As Kenya commemorates one year since the fatal air crash that cost 14 lives, among them, six MPs, in the country’s North Eastern Province, Africa’s air safety record has come under scrutiny.
According to the EU and Federation Aviation Administration (FAA), Africa had the worst aviation safety and security record in the world, in 2006. While the continent accounted for just three percent of global air traffic in 2005, it was responsible for 37 percent of fatal air accidents. Consequently, the move by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) demanding that its members be IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) compliant by 2008 is welcome news.
Christian Folly-Kossi, secretary-general of the African Airlines Association blames the poor safety record on older generation western and Russian made aircraft, which have been flying for more than 20 years.
African Union reports that Africa is lagging far behind the rest of the world. Poor management and high operating costs are some of the factors that have hindered the potential for growth and the capacity of African airlines to cope with the growing competition. And although the challenges of strengthening the air transport are overwhelming they are attainable. The AU commission's 2007 strategic plan contains a priority programme for developing transport in Africa.
Kenya’s bid to make use of old technology as a safety measure is a clear expose of the lack of seriousness on matters pertaining air safety. This is coupled with other challenges such as aircraft delays, loss of baggage, poor meals and customer relations among others.
Air transport is a vital channel of connecting with the rest of the world for exchange of expertise, goods and technology. The focus should be towards making air travel in Africa safer, reliable, and increasing intra Africa connectivity. Africa’s airlines, governments and airports should not kill this golden goose by neglecting precision, value addition, global standards and politicizing its operations.
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