Economic Dividends of Air Connectivity | Infrastructure Conference 2018
The moderator, Adefunke Adeyemi, set the scene by talking about the evolution of aviation and how far the industry had come. From hot air balloons in the 18th Century to drones and pilotless planes in the 21st century. Today, we can travel from one end of the world to the other in 24 hours. In 2017, aviation transported 4.4 billion people globally and supported 35% of global trade. Yet despite industry advances, air connectivity, weak infrastructure, high ticket prices, and visa restrictions make aviation in Africa a very elitist industry.
Speaking for companies directly involved in the sector, Vuyani Jarana and Sean Smith talked about their companies were working with different countries to increase connectivity and reducing costs for customers. Speaking for South African Airways on visa restrictions and high-ticket prices, Mr. Jarana talked about how governments need to see aviation as a catalyst, and thus should moderate how they approach airlines on the various fees they incur. Governments should optimize and improve their overall aviation systems, consider functionality and sustainable solutions over challenges associated with national airlines. Echoing Mr. Jarana’s sentiments, Sean Smith shared how Honeywell supports airports and airlines, to ensure streamlined airport operations, increase capacity and meet the evolving needs of airlines and their passengers. Unfortunately, customers end up having to pay for governments overtaxing airlines, thus perpetuating the impression that aviation is an elitist industry.
It is clear, despite the many challenges, this sector will continue to evolve. It is estimated that by 2035, Africa will see an extra 192 million passengers a year for a total market of 303 million passengers traveling to and from African destinations. For African countries to meet this demand and reap financial rewards from increased passenger traffic, governments need to consider relaxing visa restrictions; form public-private partnerships to modernize infrastructure and operations; consider air transport liberalization. According to IATA, liberalization alone can lead to increased air service levels and lower fares, translating in increased traffic volumes, tourism promotion, enhanced trade and investment.