Aviation expert on what Africa should do to build a vibrant airline industry

Last week, Rwanda hosted the Africa aviation summit that brought together more than 1000 experts, top airline business executives, policy makers and regulators.
A RwandAir plane takes off at Kigali International Airport. File.
A RwandAir plane takes off at Kigali International Airport. File.

Last week, Rwanda hosted the Africa aviation summit that brought together more than 1000 experts, top airline business executives, policy makers and regulators.

High on the agenda was what Africa can do to boost aviation business on the continent.

Adefunke Adeyemi during the interview. Timothy Kisambira.

Adefunke Adeyemi, the regional director in charge of external relations at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), says identifying the barriers that stop women from flying is critical for avaiation business in Africa.

In an exclusive in review with Business Times’ Peterson Tumwebaze, Adeyemi, rooted for more women to join the industry. She says the number of women joining the industry is still low which is contributing to the huge gap in terms of skills.

You have just made a presentation where you urged airliners to employ more women, why is it important?

The problem we face is that there are not enough boys to take up all the engineering, pilot and commercial jobs that we are going to need in an expanding industry.

And yet we know that when women fly the industry becomes successful.

Secondly, the initiative will help create more job opportunities for the unemployed youth on the continent.

The jobs and opportunities created by aviation are vital for the continent and therefore women must be part of this.

This will however require inclusive policies borrowing a leaf from Rwanda to encourage women to join the industry.

How best can African Airlines like RwandAir become profitable and successful?

Aviation is an economic driver in modern societies, because of aviation the world has become a small place.

To some extent aviation in Africa is still under developed which limits the sector’s contribution to the continent’s real GDP.

This therefore means that Africa must give aviation a priority to help economies thrive.

Governments must therefore create an enabling environment for aviation to thrive because when it thrives, economies thrive and that is how you can achieve real growth.

Aviation is the business of freedom. In 2017, we expect some 4 billion travelers to take advantage of it globally and more than 50 million tonnes of cargo of global trade will get to the market by air in the coming year. It is a freedom that we must defend against the growing protectionist rhetoric, which is gaining popularity and geographic scope.

We must clear the way for the success of the business of freedom by reminding governments of aviation’s benefits, the policies that it needs to be successful; and the importance of keeping borders open for trade and welcoming people.

We must operate in an environment designed to allow airlines to fully deliver social and economic benefits by implementing a smarter regulation approach, harmonized with international standards and best practice and be proactive in removing of excessive financial and operational costs.

Cost competitiveness is still a major challenge facing most airlines in Africa.

What will it take to have Africa well connected?

Commitment from all stake holders to open skies, but also the need and desire for Airlines to collaborate and form strong partnerships to become competitive.

Very limited cooperation between African carriers is still a reality on the continent and yet if airlines collaborated it would boost competiveness of the industry.

Africa needs the right policies, skills and infrastructure to make aviation business more successful.

Governments must promote the value of aviation on the continent to facilitate economic growth.

Airlines need to be profitable to support connectivity and with the right policies, the potential is even greater for the private sector to come forward and take the lead.

What are some of IATA 2017 policy priorities for Africa?

First of all 2016 was another challenging but productive year for Africa; the year was once again defined by collaboration and partnerships.

I am looking to 2017 with optimism. Important changes in how airlines do businesses have made them more resilient to shocks. A rise in the oil price will make it a challenging business, even more difficult.

But we are still forecasting that airlines will earn nearly $30 billion in 2017. That will more than cover the industry’s cost of capital, meaning that the industry is finally on a trajectory of normal profitably.

The objective is therefore to ensure we continue our advocacy activities to help remove unnecessary burdens on consumers and businesses, and help to enable the industry to grow safely, securely, profitably and sustainably.

We hope to unleash the enormous value that the aviation industry can create.

Rwanda is once again taking the lead by designing policies that are so supportive to the industry.

For-example when you get your visa on arrival, it makes a huge difference; it means that more tourists and investors will come to the country which translates into revenue, that is what we would like to see across the continent.

Safety and Security remains IATA’s number one priority. We believe the safety and well-being of passengers, crews, aircraft and infrastructure are non-negotiable.

We will continue our efforts in partnership with all stakeholders to maintain momentum in safety, through the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) and the IATA Standard Safety Assessment (ISSA) amongst other initiatives.

On security, we are working in line with international best practices including ICAO SARPS and through different campaigns and initiatives to ensure that security targets in the region are achieved.

We continue to advocate for the improvement of the aviation regulatory environment; either in line with international treaties or in accordance with international best practice.

 It is still difficult to fly across the continent simply because the continent lacks an open sky policy, how are you working with stakeholders to address the problem?

The deadline for the commencement of a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) remains June, 2017. IATA, the African Union Commission, Regional Economic Community’s, African Airlines Association (AFRAA) and African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) will continue to sensitize States to create awareness among stakeholders on the benefits of air transport connectivity and the need to fully implement the Yamoussoukro Decision and the establishment of the Single African Air Transport Market

We will continue to partner with key industry stakeholders to ensure that ICAO's work on the adoption of SARPs, policies and guidance material on Monitoring Reporting and Verification (MRV), Emissions Units criteria and Registries for the ICAO Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) takes into account the interests of the airline industry.

Capacity building for the industry has to be developed both at the government and industry level. IATA is working to ensure that there is adequate training available for aviation personnel in the region to support the sustainable growth of aviation.


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