Aviation: SAATM is the stimulus for air transport growth in Africa
The former Managing Director Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Mr Richard Aisuebeogun has the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), is the stimulus for air transport growth in Africa.
Speaking at the 14th Akwaaba African Travel Market (AFTM), Aviation Day 2018, held in Lagos, Aisuebeogun said travel between African countries over the years has proven to be a challenge for air travellers in the continent.
He noted that most time air travellers wanting to travel to an African country needed to travel to Europe before taking a connecting flight to their preferred destination.
He said: “Until 2017 many of us traveling by air have probably had bad experiences flying within Africa and even flying from Africa to the rest of the world. Some 10 years ago my team and needed to travel to Bamako, Mali, to get to Bamako we had to fly out of Africa to France and then flew back from France to Bamako. When we are done we thought on how to connect Bamako back to Lagos, of course there was nothing we could do than to fly back to Paris and then to Lagos. That wasn’t a good experience because ordinarily, the flight could have taken us close to 4 and half hours but it took close to 24 hours to get to our destination.”
Aisuebeogun noted that previous aviation policies put in place by different regional government to tackle the challenges of air travel in Africa have brought little or no reprieve to air travellers.
“Over the years the governments in Africa have seen all of these difficulties and challenges in air transport system but possibly because of they need to guard jealously what is theirs have refuse to loosen up and let air transport market become a regional thing. Over the years also African air transport market have develop various regional policies with regional initiatives. For instance the Banjul Accord, Yaoumasokro Accord, the Cape Town convention which also allows the operators of the airlines to be able to own ownership of the aircraft and in the case of a default the lessor will be able to take back the airplane. All of these initiatives were developed in the last 20years and 25years to guarantee seamless air transport in Africa but it has all failed because of government policies in each of the 55 countries of Africa.”
Commenting on the relationship between infrastructure and passenger growth in Africa, the former FAAN boss said airports in Africa are still largely owned by government unlike in Europe where two third of the airport are under private management, where the initiative is privately driven to enhance efficiency.
He observed that the growth in the aviation industry was constrained by the high industry costs, inadequate infrastructure at several airports, lack of interconnectivity between African countries airlines, weak currency and unfavourable government policies.
He said governments must find ways to address the infrastructural deficit in the aviation sector in Africa.
“The upgrade of airport infrastructures will not only help reduce air fares but would attract more investors to the sector”.
“If the government builds and airport and it cannot guarantee the safety and security of airline operations it will be difficult for airlines to want to take that initiative to fly into such airports. That is exactly what is happening in some parts of Africa. on the flip side, when government begins to look at what will engender air transport growth, looking at the subsector such as airport systems and other infrastructure and begin to improve and upgrade them then it now become an attraction to air transport”
by Friday Nwosu