…as IATA slams slow process
The implementation of Single African Air Travel Market (SAATM) has been rather too slow, with just 27 African nations committing to SAATM to date, Director-General of International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alexandre de Juniac, has said.
He made this known in a statement he sent to New Telegraph.
The IATA boss however, encouraged the remaining 28 African Union member states to come on board quickly to enjoy the potential benefits of a connected African economy.
He equally stated that the continent is denying itself the benefits of air transport by not removing restrictions that impinge on liberalised airspace in the continent.
With a projected rise in passenger movement to 350 million by 2035 in the region, de Juniac said for Africa to benefit maximally from this growth, it has to unlock the benefits of aviation in the areas of safety, competitiveness, infrastructure and harmonisation.
He urged governments in Africa to maximise the positive social and economic power of aviation by working together to promote safe, sustainable and efficient air connectivity.
“African aviation supports $55.8 billion of economic activity and 6.2 million jobs. To enable aviation to be an even bigger driver of prosperity across the continent, we must work closely with governments,” Juniac said.
Aside the IATA boss disclosure, experts have also expressed concern over the delay by the majority of African Union (AU) member states to implement the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision towards the establishment of SAATM by the end of this year.
They said that the slow implementation of Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) by African Governments had a negative impact on the development of aviation practice on the continent.
They noted that limited aircraft movement and connection on the continent by about three decades while critical investors refused to invest their resources in aviation industry.
Speaking on challenges faced by airlines in African airlines, the IATA chief lamented that aviation fuel, otherwise known as Jet A1 costs are 35 per cent higher than the rest of the world.
He also listed user charges reflecting 11.4 per cent of airlines operating cost in Africa – four times than of North America and double industry average; high taxes and fees, which are said to be among the highest in the world.
His words, “There is no shortage of examples illustrating the heavy burden that governments extract from aviation. In Niger $80 from each ticket is paid to the government in fees, taxes and charges, Cameroon recently added a $37 development tax per passenger, DR Congo charges every arriving passenger $15 to promote tourism—rather counter-productive if you think of it, and Ethiopia’s $24 departure tax undermines the hub’s competitiveness.
“There is some good news however. In May, Equatorial Guinea removed its 15 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on tickets, said.
“Still, too many African governments view aviation as a luxury rather than a necessity. We must change that perception. The value of aviation for governments is not in the tax receipts that can be squeezed from it. It is in the economic growth and job creation that aviation supports”.
Another important element of competitiveness for airlines according to him, is the ability to reliably repatriate earnings—in line with international treaty obligations.
He disclosed that having 10 African countries blocking a total $670 million of airline funds was a big concern, adding that many of these countries are facing severe economic challenges.
To him, blocking airline funds puts connectivity at risk with invitation to even broader economic problems.
“It is in everybody’s interest that airlines are paid on-time, at fair exchange rates and in full,” he lamented. “And when problems are on the horizon, urgent dialogue is the first step, with creative and proactive mitigation plans following closely behind. We have had success in Nigeria and Egypt where government actions completely cleared the backlog of funds. We urge other Governments to follow suit, particularly in Zimbabwe and Angola”.