ICAO WAF Abuja Infrastructure Declaration Strengthens Hope for Smooth SAATM Take-Off – By Roland Ohaeri

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Decades-Long Challenge

At the Third International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) World Aviation Forum (IWAF) held late November, 2017 in Abuja, Nigeria, African Union States, aviation industry stakeholders in Africa together with global aviation, finance and economic development partners established the Abuja Declaration, designed primarily to resolve the lingering challenge of poor aviation infrastructure in Africa. Nigeria’s President, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, who spoke through the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, emphasizes the need for private sector investment in aviation to help deliver its enormous benefits to Africa.


Aviation is one of Africa’s economic sectors with the most outstanding potential benefits, with impact on various other economic sectors. ICAO’s ‘2017 Aviation Benefits’ details the contributions of aviation to Africa. “Air transport supports 6.8 million jobs and contributed USD 72.5 billion to gross domestic product (GDP) in Africa, besides the USD 9.9 billion of direct impact in GDP “the sector impact reaches economies,” ICAO says. The report also indicates that the effect of the procurement of goods and services through the supply chain has an impact of USD 11.3 billion, adding that the benefits that arise when employees of the industry and its supply chain spend their wages in the local consumer economy account for another USD 5.2 billion of economic impact. In this regard, it states that “direct, indirect and induced, respectively, contribute USD 26 billion to the African GDP. Furthermore, the spending by foreign tourists in the region accounts for USD 46 billion of the total economic impact.”

With increased funding and infrastructure improvement in Africa, aviation will deliver much greater value to the continent. Despite these huge benefits of aviation, the challenge of inadequate funding for aviation in Africa has persisted over the decades. The current state of aviation infrastructure development in Africa should be viewed as a national crisis among African States.


What has been more worrisome is that lack of proper understanding of the peculiar functions and needs of the aviation industry in Africa has led to equally poor efforts by States and regional development institutions to support aviation development in Africa. Rather, unfriendly and inefficient policies among African States repel would-be investors. This in turn, stifles aviation’s contributions to Africa’s socio-economic integration and development. In this regard, many like Ms. Angela Gittens, Director General of Airports Council International (ACI) call for stronger awareness creation on the huge benefits of aviation.


Timely Intervention

Senator Hadi Sirika, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Aviation, promises to work with other Ministers and stakeholders to achieve effective implementation of the Abuja Declaration. Importantly, the Abuja Declaration is timeous as it would complement the launch of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) in January 2018, and provide fertile ground for the achievement of the AU objective of using aviation as a driver of the AU Agenda 2063 which aims to transform Africa’s economy.

Prof. Yemi Osinbajo Vice President, Nigeria, opening the ICAO WAF Abuja (PG 23)


Over the next 15 years, air traffic is expected to double globally and in Africa, which now creates the urgent need for improved aviation infrastructure in Africa. The amount of funding needed to provide adequate aviation infrastructure in Africa runs into billions of US Dollars. Many of Africa’s airports, for instance, are above 30 years. Many of these facilities have suffered poor maintenance, and have become inconsistent with current technology. Many of Africa’s airports have shrunken in capacity as traffic rises; and according to ICAO quoting Africa Transport Sector Outlook – 2040, 2014, of the Programme for infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), “17 would be saturated by 2020.”

While the Commissioner of Infrastructure and Energy of the African Union Commission (AUC), Dr. Amani Abu-Zeid, admits that aviation requires greater support to play its role in Africa more effectively, Mr. Symerre Grey-Johnson, Head Regional Integration, Infrastructure and Trade, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) says available resources on the continent, such as pension funds, could be channeled into funding aviation in Africa. Mr. Grey-Johnson, speaking on behalf of NEPDA CEO, Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, at the IWAF, expresses the new resolve of NEPAD and its Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) to increase attention to aviation infrastructure improvement in Africa going forward.


For some reasons, airports and air navigation facilities are the more popular infrastructure known to States and funding institutions. It is crucial to note that African airlines and their aircraft are equally a core part of Africa’s critical aviation infrastructure that must receive the funding and other interventions under the Abuja Declaration 2017.


Issues Of Vital Importance

Safety is the number one priority of the global aviation industry, and equally the number one infrastructure in the aviation, which is essential to attract investors and other partners to Africa. Thankfully, safety has improved among African States and operators. In particular Africa recorded zero accidents in 2016, while more States have performed beyond the global average in the Effective implementation of ICAO’s Critical Safety Elements. This tremendous progress in safety in Africa now provides a base for new investments in aviation infrastructure.


