The International Air Transport Association (IATA) renewed its call for African governments to focus on adoption and adherence to global standards to assure a safe, efficient and integrated air transport system. Connectivity is critical for African growth and development, supporting some 6.7 million jobs and $68 billion in economic activity. Aviation’s economic and social benefits, however, can be undermined by the unintended consequences of government action which are not aligned with the established framework of global standards.
“Global standards are the foundation upon which a safe, secure, and integrated global air transport system are built. The system is so reliable that we don’t often think about the enormous coordination that makes it possible. That is why we need to remind governments of the value of global standards that support aviation and the vibrancy of their economies,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO. The remarks were made in an address to the African Airlines Association’s 45th Annual General Assembly which is being held in Mombasa, Kenya.
Safety is the prime example of what can be achieved with a consistent, global approach. The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) is the global standard for airline operational safety management. Over the decade since it was established, there is a clear trend that the aggregate safety performance of airlines on the registry is superior to those airlines that are not on the registry. African airlines on the IOSA registry are performing in line with global averages. And in 2012 there was not a single Western-built jet hull loss by any of IATA’s 25 African member airlines.
“Improving safety is the biggest issue on the African agenda, and global standards play a crucial role in this area. Last year, nearly half of the fatalities on Western-built jets occurred in Africa. African governments recognized the need to improve safety in the Abuja Declaration’s goal of reaching world-class safety levels by 2015. IATA is actively contributing its expertise and resources to all the Abuja Declaration’s commitments,” said Tyler.
Key elements of the Abuja declaration include the completion of IOSA by all African carriers, the establishment of independent and sufficiently funded civil aviation authorities and the implementation of effective and transparent safety oversight systems. To broaden the base of IOSA carriers (outside of IATA’s membership), IATA is working with the International Airlines Training Fund to provide in-house training for ten African airlines.
“Governments must also up their game with more effective safety oversight. As of the end of 2012 only 11 African states had achieved 60% implementation of ICAO’s safety-related standards and recommended practices (SARPS) according to the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP). There has been some significant progress. But, to be very frank, overall I have not yet seen sufficient urgency in dealing with this fundamental issue. Meeting the Abuja Declaration’s 2015 commitment will require a major acceleration in the pace of implementation,” said Tyler.
Connectivity and Regulation
“The overall profitability of the African industry is hovering around break-even, making $100 million in good years and losing $100 million when times are more difficult. Africa faces many unique challenges, but as Africa’s economy takes-off, breaking even will not be enough to generate the investments needed for African aviation to seize the emerging opportunities and play the important role of stimulating development across the continent.” said Tyler.
To unlock the unique transformative powers a thriving aviation industry can bring to African economies, a better alignment of global standards is needed in the approach of governments to regulation, taxation and the provision of infrastructure. “Today –possibly without realizing it– governments are weakening the integrity of the air transport system by introducing different and sometimes conflicting passenger rights regulations, overly onerous taxes and charges.”
Tyler focused on the need for more robust consultation by governments with industry to avoid unintended consequences of regulations, taxes or charges increases. He noted several areas where government policies breech ICAO principles:
Fuel: The competitiveness of African aviation is being compromised by the exceptionally high price of aviation fuel on the continent. On average jet fuel is about 21% more expensive in Africa than the global average. Kenya and Ethiopia are key players in African aviation and both have onerous levies on international fuel which do not comply with ICAO policies and standards.
Security: In several cases airport security charges recover more from users than is required to keep air transport secure. In Chad, for example, passengers pay $80 round-trip. And similar situations exist in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea. Among the causes is private sector security companies who lobby governments to develop national security regimes with funding from air transport.
Recently, IATA engaged the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority over proposed steep increases in air navigation and safety oversight charges. “By engaging in a dialogue we agreed on a much more reasonable increase that provides value for money. Dialogue is critical to reach mutually beneficial outcomes,” said Tyler.
The future of aviation in Africa has the potential to be very bright. The African population of 1 billion people is spread across a vast continent with a wealth of untapped resources. The African economy is rapidly developing, its people are growing wealthier and governance is more stable. “Africa is the continent of opportunity for aviation. The future is still being created. By keeping global standards at the heart of our efforts, I am convinced that the future will be bright,” said Tyler.
Read Tony Tyler’s full speech
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