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IATA Regional Aviation Forum opens in Nairobi

Posted 17 September 2019 · Add Comment

The IATA Regional Aviation Forum in Nairobi was officially opened this morning by Aaron Munetsi, director of government and international affairs – AFRAA.

Muhammad Ali Albakri, regional vice president, Africa and Middle East helped open the conference giving an impassioned speech about the future of aviation in Kenya, and Africa as a whole.

“By having you all - our esteemed speakers, panelists and delegates - here today we hope that we have created a fertile environment for the exchange of critical information and updates regarding key industry issues. And that we can ignite a conversation to identify ideas and solutions for the betterment of our industry in this booming region of the world,” said Albakri.

He added: “I’d like to pause and recognise Kenyan Airways, our host airline, for the immense support that they have provided to make this forum come to life. My heartfelt appreciation and thanks go to Sebastian and his energetic team for all their efforts. Kenyan Airways and IATA have a long and solid partnership and we look forward to building on this.

I would also like to thank our sponsors whose generous support have made this forum possible. Please applaud them all.

Now let’s look at some topics that will help form the themes of our discussions today, starting with the value of aviation.

Aviation in Kenya

Air transport has been a major driver in Kenya’s economy, boosting tourism, attracting regional headquarters of multinational companies and fostering trade, logistics and foreign investment in the country. When it comes to visa openness, Kenya ranks 12th globally. With more than 4.7 million passengers arriving to Kenya’s airports every year and the country’s established position as the leading cargo hub for East Africa, there is good reason to be proud of all that aviation has achieved in the country.

In fact, IATA has recently published a study on the value of aviation for Kenya, and the numbers really speak for themselves. In 2017, aviation and tourism contributed USD 3.2 billion in GDP. It accounts for 4.6% of Kenya’s GDP and supports 410,000 jobs. Over the next 20 years the Kenyan market could more than double in size, resulting in an additional 11.3 million passenger journeys, over 449,000 more jobs, and a $11.3 billion boost to GDP by 2037.

But to continue this growth sustainably, IATA identified four areas where government action can promote aviation’s growth and bring even more value to Kenya:

1.     Improve air transport infrastructure to accommodate the future growth of air traffic in collaboration with users: Improving operational efficiency at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is essential if Nairobi is to remain a competitive connecting hub and East Africa’s main air cargo hub.

2.     Implement the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM): SAATM will open Africa’s skies. We welcome Kenya’s commitment to SAATM and urge the government to implement it by making its regulatory framework statutory.

3.     Improve safety: Improvements in the safety performance of Africa’s turboprop fleet remain a priority - including in Kenya. The IATA Standard Safety Assessment Program (ISSA) enhances and complements the state’s safety oversight role

4.     Adopt new innovative technology: Integrating technology such as biometrics and AI will improve efficiency and passengers’ journey experience

Value of Aviation for Africa

If we zoom out and look at the potential of Africa as a continent, it is huge. Aviation plays an extremely important role in supporting Africa’s socio-economic development.

It also plays a central role in achieving 15 out of 17 United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. In fact, I am pleased to announce that IATA will soon launch a report on the role aviation plays in achieving the UNSDGs for Africa and the Middle East.

Currently, air transport supports 6.2 million jobs and $55.8 billion in GDP in Africa. Over the next 20 years, demand for air transport is expected to double, with annual growth of 4.6% – the second fastest of all IATA regions. This translates to an extra 190 million passenger journeys per year in 2037 for a total market of 334 million passengers. Cargo volumes are also expected to double over the next 20 years. Our very first session on the State of the Industry will deep dive into the economics and set the tone for the rest of our discussions.

While it is evident that aviation in Africa has the potential to fuel trade and economic growth, several barriers exist. These challenges will be addressed in detail in today’s sessions starting with infrastructure.

