Appropriate infrastructure is a particular challenge in African aviation.

“Investment is certainly needed to create the right airport and air navigation facilities to ensure the expected growth in passenger numbers and aircraft movements can be accommodated,” says Tony Tyler, IATA director general and CEO. “But investments must be considered wisely and decided in close consultation with airlines.

Tyler was speaking at the 47th annual AFRAA General Assembly in Brazzaville last month.

“ICAO has very clear guidelines on infrastructure funding— user consultation, transparency, cost-relatedness, and non-discrimination. Elements such as cross-subsidy and pre-funding, respectively, forbidden and strongly discouraged under ICAO rules, are all too prevalent. Even where much-needed investment is being put in, we have concerns on the levels of expenditure,” he said.

“Airlines have a right to be consulted in detail when you consider the spending of a billion dollars in Ndjamena, three billion dollars in Addis Ababa, and three-quarters of a billion dollars in Dakar, to take just three examples. Some States are getting it right. Although its airport development charge remains too high, Senegal has moved to reduce airport and passenger taxes earlier this year. But I’m sure I speak for all of us in urging African nations to adhere to global best practices in order to improve their competitiveness and give their airlines a fighting chance.

“Over-investment will cripple the industry with a cost burden that will weigh down air connectivity. If African governments were to take the lead in genuinely consulting the users of the infrastructure before it gets funded, built or operated, they would soon find themselves with the right mix of facilities, growing lock-step with demand, providing the right level of world-class quality, and at the right price to maximize growth,” he concluded.