise in population, air traffic and expanding economies, the AFI Plan becomes even more vital for Africa's future, as Mr. Halidou Moussa, who is the Representative of Niger to ICAO, Chairperson of the AFI Plan Steering Committee, and Air Navigation Commissioner at ICAO, here explains.

 

Q: AFI Plan has been mentioned as a successful Program during the third ICAO World Aviation Forum (IWAF 2017) in Abuja. Can you elaborate a little more about this Program and its major achievements?

A: Considering the significant number of accidents and incidents, lack of effective safety oversight systems, lack of autonomous civil aviation authorities and qualified skilled personnel, etc., the Comprehensive Regional Implementation Plan for Aviation Safety in Africa (AFI Plan) was initiated by ICAO and endorsed by the 36th Session of its Assembly. Subsequently, the Plan was established by the Secretary General on 1 January 2008 to address those deficiencies. Since then, the Plan has been providing assistance to States focusing among others, on the objectives to strengthen civil aviation authorities with respect to their safety oversight capabilities; increase compliance with ICAO SARPs and industry's best practices; and to increase the number of qualified personnel at the industry and oversight levels.

In terms of achievements, the assistance provided through the AFI Plan coupled with efforts made by States to effectively implement the ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) has contributed to a number of African States to register significant improvements in their safety oversight systems as evidenced by the increase in Effective Implementation (EI) of the critical elements. Between July 2012 and November 2017, the number of States throughout the AFI region, with Effective Implementation (EI) of the required 60% and above, increased from 10 to 27 and the number of Significant Safety Concerns (SSCs) also declined from 20 to 2.

 

In addition, in terms of capacity building, more than 2,400 people have attended training sessions, seminars and workshops aiming to increase the qualifications of Aviation Inspectors in Africa. Most important is the reduction of the number of fatal accidents in Africa since 2012 to now. In addition, there were no fatal commercial flight accidents that occurred in Africa in 2013, 2015 and 2016. We strongly wish that this trend be maintained.

Q: What are the key challenges you have encountered in the process of making the AFI Plan work for Africa?

A: The main challenge was the political commitment of States. We all know that we have conflictual priorities in Africa but still aviation safety is paramount. The President of the ICAO Council and the Secretary General of ICAO have played an important role by seizing the opportunities of their high-level missions in Africa or during official audiences to sensitize States on the importance of safety and security in civil aviation. The progress is very successful in some States, but we still have slow progress in others.

The second main challenge is the insufficient number of qualified personnel in many of the Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs). But now there is really an encouraging progress because training is becoming a key in many CAAs. The African experts attend all the activities conducted by AFI Plan and other trainning sessions and various meetings organized by ICAO and our international partners. However, the challenge for the CAAs is how to motivate and retain these qualified and competent experts in their Administration.

 

Q: What is your view on the recent adoption of the Abuja Declaration on the Development of Aviation Infrastructure in Africa and how does the AFI Plan align with it?

A: Civil aviation is a system with many linked components. The Declaration and Plan of Action for Development of Aviation Infrastructure in Africa is the missing one. We already had the Abuja Declaration on Aviation Safety in Africa and safety targets adopted on 20 July2012 at the Ministerial Conference on Aviation Safety in Africa, in Abuja, Nigeria and endorsed at the Twentieth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 28 January 2013. There are two other plans on Security and Facilitation, and a program on Human Resource Development Fund.

 

All these plans and programs aim to develop civil aviation in Africa and improve air transport and connectivity in Africa. Adequate aviation infrastructure, safety, aviation security and facilitation, promotion of tourism, qualified human resources are all interconnected to assure the sound implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) that was adopted at the Twenty-Fourth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 31 January 2015, as a flagship project under the AU Agenda 2063.

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