By Kenneth Ehigiator
African Airlines Association, AFRAA, is going out of the ordinary in conduct of its annual general meeting, AGM, for 2010, by extending invitations to key players in the aviation sector in Africa.
The group’s move may have been informed by the very marginal growth achieved by airlines on the continent, despite its interventionist efforts.
The AGM, scheduled to hold in Addis Ababa, from November 21-23, would have in attendance key decision makers, experts and analysts who, the group, expect to help it discuss ways African airlines could tackle growing competition from non-African carriers.
According to AFRAA, such issues as the economic climate on the continent, challenges to securing finance for state-of-the-art aircraft and brain drain are also to be dissected.
Having expressed concern about the manner international airlines were aggressively recruiting pilots, technicians and other personnel trained by African airlines, the association is also to look into how the problem could be nipped in the bud, even as it had planned to consider growing demands on aviation safety and security.
Also on the table for discussion are issues as crumbling infrastructure at airports across Africa, a thin navigational beacon network, ATC challenges and often poor communications, and ongoing non_tariff barriers among African countries should also feature during the talks, as will undoubtedly the ongoing bans by the EU against several African countries over safety concerns.
AFRAA is bothered by the International Air Transport Association’s claim that though air traffic across Africa had grown on a year_by_year basis by well over 13 percent, it was still far less than the traffic growth of Dubai International Airport alone, which on a year_on_year comparison has once again gone up by nearly 15 percent.
It noted that the cost of air travel is often cited as a constraining factor preventing many potential travelers from flying, relegating them to busses, or where available trains, and one reason given by airlines, according to AFRAA, is often the cost of regulatory charges; airport taxes; navigational, landing, and parking fees; the high cost of fuel; and, due to long distances, the cost of maintenance and crew training.