The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry has caused far-reaching disruptions in activities and overall industry development process in Africa. Travel restrictions in response to the variants and new waves of the Coronavirus have created uncertainties that make effective long-term planning and actions to accelerate industry restart difficult, which could delay sustainable recovery expected over the next 2-3 years.
We applaud the cohesive efforts of the aviation industry partners under the leadership of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to develop innovative safety-based response to the challenges of the pandemic. We continue to urge governments to implement interventions aligning with aviation industry recommendations, especially reducing cost of COVID-19 tests and enhancing ease of travel, to engender increased air travel as a first step towards jump-starting overall economic recovery.
Also, amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry must keep focus on industry targets and readapt efforts as needed. Of particular importance is the need to maintain focus on the industry’s Air Traffic Management (ATM) targets in Africa.
The inefficiencies and avoidable costs associated with the current fragmented ATM systems in different global regions including Africa led to the setting of current ATM targets for the regions, as part of ICAO’s plan to achieve landmark improvements in global ATM under ICAO’s Aviation Systems Bloc Upgrade (ASBU) and the Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP).
According to IATA, the ASBU concept focuses on four performance improvement areas including airport operations, global interoperable systems and data, optimum capacity and flexible flights, and efficient flight paths. Currently, most States globally and in Africa are at the early stages of implementing the aviation systems bloc upgrade.
Therefore, considering the challenges posed by the COVID-19, all efforts must be sustained to ensure improvements and harmonization of ATM facilities and training among African States, leveraging on frameworks such as the ICAO No Country Left Behind (NCLB), and the AFI Air Navigation Plan peer review mechanism, etc.
For Africa, achieving targeted ATM improvements to create the Single African Sky (SAS) would be a major step to support seamless interconnectivity in Africa driving the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), and facilitating the movement of trade and commerce under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfFTCA).
More importantly, IATA has recently called against increased air navigation charges. At this difficult phase of the industry, ANSP charges need be moderated so as not to jeopardize recovery of airspace users, particularly airlines.
This edition focuses on ATM in Africa, with insightful articles on current measures to improve Africa’s ATM system; as well as an exclusive interview with the African Union (AU) Commissioner for Infrastructure & Energy, HE Amani Abou-Zeid on high-level efforts to improve aviation in Africa. Read also the exclusive valedictory interview with industry statesman, Mr. Chris Zweigenthal, outgoing CEO of Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) on how to drive industry recovery. Other articles discuss issues in Nigeria’s aviation industry, among others.
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Capt. Edward Boyo