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An Ethiopian 737-800 in Nairobi (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Parker Davis)

Africa Focused On Opening Skies, Agrees to Safety Requirements

The global pandemic, despite its downsides, has been a wake up call for the industry in Africa considering the healthy, safety and even the larger economic concerns in the continent, which have been debated for years but until now largely ignored.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) and the African Union’s (AU) African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) have agreed on a three-year safety project aimed at providing technical support to African air operators while ensuring that they achieve and maintain global aviation safety standards and improve connectivity across the continent.

The initiative is backed by African Development Bank grant funding provided to AFCAC specifically for carriers in countries that have signed up to the AU’s flagship Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) program. Right now, 34 of the AU’s 55 member countries have signed the commitment to establish the SAATM.

The project will identify eligible airlines, conduct gap analyses and recommend corrective actions for each participating carrier to prepare them for an IATA Operational Safety Audits (IOSA) or IATA Standard Safety Assessment (ISSA) evaluation.

In addition, participating airlines’ personnel will receive quality and safety management systems training. IATA, AFRAA and AFCAC will also host workshops and training sessions held at their facilities in Nairobi, Kenya; Johannesburg, South Africa and Dakar, Senegal.

“Depending on the size of their organization and aircraft they operate, airlines wanting to take advantage of the SAATM’s market and commercial expansion benefits are required to be certified either through IATA’s Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) or Standard Safety Assessment (ISSA) programs,” noted Tefera Mekonnen Tefera, Secretary-General of AFCAC.

“Both safety programs are globally recognized, and part of the African Safety Targets of Abuja Ministerial Declaration hallmarks of aviation safety. We are committed to opening up Africa’s skies through SAATM and supporting the region’s airlines in doing so,” explained Tefera Mekonnen Tefera, Secretary-General of AFCAC.

IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Muhammad Ali Albakri, pointed out that the project will not only bolster safety standards in line with the Abuja Declaration on Safety in Africa, it will also help operationalize the SAATM and reinforce the development of a sustainable commercial air transport in Africa, crucial to the recovery and future growth of economies throughout the continent.

The project would be a vital step in a still-arduous path to recovery for the industry in Africa by providing a logistics pillar, which is crucial to the success of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), envisaged to be the world’s largest single market for goods and services, facilitated by the movement of people and promoting trade and economic integration.

“The ultimate goal of the project is to improve safety levels for the airline sector in Africa. Indeed, the 2012 Abuja Declaration safety targets stipulate that all African-based airlines, attain IOSA or ISAA certification by the end of 2022,” said Abdérahmane Berthé, secretary general of AFRAA.

Even as optimistic news on the vaccine front could accelerate the industry’s recovery, rebuilding a travel economy that takes into account the safety, trade flows, investment and technology, among other principles debated for years but largely ignored, may stimulate the industry’s performance in the continent.

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