Mango CEO comments at Airlines Association of Southern Africa AGM

Africa is no longer the last outpost. It is no longer a blip on aviation’s radar, but rather, its potential to quickly become an object d ’influence on the global airlift map is significant. With continental GDP well ahead of the West at an expected 5% this year, the time to get our house collective in order is now. A developing aviation sector not only makes people movement an economic reality but trade, the backbone of any nation, is enhanced with every flight that operates between borders or across oceans.

We have seen the significant impact of the introduction of mobile telephony in Africa. In a 2010 study by the Centre for Global Development, it cites the economic leap forward where suddenly trade is enabled across rural-urban, rich-poor, market and border divides. Mobile telephony has bridged the gap between people and markets where, according to a 2009 World Bank study, only 29% of African roads are paved, less than 25% of the population has access to electricity and there are fewer than three landlines, on aggregate, per 100 people. This technology has reduced the cost of information flow, enabled accelerated growth and drives political change.

Now, imagine what a developed aviation sector can do. IATA reports that the industry already supports quality employment for approximately 6.7 million Africans with economic activity measuring US$ 67.8 billion. The strategic impetus for Africa to seek competitiveness on global markets through accelerated development and management of aviation infrastructure is critical. The time to gear-up is now. Mobile communication changed the way the continent talks and trades; aviation can change the very nature of Africa’s economy.

The key to growth in aviation may be a focus on low-cost travel. In South Africa alone low cost airlines already outnumber traditional carriers 3:2 on the golden triangle. In Africa, low cost aviation may hold the answer to accelerated growth. It is estimated that low cost aviation has grown the overall market in South Africa by 3 million travellers over the past decade and created well over 15 000 employment opportunities in various up and downstream market segments – from direct job creation through tourism and trade by local entrepreneurs.

Aviation in Africa could potentially create as many as 5 million new job opportunities in the next ten years and near triple its economic value to US$ 220 billion.

However, in order to reach our collective goals, there are five major considerations that need attention.

  1. The planning and development of aero-infrastructure: Crucial to achieve short, medium and long term goals whereby increased air-traffic can be accommodated in terms of people movement and facilities to manage increasing cargo volumes.
  2. Safety: Africa’s safety record is nine times worse than the global average. Investment into skills training, asset maintenance and fleet upgrades and infrastructure among others. What’s also needed, in order to improve standards, is that airlines have to internalise responsibility for safety and only then, with this realisation, would they begin investing the necessary funds.
  3. Open Skies – implementation of the Yamoussoukro declaration: Bilateral agreements that limit capacity or the number of flights between nations throttles growth and keeps prices high. The adoption and implementation of the Yamoussoukro declaration or similar open-skies treaty will immediately open up the market, drive costs down and enable rapid development.
  4. Environmental Responsibility and Opportunity: Increased traffic means increased emissions. Africa has the unique opportunity, given aviation’s current developmental state, to engineer responsible offsetting of its GHG footprint. Unlike other markets, where reverse engineered solutions resulted in instruments such as tradable carbon credits, Africa has the potential to deliver offsets for its own, and the world’s emissions. Offsetting while assuming immediate responsibility for its own emissions, could generate significant downstream revenue opportunities for the continent. Africa holds the potential to create the majority of tradable carbon credits for sale on world markets.
  5. Vested interest partnerships: Given the immense capital required to accelerate the development of African aviation, partnerships between all role players becomes a critical cog in the wheel of success. Governments, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, even the construction sector among many others have a vested interest in the growth of continental aviation. Discourse, planning and implementation require commitment to unleash Africa’s potential.

It is clear that significant investment is needed, across the board, but I am certain that our continent’s potential is already understood and will be realised. It is time for aviators to stand up, be counted and contribute proactively to the conversation, but more importantly, to get our hands dirty and work toward a success story. Mango has its sights firmly set on achieving these objectives.

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You're also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]

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