States, Captains of industries, Delegates and various stakeholders gathered in Abuja, Nigeria to deliberate on the infrastructural challenges facing countries at the Third ICAO World Aviation Forum; the first to be held outside the Quebec or Montreal, Canada, and discussants were keen to find lasting solutions to the infrastructure deficit especially with predicted growth so as to keep balance of passenger and freight traffic with infrastructure on ground.
The delegates also adopted the Declaration and Framework for a Plan of Action for Development of Aviation Infrastructure in Africa, requesting the African Union Commission to submit this Declaration to the next Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union for consideration and endorsement.
After the three-day conference, themed: “Financing the Development of Aviation Infrastructure,” a 26-point communique was passed highlighting the resolve of all the participants especially as it concerns addressing the challenge of financing and creating an enabling environment at all levels for the development of aviation infrastructure in the spirit of global partnership.
Among some of the resolutions in the communique, participants at the conference including Member States, international and regional Organisations, the industry as well as multi-lateral development banks and other financial institutions, recognised the significant impact of aviation activities on economic and social development.
The communique stated: “Aviation contributes to increasing consumer benefits and choices, creating jobs, stimulating tourism and trade, etc. The increased connectivity that it delivers leads to further re-investment in aviation, creating a healthy cycle of aviation development and economic prosperity in those countries and regions which set out suitable planning and investment commitments. We share a common interest in maximising aviation benefits, and reaffirm our commitment towards creating an enabling economic environment, and raising political willingness to mainstream and reflect the priorities of the aviation sector in the global, regional and national agenda.”
The delegates all acknowledged the strong growth of air traffic achieved since 2010 in facing the challenging global macroeconomic conditions and despite the security and health concerns raised in different parts of the world and further agreed that the future outlook also remains positive.
According to ICAO’s long-term forecasts, air traffic volumes will double in the next 15 years, characterised by a 4.6% annual growth rate for passenger traffic and a 4.4% for freight traffic.
With this positive forecast, participants stated that: “We understand that the rapidly expanding air traffic and enhanced air connectivity can only be sustained with continued development in aviation infrastructure, capacity and technology, supported by a globally harmonised regulatory framework. Our top priority is to ensure that air traffic growth is managed safely, securely and efficiently, with due respect for our sector’s concrete environmental commitments, while fully capturing and realising potential economic benefits to be generated from the increasing traffic.”
They recognised the need to make substantial investments over the long-term in the development and modernisation of quality aviation infrastructure (including capacity, technology and essential service needs) commensurate with the level of predicted traffic growth, and based on ICAO’s Global Plans.
“Quality aviation infrastructure should enable more efficient access and mobility; improve safety, reliability and resilience; respond to the diversified needs of providers, users and consumers; enhance environmental performance; and ultimately support the on-going transformation to a more sustainable aviation sector. Mobilising long-term financial resources, however, has become more difficult and represents a great challenge for many States, especially given the strain on public finances and cost factors attributed to borrowing that exists in many developing countries.”
Delegates, however, stated that a pre-condition to developing and modernising aviation infrastructure is to improve the effective implementation of ICAO’s global aviation standards and policies, plans and programmes by States stating that to fulfil this pre-condition, ICAO continues to play a key role in fostering effective partnerships between donors, investors and needful States; facilitating the mobilisation of resources; and under its NCLB initiative, identifying, coordinating and providing assistance to States in need
The delegates acknowledged the challenges in the air transport industry as it differs from other modes of transport as it pays for most of its infrastructure through taxes which affects air travel and freight and, therefore, called on countries to provide an enabling environment to allow for investment that would support aviation development.
The communique read: “We acknowledge that, unlike other modes of transport, the aviation industry has been paying for a vast majority of its own infrastructure costs, rather than being financed through taxation, public investment or subsidies. Infrastructure costs are covered through payments of user charges, most of which are added to airfares. However, revenue raised can be outweighed by the relinquished economic benefits as a result of dampened demand for air travel and air cargo shipments. We, therefore, urge States and service providers to observe ICAO’s Policies on Charges for Airports and Air Navigation Services (Doc 9082) and ICAO’s Policies on Taxation in the Field of International Air Transport (Doc 8632).”
“We reiterate our call on States to take pragmatic measures to build a transparent, stable and predictable investment climate to support aviation development, for example, by engaging multi-stakeholders, diversifying funding sources and elevating the role of private sector, including through private investment, business reform, private finance initiatives, Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and various incentive schemes. International private capital flows, particularly foreign direct investment, along with a stable international financial system, are also vital complements to domestic public and private resources.”
The communique further raised an eyebrow on the limited volume of international public finance and assistance for development, which is currently available for aviation infrastructure projects despite aviation’s cross-cutting nature and multiple links to other economic sectors.
It stated: “International public finance and assistance can be used to unlock additional finance through blended or pooled financing and risk mitigation for infrastructure. In addition, it can catalyse additional resource mobilisation from other sources, public and private. For States with limited access to investment finance, it is critical to include major aviation infrastructure projects in the priority list of international public finance and assistance for development. We will strengthen our dialogue to enhance our common understanding, respond to the business imperatives, and increase all forms of international public finance and assistance for development, including Official Development Assistance (ODA) and South-South cooperation.”
Participants urged all stakeholders to pledge the highest level of commitment to maximize the benefits of aviation in a sustainable manner that is safe, affordable, accessible, efficient, resilient and environmentally responsible, and continue to seek new, innovative, sustainable air transport solutions acknowledging that aviation is a means of allowing people to access what they need.
“We also continue to promote aviation’s crucial role to stimulate economies, employment, trade, tourism and other economic sectors through improved air connectivity at the national, regional and international levels in order to ensure that aviation’s benefits are maximised for all,“ the communique added.