The Namibian Windhoek Ndama Nakashole
Displayed with permission from allAfrica.com

AIR Namibia said it fully rallies behind bigger African airlines in their efforts to compete with bigger international airlines from other continents.

Air Namibia’s acting managing director Mandi Samson said this on Friday during the 46th Annual General Assembly for the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) held at Swakopmund over the weekend.

AASA is an organisation formed to represent the mutual interests of its 19 members of Air Austral, Air Namibia, Airlink, Comair, Federal Air, LAM Mozambique Airlines, Mozambique Express, Skywise Airline, South African Express, Taag- Angola Airlines, Air Botswana, Air Zimbabwe, Cemair, Kulula, Fly Blue Crane, Mango Airlines, Safair, South African Airways and Swaziland Airlink. All member airlines were represented, and officials from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), African Airlines Association, Airbus and Boeing were also part of the more than 200 delegates.

Other represented parties include international aviation groups, airport authorities, government officials and air transport professors.

Samson is part of a group of aviation leaders at the forum, which discussed airline initiatives and solutions to achieve aviation sustainability within unequal operating environments and markets.

One of those solutions was the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision.

The Yamoussoukro Decision, better known as the YD, was acknowledged by African ministers responsible for civil aviation in 1999, and calls for African countries to deregulate air services and promote regional air markets (open skies for Africa).

As moderator, IATA’s vice president for Africa Raphael Kuuchi wanted to know if Air Namibia is one of those African airlines who are against the long-delayed implementation of the YD.

« Of course it is not a good thing to have a business and open your doors to anyone, where you don’t mind who comes in. But I think the reason why the YD is not being fully implemented is the fear of the big boys such as South African Airways, Air Morocco etc… eating up all the traffic, » Samson responded.

However, she said that she thinks big African airlines deserve it (granting of YD) in order to compete with bigger airlines worldwide.

At the same forum, South African Airways acting CEO Musa Zwane played small when he said there are not really any big airlines in Africa, and they thus deserve to come together to compete with international airlines.

« If you put the so-called big airlines of Africa i.e. Kenyan Airways, Ethiopian Airways and South African Airways together, they are not equal to one airline in the Middle East, for example, » explained Zwane.

Samson further said African airlines need to realise that they need assistance in implementing the YD, especially from the home affairs’ sector, among others.

« We need to be realistic about what needs to be done, » she added.

African Airlines Association secretary general Elijah Chingosho suggested that African airlines who are ready to fully implement the YD need to kick off, instead of delaying the whole thing because of those who are not prepared to implement the decision.

« The idea of open skies for Africa will kick off next year, » he stated.

PROSPERITY

In his keynote address, IATA’s vice president for external relations Paul Steel said aviation-related growth in Africa could be even higher if the principle of greater access to air markets were to be embraced across the continent.

« The Yamoussoukro agenda has set out a path towards more open skies in Africa. But frankly, we have not seen much progress so far, » he said.

According to Steel, the implementation of YD would lead to 14 500 additional jobs annually in South Africa, and 10 600 extra jobs annually in Namibia.

« Africa-wide, it could add billions (of dollars) to the GDP of the continent, » he noted.

« Some have argued that the delay in opening African skies allows African airlines to strengthen. But in reality, the opposite is proving to be the case. During a period when the industry as a whole has finally moved to a sustainable return on capital in excess of 7%, carriers in Africa have not turned a profit since 2010. Protectionism neither strengthens the African economy nor its national carriers, » he added.

Steel further expressed delight to see that last year, 14 African Union governments committed to implementing YD by 2017, with South Africa being at the forefront.

At the just-concluded ICAO 39th assembly in Montréal, numerous other African states also committed to expedite full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration, including Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique.

« Let us hope those countries can convert promises into action. Of course, airlines in Africa are not just in uncertain economic times. There are many other interconnected uncertainties that need to be addressed. Broadly, the challenges fall into the categories of safety, security, regulations and cost, » said Steel.

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