Aviation expert, Sean Mendis has stated that Africa’s aviation sector could see a strong rebound this year provided actionable measures are put in place to make airlines competitive, destinations accessible and build synergies among stakeholders towards a common approach for the realization of air travel objectives.
The continent saw a significant growth of the industry in 2022 but IATA also stated that over the year, the region was expected to serve 86.3 per cent of pre-crisis air transport demand levels with 83.9 per cent of pre-crisis capacity.
In an interview with Kojo Bentum-Williams for the maiden VA Tourism Podcast in 2023, Mendis expressed hopes the work of the African Civil Aviation Commission (AfCAC) would help to open the skies for more and affordable intra-Africa travel.
“I think one important trend for 2023 is something which began in 2022; which is the African Civil Aviation Commission. AfCAC has become the actual implementation of SAATM. This is effectively an African open skies agreement which allows African airlines to fly with very few obstacles throughout the continent. And I think the ability of airlines to do that will allow them to start taking advantage of routes that are very close to them. And again, with more competition, more flights on these routes, prices will come down and allow passengers to be able to travel between points in Africa without spending two and three days in transit,” he averred.
Although he is unsure it would be done, Mendis pointed out reduction in taxes on air transport in Africa is one way to stimulate the growth of the industry.
He explained: “In many parts of Africa, notably in West Africa, you find that the taxes charged by governments and authorities on travellers often exceed the fare travellers pay to the airlines to transport them. And when the airline is making $60 while you are paying the government $150 to travel for one hour by air, it immediately depresses the ability of people to be able to travel to the neighbouring countries to do business, explore the neighbouring countries to see the highlights of what the countries have to offer.
“So, I think governments need to be able to step back and reduce the amount of taxation they place on air travel. It’s a perception issue, they need to stop thinking of air travel as something for the elites because it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy; because you start taxing it too much, and becomes something only the elites could afford.”
Another point, the aviation expert stressed, is the need for tourism and transportation to come hand-in-hand to develop a common policy.
“We hear a lot of people saying that they’ve got the same objectives but unfortunately, they try to achieve these objectives through different means and it often means that, they are acting not just without coordination but oftentimes in active opposition to each other. So, I think better coordination in that respect all over the continent between transportation sector providers; either private or public sector, as well as governments and with tourism authorities and hospitality providers and all the stakeholders, if they can come together and do it well, I think Africa is poised for an explosion of intra-Africa traffic.”
Stoy by Samuel Obeng Appah