in Features / Airports

Time to change the flightpath

Posted 22 August 2018 · Add Comment

Business transformation for sustainable development of African airports was the theme of the 59th Airports Council International (ACI) Africa board meeting and regional conference in Lagos, Nigeria. Chukwu Emeke reports.

New strategies must evolve for sustainable development of African airports to continue happening.
So said Boss Mustapha, secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria, in his opening remarks to the ACI Africa regional conference.
Mustapha called for new strategies to include holistic planning for defined development targets, plus effective and efficient financial planning and successful implementation.
More than 350 delegates from 42 African countries attended the conference, which served as a platform to exchange ideas and share experiences on challenges, new trends and approaches towards sustainable airport development.
Dr Olumuyiwa Aliu, president of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), noted that revenues raised via passenger charges and taxes were often significantly outweighed by what a state lost to its broad-based economy, largely as a result of the dampened demand for air travel and air cargo shipments caused by the charges.
“It is, therefore, important to seek to complement aeronautical charges with a variety of non-aeronautical revenues,” he stressed.
Aliu said rapidly expanding air traffic could only be sustained and optimised through the continued development and modernisation of local aviation infrastructure, particularly at airports.
He identified other concerns for African airports as the risk associated with a lack of sufficient institutional, legal and regulatory enabling frameworks in many countries, which made it difficult for financial institutions to invest in airport projects.
And he added that the slow implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) had, for many years, limited the number of flights many African airports were managing. It was making the financing situation precarious for many airports as a result of low utilisation levels and poor returns on investment.
On a more positive note, he pointed out the higher expectation from most African hub airports to exceed their capacity by 2020 due to an increased focus on air transport liberalisation. “However, this situation has opened new set of attendant challenges relating to the safety and efficiency of operations.”
He urged countries to deliver tremendous support to airport operators looking for investments by taking pragmatic measures to realise transparent, stable and predictable regulatory climates, whether for direct investment, business reform, private finance initiatives, or public-private partnerships (PPP). “No investor wants to project out their proposed returns based on one eventuality, only to see those goalposts being moved by a government halfway through a project after they have made their financial commitment,” he said.
ACI Africa president, Engineer Saleh Dunoma, said the objective of the conference was to seek ways to achieve the goal of transforming Africa’s airports into viable, sustainable business entities.”
For session after session, delegates shared ideas on the importance of new approaches to airport business across the continent.
Strategies for encouraging PPPs to improve existing services or create new revenue facilities and resources were emphasised; innovations in airport retail was highlighted as one such measure.
About 75 million passengers travelled through Africa in 2017, 55 million of them internationally. This presents huge opportunities for duty-free airport revenue generation channels.
Tax-free shopping as a revenue source is one of the best supports for airport sustainability but is being threatened at some airports by regulations such as a ban on cigarettes, alcohol, etc.
Delegates agreed that today’s modern airport challenges cannot be solved by the old management methods supported by yesterday’s technology.
Business transformation could not be accomplished with outdated platforms, aging IT systems and expensive error-prone manual processes, as managers needed the next generation of technologies to transform airports and respond effectively to regulatory and commercial imperatives of the future.
“We need to continue to invest in technology and we need finance to invest in information,” said Bongani Maseko, chief executive officer, Airports Company South Africa.
ACI Africa secretary general, Ali Tounsi, used the occasion to highlight the African airports development programme, created by the organisation, to help member airports improve and meet the challenges of airport operations, while achieving excellence in management.
 

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