Why African governments must stop seeing aviation as an elite sector – report

New Delhi, October 04, 2018: As the economy across much of Africa improves, governments on the continent must alter their historical view of aviation as a specialised or elite sector and begin to see it as a strategic asset, according to a new report by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG).

The report, entitled Aviation: Benefit beyond Borders, was commissioned by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and released at the ATAG Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva on Tuesday.

Air travel in Africa is expected to continue to grow at about 4.9% per year over the next two decades. This increase will, in turn, drive growth in the economic output and jobs that are supported by the air transport industry over the next 20 years, according to the report.

Oxford Economics forecasts that by 2036 the impact of air transport and the tourism it facilitates in Africa will have grown to support 9.8 million jobs – 60% more than in 2016 – and a $159bn contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) – a 184% increase according to fin24.com. 

The report cautions, however, that high taxes and charges, inadequate infrastructure, capacity and skills gaps, and, most notably, a lack of connectivity across the continent, have created a less than ideal growth environment.

At the same time, it points out, that since 2014, there has been a renewed drive by African leaders and policymakers to improve socio-economic prospects through improving connectivity across the continent.

Research shows that if 12 key markets in Africa had open air services with each other, an additional $1.3bn would be added to the GDP of those countries, creating an additional 155 000 jobs, saving travel times and making air travel more convenient and affordable for travellers.

In January 2018, African Union heads of state launched the Single African Air Transport Market, and its implementation is now being rolled out across the continent, with 26 countries so far joining the initiative and up to 40 expected by the end of 2018.

According to the report, this project, along with the Continental Free Trade Area in Africa and the visa facilitation initiative, are three African Union Agenda 2063 flagship projects that will accelerate aviation growth across the continent and have the potential to provide better than forecast economic growth.

However, the report emphasises that this project relies on effective implementation from governments, working with the industry, to succeed.

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