Dr. Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliu, President of ICAO Council, says aligning with ICAO SARs and global plans would help boost investor confidence in Africa. He says the expected doubling of growth should not be allowed to become doubling of challenges in safety, flight delays, etc.

As emphasized by Mr. Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), speaking the minds of most industry experts, the inputs of all relevant stakeholders must be considered before any aviation infrastructure project is executed in order to align with the needs of operators and other users. This will make Africa a more efficient aviation region that contributes more to the emerging seamless interoperable global aviation system.

Essentially, too, effective long-term planning as emphasized by Dr. Pin Min Lam, Senior Minister of State of Transport for Singapore, and Mr. Tewolde GeberMariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, would boost chances of success for the Abuja infrastructure Declaration, among others.


While Singapore strongly encourages global open skies, the issue of seamless collaboration is further stressed by Mr. Jan Pie, Chairman of International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations (ICCAIA), who says the ecosystem of aviation will function more effectively if all regions work collaboratively with a more prosperous global aviation system in mind. He says bottlenecks in one region, such as inefficient aviation policies, reduced traffic, stunted industry growth, etc. also reduce demand for aerospace manufacturers globally.


Mr. Jeff Pool, Director General of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO), equally calls for the use of technology to “leapfrog” the industry, describing the aviation industry as being in challenging yet exciting times, because of the emerging industry growth. He insists that ATM infrastructure development should be approached from a business perspective and on a regional rather than fragmented basis.

Mrs. Cecilia Dapaah, Minister of Aviation of Ghana, says Heads of State should carry Ministries and technical agencies along in taking decisions and signing declarations to ensure that these decisions reflect the needs of the industry and can be implemented. In this regard, Ms. Iyabo Sosina, Secretary Gneral of African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), however, stresses that policies relating to the SAATM, and the African Civil Aviation Policy (AFCAP), etc. to change the state of aviation in Africa.


Funding Institutions – Reassuring Of Stronger Support

Interestingly, global and regional funding institutions have shown renewed interest in supporting aviation infrastructure development in Africa. But they insist on certain preconditions such as clear and sound business cases, regional approach to infrastructure development, as well as investment-oriented policies, etc. The World Bank, for instance, wants transparent taxes, fees and charges in Africa. Mr. Charles Schlumbeger, Lead Air Transport Specialist, World Bank Group, says the Bank is engaged in unraveling the charges on air transport in West Africa to give a clearer perspective of the challenges and opportunities in the region.


Mr. Adekunle AbdulRazaq  Oyinloye, Managing Director, The Infrastructure Bank Plc., stresses on the essence of clarifying the risks involved in aviation infrastructure projects to create confidence for investors; just as Mr. Fubara Anga, Partner at Aelex, emphasises the need for adequate information on the aviation industry, while noting also that policies must be simple enough to be implemented. For the African Development Bank (AfDB), its President, Mr. Akinwunmi Adeshina, also stresses new resolve to support Africa’s aviation infrastructure development, as he declares AfDB’s intention to support “safety and security certification of 20 airports by 2019.”

Another interesting angle to Africa’s search for aviation infrastructure development is the disposition of foreign funding institutions to increase commitment to Africa, especially the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, China-Africa Development Fund (CAD-Fund) and Japan’s Tokyo International Conference of Africa’s Development (TICAD).


Beyond The Abuja Declaration

The Abuja Infrastructure Declaration and plan of action present one of Africa’s most comprehensive guides to aviation infrastructure development, as the documents detail the processes, timelines and executing bodies and partnerships in the entire aviation infrastructure development value-chain. It is an end-of-year gift to Africa and a new base for re-engineering Africa’s aviation infrastructure from 2018. Many are excited the Abuja Declaration and the expected launch of Single African Air Transport Market by AU Heads of State in January, 2018will launch Africa’s next phase of aviation development. Both are in the hands of Africa to fully implement.


“Safety is the number one priority of the global aviation industry, and equally the number one infrastructure in the aviation, which is essential to attract investors and other partners to Africa”.


Industry leaders at a panel session during the Third ICAO WAF in Abuja, recently (PG 25)



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