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Air travel in Africa: Costly flights hold the continent back



By Rebecca Kesby

Flying within Africa is more expensive than just about anywhere else in the world. Travellers pay higher ticket prices and more tax.

It is often cheaper to fly to another continent than to another African country.

For a quick comparison, flying from the German capital, Berlin, to Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul, will probably set you back around $150 (£120) for a direct flight taking less than three hours.

But flying a similar distance, say between Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos, you will be paying anything between $500 and $850, with at least one change, taking up to 20 hours.

This makes doing business within Africa incredibly difficult, and expensive – and it is not just elite travellers that are affected.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) – the global trade body representing some 300 airlines which make up about 83% of world air traffic – argues that if just 12 key countries in Africa worked together to improve connectivity and opened up their markets, it would create 155,000 jobs and boost those countries’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by more than $1.3bn.

“Aviation contributes directly to the GDP in every country. It generates work and it activates the economy,” says Kamil al-Awadhi, IATA’s regional vice-president for Africa and the Middle East.

Adefolake Adeyeye, an assistant professor of commercial law at the UK’s Durham University, agrees that Africa as a whole is missing out because of its poor air service.

“It’s been shown that air transport does boost the economy. As we’ve seen in other continents, budget airlines can improve connectivity and cost, which boosts tourism, which then creates many more jobs,” she says.

The poor quality of road networks and lack of railways in many African countries often makes air transport the practical choice for cargo too.

The climate emergency, which has severely impacted Africa, means everyone needs to be more careful about their carbon footprint and should aim to fly a lot less.

But even though around 18% of the world’s population lives in Africa, it accounts for less than 2% of global air travel and, according to the UN’s Environment Programme, just 3.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is in contrast to 19% from the US and 23% from China.

Africa may be rich in minerals and natural resources, but of the 46 nations on the UN’s Least Developed Countries list, 33 are on the continent, and poverty continues to be the biggest daily threat for millions of people on the continent.

But there is also a growing middle-class who could potentially travel by air if the tickets were priced at similar levels to Europe or elsewhere.

Zemedeneh Negatu
Global chairman of Fairfax Africa Fund states that
African states have been trying for decades to integrate the aviation sector, but they haven’t been successful, yet.

“There needs to be a coherent strategy by Africa to address the issue of its poor air service if they want to transform Africa’s economies,” says Zemedeneh Negatu, the global chairman of US-based investment firm Fairfax Africa Fund.

He says that flights within Africa are still structured around cumbersome bilateral agreements from one country to the next, and that most flag-carrying state airlines in Africa barely cover their costs, while some even run at a loss.

“Every government in Africa wants to see their flag on the tail of an aircraft at Heathrow or JFK airport, but African governments need to realise that stand alone carriers are not viable.”

Zemedeneh Negatu

Mr Zemedeneh argues that African airlines should take inspiration from Europe and form major partnerships, such as between flag-carriers Air France and KLM of The Netherlands, and the Anglo-Spanish International Airlines Group (IAG) formed between British Airways and Iberia.

He says even in the rich market of Europe, conglomeration is the way forward for airliners to survive, and provide a cheaper more reliable service.

The current system in Africa is very fragmented, and although 35 countries are signed up to the Single African Air Transport Market, an African Union (AU) initiative to free up the skies to African airlines and bring down costs, it could be years before it’s implemented.

IATA’s Mr Awadhi says governments are reluctant to work together.

“There is a hard-headedness where each state thinks they know how to handle it better and will stick to their remedies even when they are not very effective,” he says.

“In the end it’s a business and there is a level of protectionism that starts to hurt the aviation industry. Then there is no benefit to having your own national carrier.”

There is one notable exception in Africa of an airline that is absolutely thriving, and that could provide a blueprint for others to copy – Ethiopian Airlines.

Just over 15 years ago the company employed about 4,000 people. Now that figure is over 17,000.

It is state-owned but run entirely as a commercial venture without government interference.

It has more than doubled the size of its fleet of cargo and passenger planes and has made Addis Ababa a regional hub, driving foreign currency into the Ethiopian capital, and boosting the country’s service industry.

At the turn of the millennium Ethiopia was one of the poorest countries in the world, now it’s one of the fastest growing economies.

Mr Zemedeneh, an Ethiopian-American who played a key role as an adviser to Ethiopian Airlines as it developed its strategy, says Ethiopian Airlines has played a part in that boom.

“Ethiopian Airlines generates millions of dollars in hard currency for the country, and it makes every Ethiopian proud that they have been able to create one of the most successful indigenous African-owned, African-operated, multinational companies,” he adds.

African travellers will be hoping these kinds of commercial successes will ultimately impact their airfares, bringing them down more in line with Europe or Asia – and that they can finally get to where they want to go more quickly and cheaply.

(Source: Business Daily, BBC World Service)

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Keyamo Seeks ICAO Support for Nigeria’s Aviation Master Plan



Minister of Aviation, Mr. Festus Keyamo has sought the support of the international aviation regulatory body the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on the comprehensive civil aviation master plan and airport development of the country.

