The aviation market in Africa is on its way to becoming one of the most important in the world with more than a billion travellers, a third of whom belonging to the middle-class, all utilising the industry for business and pleasure purposes. Air traffic in Africa is growing by 5.2 percent a year in line with its economic growth prospects, while the weakest growth was recorded in North America and Europe, with 2.3 percent and 3.8 percent recorded traffic growth respectively.
This figure presents challenging yet very exciting times for the airline industry in Africa, with untapped opportunities just waiting to be discovered to meet its full potential. For nearly five decades, the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has hosted its Annual General Assembly (AGA) to bring together likeminded experts to discuss the most prominent industry trends and topics. This year, the 47th edition of the annual Assembly will take place from 8-10 November at the Kintele International Sports Complex in Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is a unique business event and is attended by an average of 400 participants. This includes airline Directors, Chief Executive Officers and decision-makers on a global scale.
Hosted by Equatorial Congo Airlines (ECAir) and the patronage of the President of the DRC, H.E. Denis Sassou Nguesso, the Assembly promises presentations and panel discussions converging on the theme of ‘Open skies: Growth through competition and collaboration’. Getting its name from the recent World Bank study entitled ‘Open skies for Africa: implementing the Yamoussoukro decision, the event isdesigned to encourage further African countries to commit towards its implementation and the establishment of a single African air transport market by 2017. “Open skies in the continent will undoubtedly allow African airlines to operate to any combination of cities on the continent, with the great economic potential this presents,” says Fatima Beyina-Moussa, President of AFRAA and CEO of ECAir in her welcome message on the Assembly website.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which brings together 250 carriers accounting for 84 percent of traffic worldwide, is also aligned with both the Yamoussoukro Decision and the themes set out by AFRAA. In Nairobi, on IATA Aviation Day last June, Director, Tony Tyler, urged people to implement the Yamoussoukro decision, a declaration of common intent by African countries in favour of the liberalisation of the skies adopted 15 years ago.
“The upcoming assembly therefore offers an excellent occasion to discuss growth potentials through positive synergies and legitimate competition, in servicing our increasingly complex and demanding market,” Beyina-Moussa adds.
What is the Yamoussoukro decision?
Stemming back to the late 1980s, the Yamoussoukro decision aims for the full-liberalisation of the intra-African air transport market, free exercise of first, second, third, fourth and fifth freedom rights for passenger and freight air services by eligible airlines; to ensure fair competition on a non-discriminatory basis and comply with international safety standards.
At the Assembly, participants will share and explore the challenges faced in Africa’s aeronautical industry, and debate on which measures to implement in order to improve air transport growth across the continent.
Beyina-Moussa will also participate in a roundtable with Managing Director’s (MD) from some of Africa’s largest airlines including; Mbuvi Ngunze, Kenya Airways, Tewolde Gebremariam, Ethiopian Airlines, Sherif Fathi, EgyptAir, Abderahmane Berthe, Air Burkina, Sanjeev Gahdia, Astral Aviation and Khellil Faical, Tassili Airlines.
The AFRAA General Assembly will put the spotlight on the host country, closely analysing the DRC’s own aims and challenges with regard to air transport. In the past 10 years, eight airports have either been restored or built here, with August, 2014 marking a huge milestone for the national airline, ECAir, who surpassed the one million passenger mark since the airline was created four years ago.
The Assembly's Brazzaville location is designed to attract the attention of the world aviation industry toward the Congolese capital's extraordinary opportunities, particularly with regard to the Maya-Maya Airport; an airport that continues to grow in size. Furthermore, the Assembly provides the opportunity to strengthen commercial and tourism ties throughout the continent and with new and traditional markets outside of Africa, including Dubai, China and Europe.
Beyina-Moussa added: “To get from one African country to another, it’s sometimes easier to fly out of the continent and take a connection in Dubai or Paris, and then come back into Africa. This is something we want to avoid at all costs. Making travel within Africa easier can only be beneficial for airlines, and above all for passengers. Passengers will enjoy a much better journey than they do today. Not only are connections between African countries insufficient, but they don’t have enough round trips, either, so passengers can’t get where they want in Africa. This is the battle AFRAA has to fight, and has to win.”
End of an era
November, 2015 marks the end of Beyina-Moussa’s term in office as President of AFRAA. Starting as a member of the Executive Committee in 2012, she became the organisation’s President last year, bringing her passion and entrepreneurial aviation expertise to find ways to grow the industry to the satisfaction of all regional – and international – players.
Beyina-Moussa recently took stock of her time at the head of the association: “It has been my great honour to be the spokesperson of my peers and directors of African airlines. I have been able to meet the leading figures in African and international aviation, such as Tony Tyler, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, and political decision-makers like Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union, and to speak of the importance of cooperation and the liberalisation of African skies.
“I feel that things are moving forwards, that we are being heard. AFRAA does a lot for the development of the air sector in Africa. The Secretary General of AFRAA, Dr Elijah Chingoshoet, and his team do remarkable work and it’s been a pleasure to be at their side and make my own contribution.”
With so many inspiring aviation leaders present in Africa’s aviation scene, it is clear that Beyina-Moussa will be succeeded by someone equally as impactful and who will bring yet another new perspective to what it means to take flight across the continent; by shining a light on the changes and challenges yet to come in the industry.
Read the full article in this month's Africa Outlook magazine here.