IATA’s ‘Focus Africa’ to Strengthen African aviation development

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is launching “Focus Africa” to strengthen aviation’s contribution to Africa’s economic and social development and improve connectivity, safety, and reliability for passengers and shippers.

The initiative IATA said will align private and public stakeholders to deliver measurable progress in six areas.

Commenting on the development, the IATA Director General, Willie Walsh declared “Africa accounts for 18 percent of the global population, but just 2.1 percent of air transport activities (combined cargo and passenger). Closing that gap, so that Africa can benefit from the connectivity, jobs, and growth that aviation enables, is what Focus Africa is all about.”

While identifying Infrastructure constraints, high costs, lack of connectivity, regulatory impediments, slow adoption of global standards, and skills shortages as contributory factors to African airlines’ viability and sustainability, the IATA DG cited how the continent’s carriers suffered cumulative losses of $3.5 billion for 2020 with IATA further estimating losses of $213 million in 2023.

He described the idea of sustainably connecting the African continent internally and to global markets with air transport as critical for bringing people together and creating economic and social development opportunities which he said will also support the realization of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) for Africa of lifting 50 million people out of poverty by 2030.

“In particular, trade and tourism rely on aviation and have immense unrealized potential to create jobs, alleviate poverty, and generate prosperity across the continent.

Africa has a solid foundation to support the case for improving aviation’s contribution to its development. Pre-COVID aviation supported 7.7 million jobs and $63 billion in economic activity in Africa. Projections are for demand to triple over the next two decades.”

“Africa stands out as the region with the greatest potential and opportunity for aviation. The Focus Africa initiative renews IATA’s commitment to supporting aviation on the continent. As the incoming Chair of the IATA Board of Governors, and the first from Africa since 1993, I look forward to ensuring that this initiative gets off to a great start and delivers benefits that are measurable,” said Yvonne Makolo, CEO of RwandAir and first female Chair of the IATA Board of Governors (2023-2024)

Speaking on six critical areas, the IATA boss declared “The limiting factors on Africa’s aviation sector are fixable. The potential for growth is clear. And the economic boost that a more successful African aviation sector will deliver has been witnessed in many economies already. With Focus Africa, stakeholders are uniting to deliver on six critical focus areas that will make a positive difference. We’ll measure success and will need to hold each other accountable for the results”.

The six focus areas, which include safety, touched on how to improve operational safety through a data-driven, collaborative program to reduce safety incidents and accidents, in the air and on the ground while infrastructure emphasized the need to facilitate the growth of efficient, secure, and cost-effective aviation infrastructure to improve customer experience and operational efficiency.

Under connectivity, how to promote the liberalization of intra-African market access through the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) and accelerate the implementation of secure, effective, and cost-efficient financial services and adoption of modern retailing standards in line with finance and distribution is also among the six focus areas.

Other areas are sustainability and the need to assist Africa’s air transport industry to achieve the Net Zero by 2050 emissions targets agreed to by industry and the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) member states. The future skills are meant to promote aviation-related career paths and ensure a steady supply of diverse and suitably skilled talent to meet the industry’s future needs.

Under the power of partnerships, IATA Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Kamil Al Awadhi said “Partnerships will differentiate the outcome of Focus Africa from previous efforts to stimulate Africa’s development with air transport.  By partnering, stakeholders will effectively pool their resources, research, expertise, time, and funding to support the common goals of the six work areas”.

The partners will be announced and join forces in Addis Ababa on 20-21 June to officially launch the Focus Africa initiative with more details for each task area.

Source: Nigeria Tribune

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