The Minister made the disclosure when he paid a familiarisation visit to the ICAO Headquarters in Montreal Canada.

Keyamo with the ICAO Council President, Mr. Salvatore Sciacchitano, the Secretary-General, Mr. Juan Carlos Salazar, and Nigeria’s Representative on the ICAO Council

The minister on behalf of the continent of Africa also mentioned the important role of air connectivity which he said ICAO should continue its support on the actualisation of other safety development-related matters.

Keyamo, accompanied by the Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Captain Musa Nuhu, Nigeria’s Representative on the ICAO Council, Engr Mahmoud Sani Ben-Tukur, and other officials during a courtesy call on the ICAO Council President, Mr Salvatore Sciacchitano

On hand to receive the minister was the ICAO Council President, Mr. Salvatore Sciacchitano, the Secretary-General, Mr. Juan Carlos Salazar, and Nigeria’s Representative on the ICAO Council, Engr. Ben Tukur; while the Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu accompanied the minister on the visit.

It is however not clear how ICAO intends to assist Africa in air connectivity considering the fact that not all of the countries in Africa are signatories to the Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM).

Owing to the poor state of road, and rail networks and fragmented transportation infrastructure across Africa, travelling by air stands out as a quick alternative and efficient means of connectivity.

Unfortunately, Africa’s air services are poorly connected, often necessitating multi-day journeys or flights via other continents to reach destinations within Africa. To address the bottlenecks, the African Union (AU) launched the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) in 2018 to create a single African air transport market that promotes economic integration and air connectivity.

Sadly, its slow implementation stifles liberalisation of air transport markets in Africa. Only 34 out of 54 African countries have signed up to the SAATM.

SAATM and AfCFTA according to experts are growth drivers, with liberalised air transport playing a pivotal role in paving the way for African airlines to operate scheduled flights with ease within the continent.

AfCFTA they said could boost air cargo from 2.3 to 4.5 million tonnes, with the AfCFTA requiring 254 aircraft by 2030.

SAATM and AfCFTA are interlinked, with SAATM boosting intra-African airline connectivity, while AfCFTA enhances regional integration, trade, resources, capital, and passengers within Africa. An open passenger travel will enhance AfCFTA implementation.

Africa has the lowest air connectivity in the world. Among the 1,431 pairs of African Union countries, just 19% had significant direct service (at least once a week annually). Out of these, 35% had daily or more frequent service, while only 13% had service twice daily or more.

The Yamoussoukro Decision was adopted in 1999 to rule out stringent regulatory restrictions within Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) among African countries which are detrimental to intra-African connectivity and the development of the African aviation sector. SAATM evolved from the Yamoussoukro Decision thereby eliminating BASAs.

In most African nations, African airlines encounter hurdles like restrictive agreements, high taxes, expensive fuel, and visa restrictions which limit growth and profitability.

Some African countries that have endorsed the SAATM treaty haven’t adhered completely to its regulations, resorting to high landing fees and other charges to discourage other African airlines from operating within their airspace. This isn’t unconnected to the high flight tariffs in Africa.

Abuja airport followed by Lagos airport is adjudged as the most expensive airport in Africa, their exorbitant charges are impediments to Nigerian airlines’ competitiveness globally. 32 out of 53 African airports impose fees exceeding $50 per traveler, and 10 airports charge above $100. In comparison, European passengers are billed an average of $30.23, and in the Middle East, the average is $29.65.

West African return tickets remain excessively expensive compared to Europe where 100 euros can cover travels. Air travel in Africa is costly, time-consuming with long stopovers, and hampers socioeconomic growth.

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NSIB Boss, Olateru Honoured for Transparency and Contribution to Air Safety



The Director General , Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau(NSIB), Engr. Akin Olateru has been honoured with the ‘Integrity and Anti-corruption Ambassador’ award by the Nigerian youth against Corruption and Transparency Initiative in recognition of the transformation and developmental strides the Bureau has witnessed under his leadership.

This is according to a statement by Mohammed Farouk Yakub on behalf of the Director, Public Affairs and Consumer Protection of the Bureau.

Presenting the Award at the Bureau’s Headquarters, in Abuja on Wednesday, Group Coordinator, Engr. Abdul Malik Usman, said members of the Group decided to confer the award on the Bureau’s Director General in recognition of his contributions to the development of the nation’s aviation safety through rapid transformation of the Bureau to emerge as one of the best accident investigating bodies in the world.

“Our Organisation is very proud of the transformation and developmental strides in the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau( NSIB) which cannot be overemphasised. Your unrelenting dedication to a corruption-free society, contribution to nation building, among others, called for appreciation and recognition and to this end, we decided to honour you with this award, he stated.

Receiving the award, Engr. Olateru appreciated members of the organisation for recognising his modest contributions to aviation safety through the Investigation of occurrences and timely release of reports along safety recommendations which he described as the by product of the investigation usually addressed to industry stakeholders such as, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA), the affected airlines, Air craft Manufacturers, among others, to prevent the reoccurrence of the incident.

