The 67th Airports Council International – Africa (ACI-Africa) Regional Conference and Exhibition which held from 12 to 18 March 2022 in Mombasa is its first face-to-face event after two years of online meetings at the top level of African airports.
The conference themed “A New Vision for a Resilient and Sustainable African Airport Industry,” covered trendy topics, including the main challenges facing African airports in ensuring resilience, profitability and sustainability in the new normal as well as sessions on air transport viability, smart technology, commercial revenues, air cargo and air access liberalization, amongst others.
Perhaps, one of the key outcomes of the event is the call by the Chief Guest, Hon. James W. Macharia, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works, Kenya for African States to develop local infrastructure thy could depend on during global challenges. According to ACI-Africa, Hon. Macharia says”Kenya and other African countries must focus more on domestic intra-country airport infrastructure to cushion their aviation industries from unexpected international crises.”
He stresses that airports and airlines must not see each other as rivals but should instead complement each other. He also advocates for public private partnership in the airport sector to support the infrastructure development, as he equally urges the industry not to overly depend on the government as this will slow down growth and development due to financial impediments and red-tapism.
“Airports are the most guaranteed business models so when you depend on government, where about 15 or 20 ministries are competing for limited capital, you will end up losing,” Hon. Macharia emphasises. Africa, however, must resort to strategies that make PPPs work, learning from the failed PPP projects on the continent and why they ended up badly.
Mr. Ali Tounsi Secretary General of ACI Africa, who elaborated on the 30 years of existence of ACI Africa, emphasizes the importance “for all of us to take stock of our accomplishments and failures to prepare African airports for a stronger, safer, smarter and more sustainable future.”
“We have accomplished a lot together in 30 years but we have a lot more to achieve together. We shall succeed through cooperation, integration and transformation, and ACI-Africa will stand beside its members to enhance competitiveness, attractiveness and seamless passenger experience. As drivers of tourism, trade and business, airports will not only be at the heart of economic growth but they will have to become environment flagships. In this context, each airport in Africa will eventually have to carve its roadmap to reach net-zero carbon by 2050,” Mr. Tounsi says.
Mr. Alex Gitari, Kenya Airports Authority Managing Director, also stresses on cooperation among airports and other industry players, which is the way to go as technology and innovation alone will not make for successful recovery of the international air travel experience while E-commerce and digital cooperation between airlines and airports will boost retail opportunities and ensure maximization of revenue leading to financial stability.
Mrs. Angeline Simana, Interim Secretary General, African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), says progress has been made on the implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), as she highlights the African Union vision for a united, prosperous and fully integrated Africa by 2063, embedded in the AU Agenda 2063, with one of the flagship projects being SAATM.
Given the huge benefits of using the SAATM to achieve air transport liberalization in Africa, she also underscores the need to make it succeed. According to Mrs. Simana, thirty-five (35) AU Member States have signed the Solemn Commitment to implement the SAATM and twenty (20) out of these have signed the Memorandum of Implementation (MoI) for the unconditional implementation of the YD Day.
Mr. Barry Kashambo, Regional Director, ICAO ESAF Office,
stresses that ICAO continues to witness tremendous commitment by all parties to ensure implementation of the measures and protocols developed to expedite sustainable COVID-19 recovery while complying with the relevant ICAO Standards and other best practices for a safe, secure, efficient, economically, and environmentally friendly aviation sector.
He remarks that the leadership and vision of Airports Council International (ACI) to represent airport authorities in formulating unified industry practices that advance airport standards globally and to address challenges globally and Africa in particular, is exemplary, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic period when the air transport sector was adversely threatened.
The 67th ACI Africa Board Meeting and Regional Committees Regional Conference and Exhibition was attended by more than 300 delegates, a figure which surpassed the expectations of the host, bearing in mind the COVID situation. There were 7 sessions and 2 keynote speeches over the 2-day conference on 14 and 15 March 2022, involving 40 speakers.
Overall, the ACI-Africa conference featured 19 exhibitors and 14 sponsors, while the pre-conference events included six regional committee meetings on 12 and 13 March 2022. Delegates benefited from workshops discussing the environment and sustainable development. The workshop on route planning which the ACI-Africa organized jointly with the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) makes a good statement as to the future of cooperation between African airports and airlines.