Speakers at the April 17 to 18 Aviation Africa Summit in Cairo called on stakeholders to tackle the high operations costs, market restrictions, and poor airport infrastructure hindering growth of the African airline industry.
Civil war and political instability in countries such as Libya, Somalia, and South Sudan have hampered air transport operations while fund repatriation has become a major problem in various African countries.
Addressing more than 900 delegates in Intercontinental City Stars Hotel in Cairo, CEO and director general of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), Abderrahmane Berthe, noted that safety and security and high industry costs resulting from hefty taxes and airport charges all stand as major problems facing African airlines. Berthe listed market access restrictions, access to aircraft financing, and lack of skilled labor as impediments for the development of aviation in Africa.
Meanwhile, African airlines will need 22,000 pilots, 24,000 mechanics, and 27,000 cabin crewmembers over the next 20 years to support an expected demand for 1,000 new aircraft.
Berthe touched on the growing challenge of repatriating airlines funds from some African countries due to a shortage of foreign currency. He called on African policy makers and all stakeholders to cooperate in addressing the associated challenges.
Adefunke Adeyemi, regional head external relations for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), congratulated African nations for launching the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) and emphasized the need to implement the open skies agreement. Adeyemi said 24 countries have committed to the full implementation of SAATM, adding that more countries would soon join the initiative. “Aviation needs to transform Africa,” she said.
During a panel discussion, African operators agreed that political instability present their biggest challenge. “Peace and stability are decisive factors not only in our country but in all our network area,” said Egyptair chairman Sheriff Ezzat. Egyptair has lost two important markets—namely, Libya and Yemen—due to civil wars, Ezzat said.
Sanjeev Gadhia, CEO of Astral Aviation, said that the destabilization of Somalia and South Sudan presents his Nairobi-based cargo airline with perhaps its biggest challenge. “It is not only in Africa but the political instability in the Middle East affects us,” he said. “African countries related to countries in the Middle East are affected by the political turmoil in that region. When war breaks out in the Middle East, fuel prices will [rise] and insurance premium will escalate.”
Astral Aviation has begun preparing to launch the first drone-based cargo service operation in Africa.
Aviation supports 8 million jobs and contributes $72.5 billion to Africa’s GDP.