1. Infrastructure

Africa’s expected growth in demand for air transport, both passenger and cargo, will create the need for fit for purpose infrastructure. When a decision is taken to develop an airport, it is imperative to involve airlines as the end users in the planning phase to ensure what is being developed is fit for purpose.

We have seen many examples of unwarranted capital expansion such as in Angola where a multibillion-dollar airport project remains unutilized. On the other hand, we have examples of underinvestment in airport infrastructure where there is demand, such as the case of Nairobi.

Furthermore, runway utilization in Africa most recently stood at only 19% with little progress in recent years on increasing the usage. This begs the question, why do airports in Africa insist on building more runways in Africa?

High taxes and charges are a major issue for Africa. These are often viewed as guaranteed revenue streams for Governments which has led to unnecessary increases in airport charges. Passenger taxes, VAT and Solidarity taxes, as well as Air Navigation and Airport charges make intra-African travel 45% more expensive than the world average.

IATA advocates strongly for governments to have Economic regulation as part of the national legislation to protect the interests of users and ensure long-term socio- economic gains from the industry. A notable leader in this case is South Africa, where a robust competition and regulatory body exists overseeing capital expansion and user

charges, aligned with the Airports Company of South Africa, which engages with the industry on development, charges and service levels.

2. CapacityBuilding

However, efficient and cost-effective infrastructure cannot be achieved or sustained without a skilled and trained workforce. By 2037, Africa will need 29,000 pilots, 28,000 technicians and 29,000 cabin crew. That’s a significant number that we need to attain in less than 20 years.

Africa is competing in a global market for skills but suffers from frequent periods of “brain drain“ as its best talents leave the continent to seek better opportunities. The industry is dependent on African governments to partner with industry associations and training institutions, and put in place the right environment to create the future talent that the sector needs.

Through the IATA Airline Training Fund in Africa – over 2500 young African aviation professionals benefitted in 2018 from aviation training. Our capacity building efforts also focus on the importance of diversity. In this area, Africa is a leader, with women at the helm of four airlines. To further support women’s leadership in aviation, we launched the “IATA Women in Aviation Diploma“ Program in Johanesburg last year - 22 female airline executives participated.

I look forward to your engagement during the Workforce of the Future session on these issues.

3. Safety

The overarching priority tying our discussions together is safety. It’s the industry’s top priority in every region. Tragically, we suffered the loss of Ethiopian Airlines ET302 in March. However, 2018 marked the third successive year in which there were no African airline jet hull losses or fatal accidents. And Last year, Africa was the only region to see a decline in the all accident rate compared to 2017.

This is great progress. We need to continue this momentum and we urge governments and industry to collaborate to ensure ICAO standards and recommended practices are met. Tools that help enhance safety levels are the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and the IATA Safety Audits for Ground Operations (ISAGO), which international accepted standards to complement the national safety oversight.

Air Traffic Management is also a major safety and efficiency issue that needs to be addressed. With the technology that we have available we have the opportunity to fully

realize the potential for a seamless and harmonised airspace over Africa. However, without a commitment to work together as ANSPs, states and airlines, we will be unable to achieve harmonious airspace infrastructure. The session on Safety and Flight Operations will address the issues of aeronautical information, contingency planning and the use of drones.


I want to end on a very important theme for IATA and that is collaboration. We must ensure a strong dialogue and partnership between government and the aviation industry if we are to deliver the economic and social benefits to our citizens. No State or airline can deliver the full benefits that aviation offers by operating alone; competition is part of our business, but collaboration and cooperation must be the common denominator upon which we all operate.

Collaboration between airlines is also crucial if we want to improve connectivity and increase the share of African carriers moving traffic to, from and within Africa.”


Albakri closed by saying: “We have a very tight schedule, so please allow me to end my opening remarks here and close by reminding us all that aviation is the key to unlocking the prosperity of our dear continent and nations. Once again, our sincere thanks to our co-host Kenya Airways and to our sponsors for their immense support towards this event.”


Mr Muhammad Ali Albakri, regional vice president, Africa and Middle East




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