The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is launching Focus Africa to strengthen aviation’s contribution to Africa’s economic and social development and improve connectivity, safety and reliability for passengers and shippers.

The initiative will align private and public stakeholders to deliver measurable progress in six areas, says an official release.

“Africa accounts for 18 percent of the global population but just 2.1 percent of air transport activities (combined cargo and passenger). Closing that gap, so that Africa can benefit from the connectivity, jobs and growth that aviation enables, is what Focus Africa is all about,” says Willie Walsh, Director General, IATA.

Infrastructure constraints, high costs, lack of connectivity, regulatory impediments, slow adoption of global standards and skills shortages affect the customer experience and are all contributory factors to African airlines’ viability and sustainability, the release added.

The continent’s carriers suffered cumulative losses of $3.5 billion for 2020-2022. IATA estimates further losses of $213 million in 2023.

Delivering on Africa’s opportunities
"Sustainably connecting the African continent internally and to global markets with air transport is critical for bringing people together and creating economic and social development opportunities. It will also support the realisation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) for Africa of lifting 50 million people out of poverty by 2030. In particular, trade and tourism rely on aviation and have immense unrealized potential to create jobs, alleviate poverty, and generate prosperity across the continent.

"Africa has a solid foundation to support the case for improving aviation’s contribution to its development. Pre-Covid, aviation supported 7.7 million jobs and $63 billion in economic activity in Africa. Projections are for demand to triple over the next two decades."

Yvonne Makolo, CEO, RwandAir and first female Chair of the IATA Board of Governors (2023-2024) says: “Africa stands out as the region with the greatest potential and opportunity for aviation. The Focus Africa initiative renews IATA’s commitment to supporting aviation on the continent. As the incoming Chair of the IATA Board of Governors, and the first from Africa since 1993, I look forward to ensuring that this initiative gets off to a great start and delivers benefits that are measurable."

Six key areas
The six focus areas include:

*Safety: Improve operational safety through a data driven, collaborative programme to reduce safety incidents and accidents in the air and on the ground.

*Infrastructure: Facilitate the growth of efficient, secure, and cost-effective aviation infrastructure to improve customer experience and operational efficiency.

*Connectivity: Promote the liberalisation of intra-African market access through the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

*Finance and Distribution: Accelerate the implementation of secure, effective and cost-efficient financial services and adoption of modern retailing standards.

*Sustainability: Assist Africa’s air transport industry to achieve the “Net Zero by 2050” emissions targets agreed to by industry and the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) member states.

*Future Skills: Promote aviation-related career paths and ensure a steady supply of diverse and suitably skilled talent to meet the industry’s future needs.

Power of partnerships
“Partnerships will differentiate the outcome of Focus Africa from previous efforts to stimulate Africa’s development with air transport," says Kamil Al Awadhi, Regional Vice President, Africa and Middle East, IATA. "By partnering, stakeholders will effectively pool their resources, research, expertise, time and funding to support the common goals of the six work areas."

The partners will be announced and join forces in Addis Ababa on June 20-21 to officially launch the Focus Africa initiative with more details for each task area.

Africa continues the path to recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. Air cargo is 31.4 percent over 2019 levels and air travel is 93 percent of 2019 levels. Full recovery for air travel is expected in 2024, the release added.

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