Players in the aviation industry blame high cost of air travel in Africa to inadequate support by governments. Air operators gathered in Mombasa for the 45th African airlines annual general assembly yesterday decried lack of adequate investment by governments in national carriers had led to a decline in growth of the sector and ensured “air transport remains a preserve of the rich”.
Led by the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), they contrasted the period between 1980s and 1990s, where Africa had at least 26 states with airlines flying intercontinental routes to and from Africa to now where the number of airlines have reduced to only about a dozen.
“We need the African Union and African States to help reverse this through the full implementation of Yammoussoukro Declaration on the full liberalisation of the sector, and ensuring a common African negotiating position since the EU negotiates as a block while African states negotiate individually,” said AFRAA Secretary General Dr Elijah Chingosho.
Chingosho also noted that African governments need to desist from giving more favourable treatment to foreign carriers at the expense of African airlines in terms of giving them more traffic rights. “ In west and central Africa, due to lack of a strong African carrier, the region is dominated by non-African carriers, he said.
Chingosho said the current contribution of African aviation of less than three per cent of global traffic can be increased if governments adopt appropriate policies to reduce the extremely high industry costs. He said aviation infrastructure in many African states is deficient and not coping with the growing industry.
“At many airports, there is need to develop and expand airports, runways and air navigation facilities. Airports should be open 24 hours,” he said. Speaking at the conference AFRAA president, Dr Titus Naikuni, said there are massive air transport opportunities in Africa.
“We are witnessing a huge interest in Africa as global aviation players seek to take advantage of what’s taking place in Africa,” Naikuni, who is also the chief executive of national carrier Kenya Airways said. Naikuni’s and Chongosho’s comments were echoed by a separate report released at the conference yesterday showing Africa has the potential to be a significant force in aviation on the back of robust economic growth forecasts.
However, the report noted the performance of the African aviation industry is lagging behind than of the rest of the world due to high industry costs, inadequate infrastructure at several airports, slow implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision, lack of a single traffic rights negotiating body with respect to third parties like the European Union.
“With a population of more than 1.07 billion, spread across the vast the continent of 54 countries, there is huge potential for growth in intra-Africa air travel,” it said. The report projected that over the period 2010 to 2015, Africa will be one of the fastest growing regions in the world in terms of international traffic with an average growth rate of 6.1percent compared to the global average of 5.8percent.
However, African aviation needs to grow at double digit rates to be a significant player in the global industry. Middle East and Asia Pacific will, however, surpass Africa’s growth at 7.9per cent and 6.9per cent. Europe, Latin America and North America are projected to record lower international passenger growth of five per cent, 5.8 per cent and 4.9per cent. Africa’s positive growth trend is expected to continue in the coming years due to robust economic growth, demographic boom, increasing urbanization, and emergence of the middle class. - By Brian Ngugi