African Airlines Association blasts African Governments at Aviation Meeting in Tanzania

The African Airline Association took advantage of the just ended aviation conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to expose once again the lack of implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration, besides highlighting on behalf of their members the pressing issues of investments in the aviation infrastructure and brain drain of highly qualified professionals to particularly the Gulf region. The Yamoussoukro agreement, signed in 1999, was due to have been fully operationalised by 2002, but now, 9 years later, several AU member states still have not made an effort to implement its provisions. AFRAA’s Secretary General Elijah Chingosho also spoke on taxation, another deterrent to the growth of aviation.

The conference was officially opened by President Kikwete and brought together over 200 participants, mainly from the region but also further abroad. Regulatory staff had come alongside government delegations, representatives of a number of African airlines and from ICAO, IATA and the FAA. The theme of the meeting, ‘Air Transport in Africa – Strengthening Leadership, Sustaining Growth’ discussed since Monday this week a range of pressing issues, amongst them the failure of governments to promote inter Africa air traffic while opening their skies to foreign airlines. One participant who regularly interacts with this correspondent pointed out that as long as cross border air transport within the East African Community was treated as ‘foreign’ and non tariff barriers maintained vis a vis fees charged, clearances granted and restrictions in place to fly passengers to a final destination in a park for instance ‘…these conferences and meetings will remain talking shops. We would not mind having one single regulator again in East Africa, because right now we have five and each of them wants a slice of our cake by taking fees. In the process an airline could need 5 AOC’s, 5 separate companies and five different structures if it would want to operate in each of the member states.

 This is very very costly and our fares and charges must reflect this. This is the crunch point here and is reflected in similar fashion across the continent where big Gulf airlines get all the freedom to operate and siphon off traffic while African airlines from neighbouring countries are treated often with disdain, treated as unwelcome, as ‘foreign’ and as ‘usurpers’. This must change if air transport is to develop like in the US. Flying in Africa is an almost natural form of transport due to distances, lack of road and rail and of course for tourists. But when you even look at regulations for leisure flying, it is hard to believe that anyone would still bother, as they are so restrictive, so unreal at times for instance for micro lights. The mindset of regulators and of governments are challenged here to change, so that air transport can really take off’.

These sentiments have been lingering for years, it is recalled, while in addition the cost of aviation fuel, and its general availability like for AVGAS for instance, is a related issue preventing aviation from being considered a form of mass transport as it is elsewhere. Watch this space.

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