Aviation has grown to become one of the most important sectors worldwide. It is also in the international spotlight as it provides enormous benefits to the world community and it is fast becoming an indispensable part of daily life. As such, Africa cannot afford to be left behind.
The prospect of air transport in Africa is very bright as air traffic is expected to double by 2030. The African sky is increasingly being used by major airlines with latest-generation aircraft that require suitable infrastructure. In addition, African airlines are also showing development ambitions and have begun to renew their fleet with the acquisition of newer and larger aircraft in anticipation of the expected growth.
To this end, the African Union (AU) entrusted the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) with the responsibility of the Executing Agency of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) and charged it to supervise and manage the liberalization of African air transport, including the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM). YD is the most important air transport reform policy initiative in Africa and provides for the liberalization of scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services within Africa. Thus, the YD aims at removing restrictions on traffic rights, capacity and frequency between African city pairs.
With the resurgence of positive interest in the establishment of a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) through the full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD), African States are now more than ever before, ready to foster the sustainable development of air transport with its catalytic roles to connect African States to regional and global markets.
This will no doubt enhance the expeditious movement of people, goods and other vital tourism and business development activities. Already, the major stakeholders are intensifying efforts to foster dialogue not only to identify, but to implement practical strategies and concrete actions that will boost the development of air links, tourism, trade and investment across the continent especially through improvements in the regulatory framework, infrastructure investment, airline ownership as well as operational incentives for airlines in order to create a competitive environment for aviation business to thrive on the continent.
Thus, there is the need for Africa’s civil aviation infrastructure to be as efficient, effective and sustainable as their counterparts in terms of reliability and versatility of their operations. In this regard, AFCAC will continue to urge all African States to utilize the African Civil Aviation Policy (AFCAP) as it supports safe, functional, cost effective and user-friendly airports in terms of airport planning, infrastructure development and maintenance.
AFCAP is a common policy, which provides a framework and platform for the formulation, collaboration and integration of national and multinational initiatives/programmes in various aspects of civil aviation including safety, security, environmental protection and sustainable development of air transport in Africa.
AFCAP has the approval of the AU Heads of State and Government. The policy enlists and consolidates the political commitment of African States to work together through an agreed framework with the purpose of positioning Africa's air transport in the global economy. It provides appropriate empowerment of national and regional technical bodies to enable them carry out their responsibilities effectively and it also encourages Public/Private participation in the development and maintenance of airports which should be privatized, autonomous, competitive and highly commercialized airport systems.
Furthermore, within the air transport value chain, there is room for further improvement through innovation and collaboration among all stakeholders for improved efficiency and effectiveness in the industry as well as for the purposes of both prosperity and security, resulting in a common goal of a safe, secure, reliable, economical and efficient air transport.
In the area of safety, it is noteworthy that safety standards in Africa have improved tremendously. AFCAC in collaboration with other stakeholders have continued to promote the development of programmes, projects and initiatives which are assisting States to implement safety targets especially through education and training. These have significantly enhanced the human resource capacity building in Africa leading to the delivery of satisfactory safety and security standards in the region.
These efforts have also led to the progressive increase in the level of Effective Implementation (EI) of the critical elements of Safety during the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP) resulting in an increase in the number of member States with EIs of 60% or greater.
So far, many of international airports within AFI Region have been certified as of September, 2017 and the remaining international airports are in the process of certification. Also, 20 airlines have undergone IOSA training through an IATA sponsored initiative while 7 airlines have been added to the IOSA Registry as of the same time above.
In the area of aviation security, AFCAC’s activities focus on the enhancement of a strong and sustainable Aviation Security System in Africa in close cooperation and collaboration with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the African Union Commission (AUC) through assistance to member States in addressing security related deficiencies and findings observed following the ICAO Universal Security Audit (USAP-CMA).
AFCAC with the AUC and ICAO have assisted African Ministers responsible for air transport to set targets which should improve their States’ implementation of the critical elements of security and facilitation and right now, AFCAC is engaged in expediting the endorsement of the Ministerial Declaration and Targets on Security and Facilitation by the AU Summit of Heads of State and Government.
Another area very dear to AFCAC is the promotion of women and youth in aviation in Africa. The under-representation of women in aviation is not simply a concern for gender equality in the workforce and women’s rights, rather, the low number of employed women directly contribute to the general shortfall of skilled manpower in the aviation industry.
If the industry is to meet the projected level of skilled manpower requirements for the projected industry growth, then the recruitment of and retention of women and youth will be vital to satisfy demand. This is why has consistently focused on and promoted the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) which was initiated through a Declaration by the African Ministers at the Third Session of the Conference of African Ministers of Transport, held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea from 7 to 11 April 2014. The objective of HRDF is to provide a mechanism which will allow for the collection and use of voluntary contributions from States and other Donors and identify and develop opportunities for capacity-building in civil aviation in African States.
All these milestones are significant and they remain crucial to the realization of the Single African Air Transport Market in Africa and integration of the African continent in line with the AU Agenda 2063. Therefore, it is important for aviation stakeholders in Africa including the airlines and those in the aviation value chain to sustain mutual cooperation and collaboration for the purpose of sharing resources, acquiring mutual support and achieving cooperative development in order to help address areas of deficiencies, harness opportunities in the aviation arena and build on our many common aviation interests.