The impact of the COVID-19 brought momentary set-back to the industry already facing pre-COVID-19 challenges.
It, however, did not deter this year’s edition of the African Aviation Industry Group (AAIG) Aeropolitical Forum held in November 2020which brought 140 participants from African airlines, Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs), Airports, Airline Associations, Ministries and related agencies, private sector groups, and aviation service providers to review how Africa could move faster forwards in terms of aviation recovery and sustainable development.
Holding annually on the sidelines of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) Annual General Assembly (AGA), the forum enables stakeholders in Africa’s aviation industry to articulate issues highlighted by the high-level AFRAA AGA, towards improving Africa’s operating environment.
The Aeropolitical Forum, focusing on the theme, “African Aviation’s Recovery Strategy – The Way Forward”, produced notable recommendations, including continued financial support for all the key stakeholders of the African aviation industry, as the forum urges States “to provide the funds pledged to ensure survival, business continuity of key stakeholders of the African aviation industry.”
Financial support for the stakeholders concerned goes beyond just the COVID-19 pandemic response, it is an imperative to safeguard the gains made by Africa on safety over the years, as the forum highlights.
To restore connectivity through the opening of borders, the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic response should focus on consistency and harmonization of entry and exit protocols, mutual recognition and trust framework between states, alleviation measures and promoting rapid cost-effective testing as the alternative to quarantine.
Delegates believe the COVID-19 crisis presents an opportunity to boost intra-Africa connectivity via harmonized health protocols across Africa, while calling for continued focus on the implementation of the YD and the SAATM which has become even more important than ever, particularly as a key cornerstone to revive the sector.
The AAIG says “The State SAATM readiness index can beused as a tool to identify a “Club of the Ready and Willing “(CREW) and pursue incentives for thepromotion of new intra-Africa routes (tax incentives, priority for financing, etc.) ”
It also emphasizes on the need to promote “synergy and better coordination between the implementation of the SAATM and other initiatives of the AU 2063 Agenda such as the AfCFTA and Free Movement Protocol.”
The AAIG highlights the available opportunities between these AU flagship projects for Aviation, calling for the creation of a cost-competitive landscape for African aviation by reducing costs across Africa, as the group offers to facilitate interactions between OEMs, Airlines, Airports, ANS, Financiers and Governments to drive down operating costs in Africa, with set performance indicators.
Further, forum says airline cooperation is vital, calling for the promotion of closer partnerships, and repositioning of African airlines as well as main streaming cargo as a strategic pillar for growth. This cooperation should also be extended throughout the aviation ecosystem in Africa, especially in the aspect of data sharing; as well as multi-sector collaboration of aviation with sectors involved in the aviation value-chain such as finance, trade, hospitality and tourism.
The foregoing is in addition to improved airspace management and training of aviation professionals, in addition to adoption of digitization and technology, which present new opportunities and enhanced efficiencies for the industry.
The AAIG brings together airlines through their associations AFRAA, IATA, AASA; as well as airports through ACI-Africa, and ANSPs providers through CANSO-Africa, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), DFIs, and individuals to drive advocacy for aviation development in Africa.