Africa has made significant progress towards safer skies, but governments need to show more commitment to reform if the gains are to be sustained.
Speaking at the annual general assembly of the African Airlines Association in Rabat last week, IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said that, for the first time in decades, Africa had gone two years without a single fatality from a commercial jet accident.
Mr Juniac attributed the improved record to improved safety standards at African airlines and deeper co-operation between governments, IATA and the African Airlines Association (Afraa).
Three dozen African airlines are certified under the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and many more have signed up for the programme, leading to increased aviation safety.
Yet, a gap remains when it comes to adoption and compliance with International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs).
“With no jet hull losses for two years running, and two years free of any fatalities on any aircraft type, it is clear that progress is being made. But there is still more to do and we are asking governments to drive additional improvements by first, recognising IOSA in safety oversight.
“The second is adoption of the ICAO’s Standards and Recommended practices. Only 24 African states comply with at least 60 per cent of ICAO SARPs, which is not good enough for an industry that uses global standards for safety,” Mr Juniac told the assembly.
He said Egypt had recently renewed its commitment to ICAO SARPs, and Rwanda and Zimbabwe were making progress.
To promote greater implementation, IATA and its affiliates are encouraging African governments to allocate more resources and give regulators greater independence in conducting safety oversight.
Where pooling resources is possible, governments should co-operate regionally. This approach can improve both efficiency and the speed at which projects are implemented.
At one point, Africa, which accounts for only three per cent of global air traffic, had the most airline accidents.
Besides safety and regulatory frameworks that open up markets, Africa also needs to address competitiveness and infrastructure issues to support growth.
Airlines and governments also need to co-operate on programmes for environmental sustainability.
Under the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (Corsia), airlines will be reporting their emissions when it comes into force on January 1, 2019.
Kenya, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Namibia, Nigeria and Zambia are currently the only African countries that have signed up to Corsia.
“Globally, the 75 pioneering Corsia states cover about 84 per cent of aviation activity. We want to push that as close to 100 per cent as possible. And our partner for doing that in Africa is Afraa,“ Mr Juniac said.
Although aviation supports $55.8 billion of economic activity and 6.2 million jobs in Africa, Mr Juniac says this is far below the industry’s potential.
“We are only scratching the surface of what aviation can contribute to building Africa’s future. To enable aviation to be an even bigger driver of prosperity across the continent, we must work with governments to improve competitiveness, develop effective infrastructure, modernise the regulatory framework with a focus on global standards, and ensure a well-trained and diverse workforce,” he said.