Interconnectivity restrictions in Africa are expected to be permanently resolved in 2017 as governments in the region plan to adopt a single air transport market in the new year.
The move, which is already receiving the cooperation of the world’s aviation regulatory agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, is at the instance of the African Union, AU.
ICAO’s President, Nigeria’s Dr Bernard Aliu, who disclosed this on the occasion of this year’s International Civil Aviation Day, said come 2017the present connectivity constraints in the continent will be corrected under the simple market structure.
Towards this ICAO has reached out to African governments urging them to invest in aviation security in order to bring about a decline in accident rate on the continent as the new single market structure will be predicated on a safe aviation.
“To make Africa’s single air transport market possible there is the need for countries in the region to work towards effecting a further decline in accident rate, by investing aggressively in aviation security,” he stated.
In line with this, therefore, the ICAO boss urged governments in the region to open up their market through the removal of barriers that had hitherto impeded free movement of goods, people and services.
“When this is done, the sector will become attractive to low cost carriers and bring down the cost of air travel to the level of average income earners that abound in the continent,” he added.
Dr. Aliu noted that there is potential for aviation growth in the region with “the emergence of a middle class market that needed to be tapped for the growth of aviation in the region. ”
Connectivity, he noted, with the rest of the world is not possible without aviation and this is why ICAO and the AU are collaborating in this regard under an expanded Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), an existing initiative of the world’s civil aviation regulatory body to help developing nations to modernise and expand aviation their facilities.
PIDA, according to Dr. Aliyu, is to assist African governments to facilitate closer air link within the continent to eliminate constraints that militate against liberalisation in air transportation.
He pointed out that when fully implemented, PIDA would put interconnectivity in Africa in a better stead than hitherto especially as the Yamoussoukro Declaration initiated in the 1990s to achieve same objective of addressing critical issues to liberalise movement in the region was not fully implemented due to difficult visa and tax regimes.
Apart from ensuring the success of the African single aviation market the ICAO President further disclosed that measures being put in place to reduce accident rate in the continent would also impact positively on the global aviation industry and maximise profitability.
Against this backdrop therefore, he said, ICAO has designed a new initiative, tagged “No Country is Left Behind” to step up safety responsibilities especially by governments of member states.
In addition, the ICAO initiative is designed to foster collaboration among member states to work bilaterally to support each other and with other multilateral organisations to address critical aviation issues.
Also under the “No Country is Left Behind” initiative ICAO will make funds available for the development of adequate human resources in a bid to improve the competence of the industry’s workforce in the continent.
He however noted that safety issues cannot be handled in isolation as regulation and infrastructure are also critical issues in achieving high safety standards.
Towards this, Dr Aliu disclosed that ICAO has been working in concert with the AU to encourage member states to focus on infrastructural development and modernization at least for three years in order to lay the foundation for profitability for the next 15 years.
The ICAO boss said other specific programmes tailored towards providing assistance for African states improve on their aviation include the AFI Comprehensive Implementation Plan for Aviation Safety in Africa which focuses air safety issues to enhance level of safety.
He noted that failure by member states of the world body to tackle critical safety issues would attract global intervention, pointing out that, the high accident rate in Africa in the past was an issue of serious concern and needed to be tackled headlong to sustain the industry in the region.
Dr Aliu however expressed satisfaction with the fact that in the last 12 months accident rate had been on the decline in the continent, a trend he attributed to the work of ICAO with member states in Africa.
He stated that though there were a few crashes but that they were not fatal, pointing out that “there was still need for governments in the region to take advantage of the “No Country is Left Behind initiative to address critical security challenges in order to enhance aviation safety oversight.
Under the programme ICAO would provide technical assistance, among others, to member states to enable them adhere to the best international aviation practices especially in the area of safety in order to reduce high accident rate.
According to him, 14 nations have embraced the initiative and that ICAO is already cooperating with them to develop and modernise their critical civil aviation infrastructure with a view to improving on safety and profitability from the sector.
Other specific areas of intervention under the scheme include airports development, provision of air navigational services, capacity building, enhancing regulatory oversight capacity as well as assistance to help member states adapt to the dynamics of changes in technology.