Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2020-04-01

Aviation Africa 2020 Inspires Significant Discussion and Debate

For Africa’s aviation community attending this year’s buzzing Aviation Africa summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the resounding message was that all stakeholders should cooperate and collaborate to achieve a sustainable aviation future. As some 600 delegates from 70 countries debated existing and new challenges, sustainability, and the need for more open African skies (32 of which represented African nations), one hundred exhibitors showed support for the event, including gold sponsors Boeing and Airbus all overcoming the travel limitations resulting from the coronavirus threat.  
 
Speaking on the opening day of the conference, the IATA’s Special Envoy to Africa gave the body’s latest COVID-19 update, stating that in December 2019 IATA forecasted 3.8 per cent African RPK growth for 2020. However, Raphael Kuuchi noted a fall to 3.4 per cent following the outbreak as he told Aviation Africa delegates that, “Previous disease outbreaks have peaked after 1-3 months and recovered to pre-outbreak levels in 6-7 months.”  
 
Based on the 2003 SARS outbreak, IATA predicts that the 2020 virus is expected to have a deeper impact, costing the industry around US$29 billion. Kuuchi used the Aviation Africa forum to call on governments to relax taxes and charges, also requesting that air traffic control slot retention rules be moderated. 
 
Aviation Growth and Sustainability 
A panel of experts working across Africa’s aviation sector underlined the call for multilateral engagement to achieve sustainability, being that Africa boasts more hours of bright sunshine than any other continent and solar energy is increasingly used as a renewable energy source at the continent’s airports. Through the deployment of new technologies, alternative means of carbon reduction are also being considered with eVTOL vehicles expected to feature prominently in African skies. 
 
Here, delegates were in agreement that the introduction of eVTOLs into African airspace is a matter of when, not if, but this project still requires cross-board collaboration. Rwanda, for instance, has already pioneered a regulatory framework for drones that could be applied. 
 
Abderahmane Berthé, Secretary-General of AFRAA, stated that more efficient use of airspace would make a significant contribution to carbon reduction. Citing connectivity as one of the major challenges he said, “Currently 22 per cent of Africans travelling between two cities on the continent are forced to travel through non-African hubs, often transferring in Europe or the Middle East. However, this situation can be reversed through network development and coordination at African hubs.” 
 
Achieving cleaner, more efficient skies will require a massive transformation across the industry, with stakeholders working together to push boundaries and think outside the box. “The implementation of SAATM will result in enhanced connectivity and reduced journey times as well as lower airfares,” continued Berthé. “A successful and viable African aviation industry requires concerted efforts and collaboration from governments, regulatory authorities, airlines, airports, ANSPs, suppliers of aviation products and services and, of course, the passengers themselves.”
 
Highlighting the conference theme, Creating a Sustainable Future for Africa’s Aviation Industry, Ethiopian Airlines CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam led the keynote speeches. He stated that African aviation has many opportunities, but also faces cross-sector challenges to ensure a sustainable aviation future.  
 
“Our main challenges include the attitude to aviation by African governments. We need support from governments, taxes need to be reduced and infrastructure needs to improve. We depend on aviation to connect ourselves and the world. For trade, business investment and tourism, other modes of transport cannot serve us well, African governments have to support aviation,” GebreMariam said. “African airlines also need to cooperate with each other as there is a lack of it right now. We currently only command 20 per cent of the global market share, and that is painful. This means we don’t have the mass, so it is time for us to cooperate with each other.”
 
As a trending theme at the conference, GebreMariam also touched on the current coronavirus challenge, discussing what it means to the aviation industry: “The coronavirus is a huge challenge. We are seeing a 20 per cent decline in demand; this is a big shock. However, we are used to these kinds of shocks and we have the experience to overcome this. For us this is a temporary problem, we have faced disease, natural disasters, and sudden spikes in oil prices, and we have the capabilities and skill to recover.” 
 
GebreMariam also confirmed that human resource limitations are also an ongoing challenge, but Ethiopian Airlines continues to invest in training: “We currently have 1,500 students in our training academy, but this is only 50 per cent of our capacity, so we are inviting more students to join to obtain the important skills that cover the aviation industry.”
 
Ethiopian Minister of Transport H. E. Dagmawit Moges, echoed GebreMariam’s comments adding that while Africa is very accessible, the aviation sectors struggles to move enough people across nations by air:  “Aviation has great economic potential and geography shouldn’t be a problem.

High ticket prices, operations and open skies are all things that can be fixed.” Encouraging delegates to deep dive into finding solutions to create sustainable aviation for the continent, H. E. Moges called for modernisation of aviation infrastructure, requiring investment, expert intervention and fostering private or public/private investments to improve connections, create more frequent flights and lower prices. 
 
The Aviation Africa event went ahead despite the coronavirus outbreak, demonstrating the resilience of the industry and its members in times of adversity. It also showcased the commitment of the organisers as they continue to provide platforms giving industry leaders the opportunity to share industry knowledge and maintain the essential dialogue required for a sustainable aviation future.  
 
The 6th Aviation Africa will once again return to Kigali, Rwanda, for Aviation Africa 2021 on 24th-25th February. Aviation Africa is supported by Ethiopian Airlines and the Ministry of Transport Ethiopia. 
 
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