Cost-competitiveness and safety among the issues holding the continent back from achieving its potential.

African aviation can drive economic and social development with the help of governments and industry, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said.

Priorities for improving aviation and delivering economic benefits across the region include safety developments, ensuring cost-competitiveness, opening the continent to travel and trade, and addressing gender diversity.

Addressing the 51st Annual General Assembly of the African Airline Association (AFRAA) in Mauritius, IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said air transport holds great potential for the region.

As demand more than doubles over the next two decades, the critical role that aviation plays in Africa’s economic and social development will grow in equal proportion

At present, airlines and related operations supports $55.8 billion in economic activity and 6.2 million jobs. De Juniac said this can be increased.

“As demand more than doubles over the next two decades, the critical role that aviation plays in Africa’s economic and social development will grow in equal proportion,” he said. 

“With the right tax and regulatory framework, the opportunities aviation creates to improve people’s lives are tremendous.”

To improve safety levels in the region, IATA called on more states to incorporate IATA’s Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) into their procedures, become IATA Standard Safety Assessment (ISSA) certified and implement ICAO standards.

The trade organization also urged states to create a cost-competitive operating environment by following ICAO standards, disclosing hidden costs and eliminate international jet fuel taxes.

De Juniac added that implementing three vital agreements on market access across Africa would help the continent flourish socially and economically:

  • The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) - to boost intra-Africa trade through the elimination of import duties and non-tariff barriers 
  • The African Union (AU) Free Movement Protocol - to ease the severe visa restrictions that African countries impose on African visitors 
  • Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) – to open up intra-Africa air connectivity

IATA also called for the industry to do more to improve its gender diversity and for airlines in the region to support the recently launched 25by2025 campaign.

“It is no secret that women are under-represented in some technical professions as well as in senior management at airlines,” said de Juniac. 

“It is also well-known that we are a growing industry that needs a big pool of skilled talent. Africa can be proud of its leadership in this area. 

“But we need to do more. The 25by2025 initiative will help move our industry in the right direction.”  

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