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Thu, Apr 06, 2023

IATA Focus Africa Initiative Announced

Investing in a Continent’s Future

Founded in 1945 and consisting, in 2023, of three-hundred airlines—primarily major carriers—the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has been alternately praised as an eminently effective trade association and disparaged as a cartel intent upon normalizing price fixing within the aviation industry.

Regardless of one's perceptions of IATA’s objectives and the merits or defects connoted thereby, the organization has declared its intentions to rally in support of Africa’s aviation industry.

African air-carriers suffered cumulative losses of $3.5-billion over the time-period spanning 2020 through 2022. IATA estimates subject air-carriers’ 2023 losses will approach $213-million. Ergo, the Montreal-based association is launching Focus Africa, an initiative that sets out to increase the aviation industry’s contributions to Africa’s economic and social development by improving connectivity, safety, and reliability for passengers and shippers alike. The venture seeks to align private and public stakeholders for purpose of delivering measurable progress in six areas:

Safety: IATA seeks to improve the safety of African aircraft operations by dint of a data-driven, collaborative program designed to reduce aircraft incidents and accidents both in the air and on the ground.

Infrastructure: IATA seeks to facilitate the growth of efficient, secure, and cost-effective aviation infrastructure by which to improve customer experience and operational efficiency.

Connectivity: IATA seeks to promote the democratization of intra-African market access through the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

Finance and Distribution: IATA seeks to contemporaneously accelerate the adoption of modern retailing standards and the implementation of secure, effective, and cost-efficient financial services.

Sustainability: IATA seeks to support the African air transport industry’s efforts to achieve the Net Zero by 2050 emissions targets ostensibly agreed upon by industry leaders and the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) member states.

Future Skills: IATA seeks to promote aviation-related career paths and ensure a stable and self-perpetuating supply of skilled workers capable of meeting the African aviation industry’s evolving needs.

IATA Director General Willie Walsh stated: “Africa accounts for 18-percent of the global population, but just 2.1-percent of air transport activities [combined cargo and passenger]. Closing that gap, so that Africa can benefit from the connectivity, jobs, and growth that aviation enables, is what Focus Africa is all about.”

African airlines’ operational and economic woes are compounded by infrastructure constraints, high costs, lack of connectivity, regulatory impediments, slow adoption of global standards, and skills shortages—the entirety of which adversely affect the customer experience of native African air travelers, tourists, and parties shipping goods to, through, or from Africa by air.

Connecting the African continent, both internally and to global markets, via air-transport is critical to the larger objective of bringing people together and creating opportunities for economic and social development. The betterment of Africa’s aviation route structure and airspace and airport infrastructures stands to support the actualization of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals for Africa—which aspire to lift fifty-million people out of poverty by 2030. In particular, trade and tourism rely upon aviation and, in Africa, have immense unrealized potential to create jobs, alleviate poverty, and generate prosperity across the continent's vastness.

Prior to the COVID madness, Africa’s aviation sector supported 7.7-million jobs and generated $63-billion in economic activity—a solid foundation supportive of IATA’s case for investing in African aerospace endeavors. By virtue of its Focus Africa initiative, IATA renews its commitment to supporting African aviation from Cap Angela in the North to the Cape of Good Hope in the south.

Demand for air-services throughout Africa is projected to triple over the next two decades.

RwandAir CEO and chair of the IATA Board of Governors Yvonne Makolo set forth: “Africa stands out as the region with the greatest potential and opportunity for aviation. The Focus Africa initiative renews IATA’s commitment to supporting aviation on the continent. As the incoming chair of the IATA Board of Governors, and the first from Africa since 1993, I look forward to ensuring that this initiative gets off to a great start and delivers benefits that are measurable.”

IATA’s Mr. Walsh added: “The limiting factors on Africa’s aviation sector are fixable. The potential for growth is clear. And the economic boost that a more successful African aviation sector will deliver has been witnessed in many economies already. With Focus Africa, stakeholders are uniting to deliver on six critical focus areas that will make a positive difference. We’ll measure success and will need to hold each other accountable for the results.”

IATA Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East Kamil Al Awadhi opined: “Partnerships will differentiate the outcome of Focus Africa from previous efforts to stimulate Africa’s development with air transport. By partnering, stakeholders will effectively pool their resources, research, expertise, time, and funding to support the common goals of the six work areas.”

Africa’s collective recovery from the COVID exigency remains steady. In 2023, African air-cargo volumes surpass 2019 levels by 31.4-percent. Air travel throughout the continent is currently 93-percent of what it was in 2019. Full recovery of Africa’s air travel industry is expected in 2024.

Mr. Al Awadhi concluded: “The tasks for Focus Africa are not new. Work is already underway as part of the work of IATA and other stakeholders in Africa. But after the financial trauma that the pandemic brought to African aviation, we are at a unique time of rebuilding. By launching Focus Africa now, we can ensure that the recovery from COVID-19 moves aviation to an even better place than we were in 2019.”

The partners salient to IATA’s Focus Africa initiative will be announced and join forces in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa on 20-21 June 2023, where they will officially launch the enterprise and disclose additional details pertaining to each of the six identified focus areas.

FMI: www.iata.org

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