Aviation: The next infrastructure growth frontier for Africa

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The air transport industry in Africa is on the resurgence and aviation is, “The next infrastructure growth frontier for Africa”. This was the message at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Aviation Day for Africa and the Middle East held at Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 23-24, 2015 under the theme, “Connecting Africa: The Linkage of Regulation, Capacity and Infrastructure”.  

This gathering covered Africa and the Middle East with a focus on Africa and there will be a follow-up event in Abu Dhabi in October 2015 with a focus on the Middle East and Africa. Participants included aviation and airline industry leaders and experts as well as representatives from the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), African Airlines Association (AFRAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Speaking at the event, Tony Tyler, the CEO of IATA, said, the African aviation industry was on the resurgence driven by among other factors, positive economic growth across Africa, growing urbanization and a growing middle class. Tyler informed delegates that “IATA forecasts indicate that over the next 20 years, passenger growth in Africa will be the world’s fastest.” The Kenyan Cabinet Secretary (Minister) for Transport, James Macharia, called on African countries to improve connectivity across Africa so as to reduce the cost of doing business and facilitate air travel. He urged African countries to implement the Yamoussoukro Declaration (YD), which is the basis for creating a single airspace market for Africa. As regional integration arrangements deepen with creation of larger trade zones and as Africa links into Global Value Chains (GVCs) and Regional Value Chains (RVCs), there is high potential for growth in freight traffic across the continent.

Gabriel Negatu, the African Development Bank (AfDB) Regional Director shared insights into Bank investments in energy, transport including modern highways and ICT which he said, have had a positive impact on the aviation industry by ensuring for example, stable and reliable power supply. He cited specific Bank projects in the aviation sector such as, the US $8.7 million grant to the Secretariat of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) to define a regional legal and institutional framework for a unified airspace in the COMESA region (the COMESA Air Surveillance System) and the new Greenfield Terminal Project (GFT) at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), one the busiest airports in Africa, to upgrade and modernize facilities. This will facilitate the efficient handling of passengers and increase overall handling capacity to 20 million passengers per year from the current 9 million.

IATA is in its 70th year having been established in 1945 and manages global mobility for 3.5 billion passengers and 50 million tonnes of cargo.