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Investment in aviation infrastructure key to unlocking aviation growth in Africa

ICAO Council President Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu delivered a stark caution at a workshop in Nigeria this week and called for more airport infrastructure to be built across the African continent.

He said the realisation of better air connectivity in Africa, and the crucial sustainable development it promises, will only be accomplished through the mobilisation of sufficient and appropriate investment.

“It is especially urgent for Africa to address its aviation infrastructure gaps, given current and high levels of awareness of how air connectivity has become such a unique and indispensable catalyst for socio-economic growth on this continent,” Dr. Aliu said at the 2019 Aviation Infrastructure for Africa Gap Analysis Workshop.

ICAO long-term traffic forecasts presently indicate that passenger and freight traffic for the African region are expected to grow by 4.3 per cent and 3.8 per cent annually through 2035. Currently accounting for four per cent of global air transport services, Africa presents the highest potential for growth out of all of ICAO’s global regions.

“The launch last year of the African Union’s Single Market demonstrated Africa’s unity and agreement of the fact that aviation connectivity’s socio-economic benefits are real, sustainable, and worthy of the attention and commitments of African Governments,” Dr Aliu insisted.

“But rapidly-expanding air traffic and enhanced air connectivity can only be sustained with continued investment and development for aviation infrastructure, capacity and technology, supported by a regulatory framework which is ICAO compliant and therefore harmonized with other States and Regions.”

ICAO plays a key role in fostering effective partnerships between donors, investors and States-in-need, primarily by facilitating local capacity-building and resource mobilization under its No Country Left Behind initiative.

However mobilising dependable long-term financial resources is becoming more difficult and represents a great challenge for many States, who are facing strains on their public finances, including for developing countries who are further confronted by high borrowing costs.

The goal of the Abuja workshop is to help address the needs of African States by defining a practical and agreed methodology and approach to aviation infrastructure gap analyses.

This could then serve as a key reference for African States seeking to develop regional and national aviation infrastructure programmes and master plans, all fully in line with current forecast traffic growth and the related targets defined in ICAO’s Global plans.

“All investments in aviation infrastructure development and modernization on this continent must be directed to well-managed projects featuring solid business cases and due levels of accountability, transparency and quality assurance,” Dr. Aliu said.

“Addressing financing challenges facing aviation infrastructure and capacity development requires both ambition and credible means of planning and implementation, and we should aspire to a goal of no constraints of infrastructure capacity, technology and financial resources for aviation development.”