Africa’s aviation chiefs call on govts to cut taxes, improve infrastructure

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Rwanda's Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente (centre), infrastructure minister James Musoni (left), and Chingosho listen to presentations at AFRAA summit yesterday. / Faustin Niyigena

Rwanda’s Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente has reaffirmed government’s commitment to continue supporting the aviation industry.

“We have chosen aviation as an economic enabler and will continue to support all players by creating a conducive environment for airline business to thrive,” he said.

He was speaking at the opening of the 49th annual general assembly and summit at the Kigali Convention Centre yesterday.

The Premier added that Rwanda will continue taking the lead in supporting the industry by encouraging free movement of people and technological innovation to reduce the cost of doing aviation business.

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Players in the air transport industry showcase their products at the aviation meeting in Kigali. / Faustin Niyigena

Rwanda has adopted the initiative of issuing visas on arrival to encourage movement of people and goods, a move that supports aviation business.

According to Ngirente, the removal of visa restrictions is critical in facilitating free movement of people, goods and services across the continent and “will help spur aviation business and related sectors”.

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PM Ngirente shares a light moment with delegates at the meeting. / Faustin Niyigena

Govts urged to cut taxes, improve infrastructure

Meanwhile, African governments have been urged to invest more in aviation infrastructure development and give tax incentives to airliners to bolster aviation business on the continent.

According to Dr Elijah Chingosho, the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) outgoing secretary general, a lack of a fully liberalised air space, high taxes and poor infrastructure especially at airports continue to hurt the industry, affecting its potential to contribute to the continent’s GDP.

Chingosho said there need to put in place the necessary infrastructure to enable African airlines to stem off competition from Europe and Middle East carriers. The official was speaking during the 49th annual general assembly and summit at the Kigali Convention Centre yesterday.

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Under the theme, “Rethinking strategies for airline profitability in Africa” the summit attracted 400 high profile delegates from the aviation industry in Africa, Europe, Middle East, Asia and North America who deliberated on the challenges facing aviation business on the continent. The event was hosted by RwandAir.

During the deliberations, many of participants said there is an urgent need to address challenge of poor infrastructure on the continent as demand for air transport continues to grow.

“Airport infrastructure in many parts of Africa can barely cope with demand of air travel. Governments must therefore develop strategies to improve facilities to help accommodate more than 300 million people expected to travel by air transport by 2025.”

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Prime Minister Ngirente and other delegates in a group photo. / Faustin Niyigena

Iyabo Sosina, African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) secretary general, called on governments across the continent to urgently implement the 1999 Yamoussoukro treaty that commits more than 44 countries to promote regional air markets through open sky policy.

She said that African countries should consider aviation as an economic enabler to the continent’s development and, therefore, prioritise the sector in terms of investment and tax incentives.

Raphael Kuuchi, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) vice-president for Africa, said the need to create a single African air space is essential to boost intra-Africa trade.

“It is, therefore, important that governments work toward the realisation of a fully liberalised airspace and create conducive business environment for airlines,” he said. He added that African airlines will become more profitable only when these constraints are addressed. “We are calling on governments to fully implement the IATA Worldwide Slot Guidelines to fairly and efficiently manage scarce capacity.”

Statistics from IATA indicate that African airlines suffered a loss of almost $700 million in 2015 and more than $130 million in 2016.

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Some of the delegates at the aviation summit at Kigali Convention Centre yesterday. / Faustin Niyigena

According to Chance Ndagano, the acting chief executive officer of RwandAir, better and seamless connectivity will improve movement of goods and people and boost economic development on the continent.

“There is, therefore, need to urgently deal with the barriers that have hindered the implementation of the Yamoussoukro declaration to support airline business on the continent.”

Growing demand

According to IATA, there is growing aviation affluence across Africa which has created greater demand for air travel. IATA estimates that by 2034, eight of the 10 fastest growing aviation markets will be in Africa, while nearly 300 million passengers will travel to and from African destinations.

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PM Ngirente (right) consults infrastructure minister James Musoni at the summit. / Faustin Niyigena

African airlines posted a 3.6% rise in traffic in September, down from 6.5 per cent in August. Equally, carriage capacity rose 0.3 per cent with load factor increasing by 2.4 percentage points to 73.8 per cent.

Globally, passenger traffic results for September show that demand as measured in revenue passenger kilometres rose by 5.7 per cent compared to the same month in 2016. This was the slowest year-on-year increase since February.