The Bureau established in 2006 according to him, and had done its best under his leadership since 2017 when he became its head in the fulfilment of its mandate to probe into air accidents / incidents and timely release of reports for a safer airspace in Nigeria and beyond.
He informed the organisation that the government, in recognition of the roles played by the Bureau, signed into law the NSIB Act 2022 for the expansion of its mandate and scope as a multi-modal agency to investigate not just air accidents and incidents , but maritime, railway and any other modes of transportation across the country.
“And that has put Nigeria at par with countries like United States of America, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, among others , to have a single agency doing all the investigations,” he stated.

Engr Akin Olateru with the NSIB Management after the award

Explaining further, Engr Olateru said the reason behind this, is to ensure transparency and objectivity in the investigation of occurrences.
“There are 3 legs to any transportation system. You have the service providers, you have the regulators, and then, the Investigators. During occurrences, sometimes it could be the regulators that might have caused the reason for the occurrence. That is why you can’t be regulator and the Investigator all together”.

He recalled between 2003 to 2005 during which period Nigeria had such situations which led to numerous air crashes in the country.
“Nigeria used to have this arrangement, but the wisdom of government to separate regulatory from investigating responsibilities has not just improved air safety, it has also enabled air transport business to dramatically rised in Nigeria .

“Gone are the days when people hesitated boarding an aircraft” he stressed further, saying in the past people would rather travel by road instead of aeroplanes for safety considerations.

“Today, this is not so as the conscious efforts that had been put in place by the Bureau in collaboration with other relevant agencies which have ensured a safer airspace for the flying public.
“Safety is not achieved by accident. It is not something that just happened at ago. Conscious efforts had gone into it . For a safer airspace to have been in place , the regulatory body, the investigating agency and other industry stakeholders must have contributed their bits to the overall safety networks”.

Olateru assured of the Bureau’s continuous prompt response to occurrences and timely release of its reports along with right safety recommendations to deal with the reason why that particular occurrence happened. This, he said, is the only way the agency can continue to protect the system from reoccurrence.
He noted that the Agency under his leadership enhances air safety from the rear which explained his delight for been spotted and honoured with the award.

“We enhance safety from the rear. And that is why am so happy that you spotted us. I really want to thank you for this initiative and for giving us the encouragement to do more, “ he added.

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Aviation Safety: Nigeria Has Best Record in Africa, says Olateru, NSIB Boss



The aviation safety record of Nigeria has been described as the best in Africa, with the country recording only two fatal accidents in the last ten years.

According to the Director General, Nigeria Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB), Engr. Akin Olateru, the country, within the period, recorded nine fatalities. This was contained in a statement by the Director, Public Affairs and Consumer Protection of the Bureau, Dr James Odaudu on Friday.

“In the last 10 years, there have been two fatal civil accidents leading to the unfortunate loss of 9 souls in Nigeria”.
Speaking on “Nigeria Evolving Approach To Aviation Safety And Learning From Occurrence Investigation – The NSIB Experience.” at the 7th Aviation Africa Summit held in Abuja, Olateru said between 2005 and 2023, 78 accidents and serious incidents have occurred in the country with four incidents in the Safety Bulletin amounting to 82 while 260 safety recommendations have been issued by his agency within the period with 12 incidents in the Safety Bulletin totalling 272 safety recommendations.

The safety recommendations, and their appreciable implementation and enforcements, he further reiterated, were largely responsible for the safety successes recorded since the inception of the current NSIB administration.

Explaining the legislative changes and transition of legislative responsibilities over the years, Olateru said “there were 154 accidents, 46 of which were fatal between 1948 and 2005 with a total fatality of 1,445 passengers. Initially, Civil Aviation Department (CAD) of the Ministry of Aviation handled aviation occurrence investigation as well as Airworthiness Certification. This created a peculiar challenge of the Regulator also being the Investigator.
“How could the Regulator be expected to objectively investigate herself and hold herself accountable in cases were contributing causes of occurrences were traced to poor or non-existent regulatory oversight function and enforcement by her?” he asked.

“It was becoming clear that we had to re-jig our Aviation safety regulations and Accident Investigation and bring them to par with relevant ICAO annexes and international best practices.”
NSIB, he said, now embodies the evolving approach to aviation safety and learning from occurrence investigation which has led to safer skies over Nigeria.

He listed the evolving approach to include Separation of investigative from regulatory Functions, granting autonomy and investigative independence to the Investigator (NSIB) and emphasis on Early release of Accident Reports.

Others are: Synergy between Regulator (NCAA) and Investigator (NSIB) in the monitoring and enforcement of Safety Recommendations, MOUs for collaboration with neighboring countries to help with investigations, and sharing of facilities and information.

The NSIB boss also identified development of mechanism for early reporting of occurrence, development of identified technical skills amongst NSIB staff, engaging the public and stakeholders on the need to report occurrences as soon as they happen or become aware of them (Mandatory & voluntary) as part of the evolving approaches to accident investigation in Nigeria, as well as training of First Responders on what to do at accident sites and keeping an occurrence database for the purpose of analysis to Identify Trends and Patterns.

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