AFRAA position on Infrastructure for Better Skies in Africa

1.    Introduction

With Air traffic volumes doubling every 15 to 20 years, the huge numbers of aircraft movements impose  pressure on airspace infrastructure and airports, particularly in mature markets. Whilst Europe recorded 10.35 million flights through 10 million square kilometers, in 2018, Africa logged only a fifth of the volume of the number of flights compared to Europe. Yet the Africam landmass is three times bigger than Europe at 30 million square-kilometers.

As much as Europe needs to address the issue of airspace capacity, Africa does not have any airspace capacity challenges. What then, are the infrastructure challenges faced by Africa?

2.    Infrastructure Challenges

The general public perception derides old airport infrastructure in Africa and even goes to label it as unsafe in certain cases. However, the reality is that most of the international airports in Africa do have the infrastructure required for their respective traffic levels. Very few airports lack the appropriate and or adequate facilities. The operational set-ups in some airports fall short of the required or expected facilities that would enable them to provide a comfortable passenger travel experience.  Runway safety-related accidents remain prominent in Africa. Relevant stakeholders, including airport operators, airlines, Meteorology services (MET), and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), are establishing Runways Safety Teams (RST) at African airports to prevent such types of occurrences.

Africa and Indian Ocean (AFI) Air Traffic Service (ATS) Incident Analysis Group (AIAG) continues to monitor ATS incidents and assess infrastructure safety in Africa. AIAG data have been instrumental for safe implementation of the Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) in Africa since 2008. Generally, the Air Navigation Services Providers manage the airspace in Africa adequately and support the drive for optimum safety standards.

However, many aviation studies point out “high airport facility fees” and “high air navigation charges” as the main challenges of infrastructure in Africa.

These airport facility fees and air navigation charges are invariably excessive compared to those levied in other regions globally. The high-cost environment of doing business in Africa and high tax regimes in the many African States impact these charges negatively. Furthermore, the fragmentation of Flight Information Regions (FIRs) along national borders also impedes the opportunities of potential economies of scales.

3.    AFRAA Regional Approach on Aviation Infrastructure

Aviation infrastructure must continue supporting flight operations safely while improving efficiency and enhancing passenger travel experiences. Aviation stakeholders need to coordinate efforts focussed on the improvement of efficiency of airport operations and air navigation services. Therefore, AFRAA suggests the Africa Aviation Infrastructure Efficiency Improvement (AAIE) initiative articulated through the four pillars.

Pillar 1: Advocacy to Promote the Reduction of Taxes, Fees, and Charges

Africa’s high-cost environment contributes to low productivity; hence, African airlines’ fares yield lower revenues per pax-Km compared to the industry average. The additional applicable taxes and charges inflate the actual air ticket prices beyond affordable levels for low to middle-income African citizens.

The loss making flight operations, coupled with unaffordable total air travel prices, are detrimental to the development of the aviation sector in Africa.

The African air transport sector should be growing faster because the market is not mature. Therefore, AFRAA and other stakeholders must: (i) encourage productivity gain along the supply chain and (ii) promote advocacy vigorously for the reduction of taxes, fees, and charges applicable to passengers, fuel, airport operations, and air navigation services.

4. Pillar 2: Stakeholders’ Collaborative Infrastructure Development – CDM

AFRAA concurs with ICAO requirements for the Collaborative Decision-Making (CDM) process for infrastructure development for air navigation services and airports to enhance the passenger travel experience while containing the inflation of operating costs of airports, ANSPs, and airlines.

In the framework of it’s Technical, Operations, and Training Committee, AFRAA coordinates data on ground operation safety challenges and conveys the same to relevant regional forums. In return,  the AFRAA Secretariat keeps its membership abreast of the regional infrastructure projects and urges the operators to take part in the pertinent CDMs.

Pillar 3: Planning and Implementation of ASBU Modules towards Seamless Provision of ANS in Africa

ICAO Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP) is structured in modules to accommodate seamless air navigation worldwide. The Aviation System Block Upgrade (ASBU) requires individual States and regions to select relevant ASBU modules suitable for the needs of their respective airspaces. Based on traffic flows, groups of States could integrate their airspace and implement the relevant ASBU modules ensuring seamless management of air traffic in their joint airspace.

Pillar 4: New Technology

The introduction of new technologies in air navigation services or airport operations are in line with innovative aviation trends.

It is AFRAA’s view that in such cases, new technology introductions should always meet three principles:

  • Carry out a safety assessment to identify any safety risks and apply the required mitigation solutions;
  • Undertake a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) to confirm that the new technology solutions do not come with an excessive financial burden for the users and;
  • Enhance productivity to induce the reduction of charges.

5.    Conclusion

Public perception tends to paint aviation infrastructure as obsolete, yet airspace and airport infrastructure claim excessive fees, charges, and taxes. The ICAO GANP modular structure provides opportunities to the Region to select relevant ASBU modules. It is AFRAA’s view that stakeholders should focus on Africa Aviation Infrastructure Efficiency Improvement (AAIE) projects along the four pillars.

  • Advocacy to promote the reduction of Taxes, Fees, and Charges;
  • Stakeholders’ Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) process for Infrastructure Development Projects;
  • Planning and Implementation of relevant ASBU Modules leading to Seamless provision of ANS in Africa and;
  • Introduction of new technologies for ANS and airports to enhance productivity and reduce charges.