Written By Githae Mwaniki
The International Air Transport Association recently hosted its regional aviation forum in Nairobi which attracted participation from airline stakeholders from all over Africa.
In his opening remarks director government, legal and industry affairs Aaron Munetsi called for closer collaboration and co-operation to implement the Single African Air Transport Market or SAATM.
IATA regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East Mohammed Albakri urged participants to forge closer ties to address Africa airline industry challenges.
Presenting on the sustainability of the airline industry IATA deputy chief economist Andrew Matters said the top 12 aviation markets in Africa included South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia.
But the growth over the last five years had come with challenges that showed African airlines only return (US) $6 operational profit per passenger. He said air connections in Africa are increasing which will have a positive effect on the supply of trade, cross border investments and tourism sectors.
He called for African governments to provide a regulatory environment that is appropriate and does not hinder growth as well as investing in adequate infrastructure.
Matters said air connectivity is fundamental in the support of intra-Africa trade and so the implementation of the SAATM should be supported by all stakeholders.
In a panel session moderated by IATA regional director advocacy and strategic relations in Africa Adefunke Adeyemi, Munetsi said there had been progress in the implementation of SAATM as 29 nations had signed the statute with eight nations fully compliant.
He said visa access challenges must be addressed as well as the reluctance by other nations to sign SAATM – an agreement which could be reviewed every two years.
Lead co-coordinator Afro champions Adem Adzogenu said his organisation aimed to foster regional connections for trade and thus the implementation of SAATM would boost their objectives.
He said that higher connectivity on the continent will also boost the implementation of the continent’s free trade agreement.
He said the fastest way to drive free trade is to ensure that there are enough airline connections between African cities.
African travel and tourism consultant Jillian Blackbeard said there are 81.3 million arrivals in Africa by tourists and closer collaboration between sector players will facilitate higher growth.
Embraer general manager special projects African and the Middle East Hussein Dabbas said Africa has the biggest growth potential so airlines should ensure that they deliver more connectivity within the continent and stop the practice of connecting within Africa by non-African hub especially in Europe and Middle East.
“Airlines should use the right sized aircraft on routes based on route density which would mean using smaller aircrafts as opposed to bigger aircrafts which the airlines may struggle to fill. The majority of African airports also need to upgrade their standards and should be operated on BOT (Build Operate and Transfer) arrangements”.
ROUND TABLE DISCUSSIONS
During the CEOs, round table panel on airlines in the future, chief executive officer Kenya Airways Sebastian Mikosz said the digitisation has had a positive change to the market.
“IATA has driven the move from a paper ticket five years ago to the electronic ticket that has been fully adopted and there may be a time when there is a virtual airline with operators providing full ACMI services.”
Chief executive officer JamboJet Allan Kilavuka agreed and stated digitisation accounted for 70% of his airline’s bookings
He said the more use of artificial intelligence to facilitate effective customer service will lead to more collaboration in selling airline services.
Astral Aviation CEO Sanjeev Ghadia said the move from paper to digital documentation had streamlined his cargo airline operation but lamented the lack of adequate and accurate data that is hindering the supply of cargo services to new destinations.
“The future of the air cargo sector will rely on new technologies like an unmanned air cargo aircraft,” he said.
Meanwhile, IATA airport regulation director Andrea Waechtershaeuser presented on airport infrastructure in the future noting that the average African airport runway utilisation was still low.
She called on airlines and airports to have closer collaboration and engagements to facilitate higher utilisation.
She called for action to be taken to address rising airport operation costs that burden aircraft operators.
Responding to questions from the plenary on effective national airport management models she noted that IATA does not recommend one sized fix all model but rather proposes a customised airport management model based on the size of the market, the needs of air operators and consumer demands.
IATA director airport passenger and cargo security Kashif Khaled noted that in terms of airport management the regulation should be separate to facilitate effective oversight of aerodrome regulations in terms of airport safety and security operations.