Building momentum for sustainable aviation in Africa


Aviation plays a vital role in the modern world, supporting millions of jobs and driving economic growth. There are countless benefits of connectivity that must be protected if the air transport sector is to meet its potential in bringing together people, trade and tourism and to continue as a driver of sustainable development.

In addressing the 6th Meeting of Africa and Indian Ocean (AFI) Region Directors General of Civil Aviation in Brazzaville, Congo last week, ICAO’s Secretary General, Dr. Fang Liu, stressed that progress on African aviation safety, security and sustainability will be greatly helped by enhanced partnerships and coordination, and through the more effective implementation of strategic aviation plans with ICAO support.

“The First and Second Editions of the ICAO Global Aviation Safety Plan have established clear minimum targets for African States to achieve by 2017”, Dr. Liu remarked, referring to African States’ rate of effective implementation of ICAO’s aviation safety oversight provisions. “The successes achieved with the ICAO Comprehensive Regional Implementation Plan for Aviation Safety in Africa (AFI Plan) have also been a very positive trend we must continue, and instrumental in complementing the Abuja Safety Targets.”

ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu at the Head Table of the recent 6th Meeting of Africa and Indian Ocean (AFI) Region Directors General of Civil Aviation (DGCAs) in Brazzaville, Congo, from 2-4 November.

According to the Air Transport Action Group, aviation supports 63 million jobs and generates $2.7 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP). Not only does air transport provide significant economic benefits, but it also plays a major role in the social development of people and communities all over the globe, allowing people to travel for educational opportunities and cultural exchange, more broadly. Across Africa, specifically, air transport supports 6.8 million jobs and contributes $72.5 billion to the continent’s GDP.

In the next 20 years, forecasts suggest that aviation-supported jobs around the world will increase to over 99 million and GDP to $5.9 trillion. Though when measuring international air traffic, Africa is the second-fastest growing region, the overly strict regulatory environment in the region must be simplified if Africa’s true economic potential is to be realised. For decades, industry leaders have been urging governments in Africa to unlock this potential by moving ahead with the policy of open skies in the region, allowing aviation services to flourish and continue to support growth. Industry costs in Africa, including passenger fees, are among the highest in the world. These regulatory arrangements should be improved, according to industry experts in the region.

Maya-Maya airport in Brazzaville, Congo
Maya-Maya airport in Brazzaville, Congo

The Secretary General pointed to the strong mechanisms that are in place to support more ICAO compliant African civil aviation operations, noting the ambitious air navigation services performance indicators and targets ICAO had collaboratively developed with AFI States. She also highlighted the importance of the ICAO African Flight Procedure Programme (AFPP), and especially its role in promoting wider adoption of Performance-based Navigation (PBN), which delivers important fuel and emissions savings for airlines and quieter communities around airports, among other benefits.

Dr. Liu also took the occasion to highlight that ICAO had been instructed at its Assembly to develop a newly envisaged ICAO Global Aviation Security Plan, which would help to bring a new level of strategic guidance with the integration of local, national and international agencies as African States continue to pursue the objectives of the ICAO AFI SECFAL Plan and the Windhoek Ministerial Declaration.

She called for the unlocking of the socio-economic benefits of air transport through greater liberalization, and noted that the projected significant growth in air traffic Africa-wide will require greater commitment to the enhancement of environmental initiatives, such as participation in the new carbon offsetting agreement, or CORSIA, endorsed by ICAO’s 39th Assembly, the development of State action plans to reduce aviation-related CO2 emissions, and human resources development for the Next Generation of Aviation Professionals.

With regards to the latter, Dr. Liu congratulated African States’ participation in the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) initiative and excellence in aviation training.

“Progress on the sustainability of African aviation is achievable with the support of ICAO’s Regional Offices, our Technical Cooperation and Technical Assistance Programmes, and through strategic partnerships at the regional and international level,” Dr. Liu concluded. “The tremendous growth in aviation traffic and air connectivity that we are forecasting represents a crucial socio-economic developmental opportunity. In order to enable all States to benefit – that No Country is Left Behind –it is essential that the entire aviation community work to ensure that the international civil aviation network is managed and resourced sustainably.”