Growing Home Economies May Boost African Carriers

By Jens Flottau
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

•The establishment of independent and sufficiently funded aviation authorities that will be able to effectively and transparently monitor African airline standards.

•Completion of the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) by all African airlines.

•Accident prevention measures, particularly focusing on runway safety and loss of contro.

•Adoption of flight data analysis tools and safety management systems more broadly across the sector.

The main target of this industry/government initiative has been picked up by African governments in the so-called Abuja Declaration, in which African transport ministers committed industry and governments to raise African safety performance to the global average by the end of 2015. The commitment was reinforced by the African Union. While that is by no means a guarantee of success, at least it is a sign that air transport has some political attention.

And progress is being made in formerly under-performing countries. For instance, Nigeria rebuilt its civil aviation oversight in recent years, although it was set back in 2012 by two fatal crashes.

Further attention is crucial in other areas, too. African states have in principle agreed on an open-skies-like regime, as laid out in the 1999 Yamoussoukro (Cote d'Ivoire) Decision. But the old (and failed) business model of many of the mostly state-owned airlines in the region is based on government protection in the form of direct subsidies or blocking of home markets.

Yamoussoukro was meant to change that. Charles Schlumberger describes the agreement in his extensive 2012 study of African aviation as a “relatively progressive and radical move away from regulating air service between states on the basis of restrictive bilaterals.” That is the theory. In reality on the pan-African level, little has happened, and “many of the key policy elements are still missing or exist only on paper,” he writes. But many countries are applying Yamoussoukro content on the bilateral level. In fact, Schlumberger believes that “about two-thirds [of African countries] are willing to apply the Yamoussoukro Decision because they see little value in protecting their own markets from outside competition.” That kind of liberalization has been seen around regional economic common markets initially.

There are concerns that broader liberalization will make bigger carriers even bigger at the expense of smaller operators, leading to less competition. Schlumberger points out, though, that the now-open South African domestic market has grown strongly since it was liberalized.

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