Based on available statistics, the future of aviation in Africa is positive and very bright. This accounts for the continuous influx of carriers from Europe, North America, Middle East and Asia to the continent and the attendant huge competition on the inter-continental routes.
Nevertheless, in order for African airlines to remain competitive, it is imperative that they must have the right equipment and the right tools to assist them, especially in this era of high fuel prices. Thus, realizing the importance of this issue, AFCAC has been at the forefront of “sensitizing” and advising African States to sign, ratify and domesticate the provisions of all existing International Air Law Instruments, especially the Cape Town Convention of 2001, due to its immense benefits of assisting airlines to acquire and utilize newer and more efficient aircraft that will create the emergence of strong, reliable, vibrant and competitive airlines while at the same time, guaranteeing the security of investment for financiers and lessors.
Furthermore, it will be recalled that following the European Court of Justice (ECJ) Decision and the subsequent adoption of the EU Air Transport Policy and Clauses in the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) with its attendant implications for the operations of African Airlines and their sustained participation in air transport, the common African position was drafted by AFCAC in collaboration with AFRAA under the aegis of the African Union (AU) as a basis for all bilateral negotiations with EU member States. The Guidelines for Negotiation of Air Service Agreement with EC and/or EU Member States are posted on AFCAC website and AU website in the four AU languages (http://www.afcac.org/) and (http://www.au.int/) respectively. This goes to show that AFCAC and AFRAA are partners which have the same strategic goals among which is the better development of air transport systems in the African Region and creation of a level playing field for all operators.
As the Executing Agency of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD),
AFCAC is committed to its full implementation as the adoption of a common African position and full implementation of the YD will enhance African Airlines’ capacity to compete. The Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) provides for the liberalization of access to intra-African air transport markets. Given every other thing such as sophisticated fleet, facilities and systems, all the efforts being put into aviation will be futile if there is no market. Therefore, it is the belief of AFCAC that the full implementation of YD is the first step towards maximizing market potentials in Africa.
AFCAC will continue to appeal to States which adopt protectionist approaches to embrace full liberalization in terms of exchange of traffic rights, capacity, frequency, designation and authorization, as having a common sky in Africa will boost air travel, encourage trans-border investments and promote easy market access for African airlines. It will also boost trade and tourism on the continent and will allow cooperation between African carriers and collaboration in the development of basic infrastructure for the advancement of air transport on the continent.
You will agree with me that out of the numerous and complex problems faced by Africa’s civil aviation, safety remains the most critical, hence, the responsibility of safety must not be left solely to any one sector making up aviation, including the airlines. We are all aware that for African airlines to become competitive, they must be perceived and be seen to be safe and secure, and again, this is where AFCAC comes in.
Even the YD calls for among others, compliance with established ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and the capability of demonstrating the ability to maintain standards at least equal to those set by ICAO. For example, the YD in Article 6.9 (f) provides that an eligible airline must “be capable of demonstrating its ability to maintain Standards at least equal to those set by ICAO and to respond to any query from any State to which it provides air services.” This is paramount to improving air safety and advancing the liberalization process, in spite of this, major inadequacies were noted during the ICAO Safety Oversight Audit Programme.
AFCAC recognizes that aviation safety needs constant vigilance by regulators and industry alike. As such, we at AFCAC are always looking to improve safety levels and reduce the risk of harm arising from Air Transport. Thus, there is a clear cut interrelationship between liberalization, that is, YD implementation and Safety. States therefore cannot fully implement YD without addressing Safety Oversight issues.
One of the strategic objectives of AFCAC is to enhance Civil Aviation Safety in Africa. Thus, in order to help erase the negative image of poor safety standards in Africa, AFCAC with the help of ICAO has been assisting States through its numerous programmes such as the AFI Cooperative Scheme (AFI-CIS) to meet their safety oversight obligations in line with ICAO SARPs.
Suffice it to say that, AFCAC has urged African States to implement State Safety Programmes (SSP) and States are equally enjoined to ensure that all service providers implement a Safety Management Systems (SMS) by the end of 2015. Furthermore, AFCAC is coordinating with member States and relevant stakeholders such as AFRAA to ensure that all African carriers are certified through the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) by the end of 2015. All of these actions are geared towards implementing the Safety Targets set by the Ministers of Transport at the Abuja Safety meeting in July, 2012.
On the issue of growing insufficiency of qualified personnel which is being made worse by the migration to other markets commonly referred to as “brain drain” as well as the high turnover of professionals such as engineers, pilots and crew, AFCAC member States have been advised to enhance and increase their training and capacity building programmes in line with global standards as well as collaborate among themselves to optimize scarce resources. In this regard, AFCAC has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with a number of countries outside of Africa to prioritize aviation training and the provision of technical support to train personnel in Aviation Safety activities.
AFCAC has worked tirelessly to ensure the adoption of the African Civil Aviation Policy (AFCAP). This policy has provided a coherent framework and platform for the formulation, collaboration and integration of national and multinational initiatives/programmes in various aspects of civil aviation including safety, security, efficiency, environmental protection and sustainable development of air transport in Africa. The AFCAP can also be found on the AFCAC website.
Finally, Africa needs safe, secure, efficient and reliable airlines that are profitable as well as air transport systems. Thus, AFCAC will continue to cooperate, collaborate and forge common approaches with AFRAA, its other partners and stakeholders to achieve these objectives. AFCAC has been playing and will continue to play its role in bringing member States together to create not only a level playing field but an enabling and conducive environment for airlines to operate and thrive.
By Ms Sosina Iyabo
Secretary General, The African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC).