Two primary barriers are inhibiting growth of African air travel: physical infrastructure (airports and fleets) and safety.
This is according to Jeoff Motshoba, executive: air traffic management/ communications, navigation and surveillance at Air Traffic & Navigation Services (ATNS).
African aviation has long had a poor safety record, with the average number of air traffic accidents nine times higher than the global average in 2011. However, things seem to be improving; its 2015 safety record was better than any year in the 2010-14 period.
Motshoba views reflect some of the findings from the 2015 Turkish Airlines Aviation Trends Index – conducted among leisure travellers globally, 1029 of which were South African – which showed that, 97% of South African air travellers consider safety to be the main priority when selecting an airline.
Motshoba says ATNS is spearheading moves to create a single upper airspace management control capability for the SADC region.
“By managing the region’s upper airspace holistically we will not only reduce the cost of air travel, we will make it significantly safer,” he says. “It’s one of the things mandated by the Yamoussoukro Declaration, which was signed in 1999, but which is not yet fully implemented.”
The Declaration calls for the liberalisation of African skies for African airlines, and the establishment of a single African air transport market. ATNS is acting as advisor and liaison with the equivalent organisation in the north of Africa. This kind of integrated approach should save money as expensive technology can be shared.
“Making sure we roll out air traffic infrastructure that makes use of the best technology is one side of the coin; the other is having a deep pool of talent, with the skills needed to use that technology,” Matshoba points out.
Air transport is a vital enabler for Africa’s economic growth, and Matshoba believes the industry offers huge potential. He believes that South Africa, as the continent’s most advanced aviation market, has the opportunity and obligation to help build this vital piece of Africa’s infrastructure.