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High Level Meeting of African Airlines Companies

Strategies for the Development of the Airline Transport Industry in Africa

Opening Statement
By Abdoulie Janneh UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa 29-30 Tunis, Tunisia. Chief Executives of African Airline Companies; Representative of Civil Aviation Administrations; Representatives of the Airline Industry;; It is an honour and privilege for me to address such a gathering of highly placed individuals and experts in the aviation industry. You are the ones who make it possible for us to move around the world. Your presence here clearly demonstrates your profound commitment to the development, strengthening and promotion of the airline industry in Africa. Let me begin by thanking President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and the government and people of Tunisia for hosting this meeting. I also take this opportunity to thank His Excellency Chairperson Konare and the staff of African Union Commission, President Kaberuka and the ADB, as well as the African Civil Aviation Commission and the African Airline Association for organizing this important meeting. The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is delighted to have taken part in the planning and preparation of the meeting. Distinguished Delegates; Air transport has a very important role to play in the economic and physical integration of the continent. It is one of the driving forces behind regional integration and development of Africa as it contributes significantly to: mitigating the peculiar transport problems faced by landlocked countries enhancing free movement of people, labor and cross-border investments connecting Africa to global markets boosting tourism alleviating the cost of doing business. May 2006

Over the past fifty years, despite the several constraints, air transport has steadily brought African countries closer together, linking most African capital cities to the rest of the continent by air. It has also contributed to the expansion and deepening of intra-African commerce and trade. Globally, the air transport industry is steering in a direction that seeks to create an enabling environment, which is conducive for a viable, efficient and sustainable air transport system. The ongoing transformation we see in the industry began with the enactment of the Chicago Convention of 1944, which brought about changes to the traditional operation and regulation of international air transport. Deregulation of the industry began in the United States in 1978 and was quickly followed by European liberalization. Since

then, the Asia - Pacific, North, South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean regions have all embarked on liberalization programmes. Africa has not been left out of this process sweeping over the industry. In July 2000, the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) adopted the Decision on Market Access for Air Transport in Africa. The full implementation of this Decision, which was initially approved in November 1999 by the African Ministers responsible for civil aviation and known in the aviation circles as the Yamoussoukro Decision, is expected to progressively eliminate all non-physical barriers in the industry including those linked to: the granting of traffic rights, tariffs, and the number frequencies and capacity of air services. As we all know, the Yamoussoukro Decision took into account the differences in the level of air transport development in various African countries. It therefore made provision for progressive liberalization, over a two-year period beginning from July 2000. This implies that all States that were signatories should have fully implemented the Decision by now. Unfortunately, some African countries are reluctant to fully implement the Yamoussoukro Decision because of their local aviation industrys fear of competition from foreign airlines. I therefore want to take this opportunity to commend countries that have fully implemented the Decision and urge all member States that have not implemented the Decision to do so, as it will lead to the increase in the frequency of flights within Africa as well as strengthen Africas common position with regards to its relations with external parties. Mr. Chairman; The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is committed to continuing with its efforts to help strengthen the airline industry in Africa. Since its establishment in 1958, the Commission has played a catalytic role at the forefront of the conception and development of the major air transport initiatives in Africa. The activities of ECA have, and continue to, influence air transport at two levels: at the macroeconomic level through the formulation of overall cross-sector economic policy objectives for the continent and at the micro-economic level through its direct involvement in air transport specific initiatives. In respect to air transport, the direct involvement of the ECA started with the initiative it took to convene the first ever African Conference on Air Transport in November 1964 in collaboration with International Civil Aviation Organisation. This seminal conference led to the establishment of the African Civil Aviation Commission, which later became a specialized agency of the OAU/AU. Since then, the initiatives conceived and agreed under the auspices and leadership of ECA have included the development of major programmes and policies such as the United Nations Transport and Communication Decade for Africa, the Mbabane Declaration on the Freedoms of the Air, the Yamoussoukro Declaration of 1988 as well as the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999. It is very important to note that besides ECA, the African Union, African Develoment Bank, AFCAC, AFRAA, the Regional Economic Communities and other development partners have also been very instrumental in pushing forward an agenda of developing a very efficient and reliable air transport industry. These organizations and ECA are the key actors and catalysts providing the main substructure on which the various initiatives were built and the resources needed for the integrationist initiatives. The achievements so far would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of these institutions. It is therefore important that we continue to work together to advance the airline industry for the betterment of the continent. Mr. Chairman; Despite the tremendous progress made so far in advancing the industry, a number of challenges still remain. These challenges include the fact that some member States are yet to fully implement the Yamoussoukro Decision because of concerns relating to increased competition. It should be noted that the airline industry continues to face financial constraints, particularly in acquiring additional aircrafts to

strengthen their fleet. The issue of connectivity, in parts of Africa, still poses a major challenge to many travelers within Africa. Some of us attending todays meeting left from an African city and connected through Europe to get to Tunis. It is really unacceptable for an official or a businessperson to spend one week to travel to an African capital for a two-day meeting because of the difficulties of connection and frequency of flights. Additionally, compared to Europe, Airline ticket fares for traveling within Africa remain high, discouraging the promotion of tourism in Africa. Some of the air services are also not reliable, as flight are either delayed or cancelled without prior notice to travelers. Furthermore, the safety of our skies needs to be significantly improved and the technical and human capacities of the industry strengthened. Let me seize this opportunity to applaud the decision made recently in Libreville by our ministers responsible for aviation to bring down the number of airline traffic accidents on the continent. We have to all work hard in assisting our ministers to achieve this goal. Distinguished Delegates, Todays meeting is very important and useful for a number of reasons. First, through such forums, the Aviation community in Africa could share and disseminate vital information necessary to strengthen and improve the air industry. Second, such meetings help in addressing issues pertinent to Africas civil aviation. Third, by coming together, policymakers are kept well informed on the progress, achievements and challenges of implementation of air transport policies on the continent. The agenda of todays meeting focuses our discussions on pertinent issues related to the intra-African connectivity of airline services, the financing of the industry and how we respond to globalization of the airline industry. To advance the implementation process on the ground, it is imperative that our deliberations here in Tunis lead us to a common understanding of: (1) how to better manage and improve air transport safety on the continent; (2) how to harmonize competition rules in order to avoid the emergence of sub-regional blocs and enable the uniform implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision; (3) how to create an enabling environment for the participation of the private sector; (4) how to establish innovative financing mechanisms for the development and strengthening of the aviation industry, including the idea of establishing a leasing company; (5) how to remove non-physical barriers, including visa restrictions; (6) how to promote strong alliance and cooperation among African airline companies in order to remain competitive in the global market place; and (7) how to strengthen the cooperation between airlines, member States and specialized agencies in the development of airport infrastructure and equipment. Ladies and Gentlemen, Let me end by assuring you that, as we did in the development of the Yamoussoukro Decision, ECA would continue to work with the AU, the ADB, AFRAA, AFCAC and others to assist member States, the Regional Economic Communities and the airline companies in the implementation of their programmes and policies in the avaition sector. In light of this, I would appreciate if you could let us know what your needs are, so we can do our best to address them within the framework of the strengthened partnership between ECA, AU and ADB. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate Ethiopian Airlines on its 60 th Anniversary. I would like to commend the Royal Air Maroc, Kenya Airways, South African Airways, Egypt Air and TunisAir as examples of successful airlines on the continent. I thank you all for granting ECA the opportunity to participate in this august meeting. We wish you fruitful and successful deliberations. Thank you.