The twin weekend accidents of 2 and 3 June in Ghana and Nigeria respectively, which resulted in a total loss of almost 180 souls, should be seen as two accidents too many for the West African aviation sector.
Never mind the three days mourning and the grounding of Dana Air in Nigeria, or the call for relocation of Kotoka International Airport; if there is anything we must take out of these two tragedies, it is the call and need for a revamped and more secure African aviation industry.
There's no gainsaying the innovative industry that is the air industry contributes significantly to the economy of any nation. It drives economic and social progress; connects people, countries; and cultures. It also offers access to global markets and generates trade and tourism.
According to the African Union, “Aviation in general provides the only rapid worldwide transportation network, which makes it essential for global business and tourism -- thus facilitating economic growth, particularly in developing countries.”
The AU maintains that “The air transport industry directly generates 5.58 million jobs globally and directly contributes US$408billion to global GDP.” It also contributes “US$1.1 trillion to world GDP through its direct, indirect and induced impacts -- equivalent to 2.3% of world GDP.” Worldwide, Africa represents 10% of total jobs and 2% of GDP generated by the air transport industry, including catalytic impacts.
Liberalisation has played a critical element in the aviation industry worldwide. First, it has permeated all aspects of the aviation industry with competition by helping to elevate awareness, expectations and choice at the same time as protecting consumer rights. Second, liberalisation and privatisation have led to a steady reduction of state control of the aviation sector.
An upside of this trend has been many more states collaborating among themselves through the establishment of regional, inter-regional and other strategic partnerships based on common economic interests -- such as the Nairobi-based Association of African Airlines (AFRAA) and the Abuja-based Banjul Accord Group (BAG).
This, according to the AU, has encouraged harmonisation of regulations; integration and management of assets; pooling of resources etc, which can only enhance the growth of civil aviation and thus benefit the agencies involved as well as consumers.
In order to obtain a greater insight of the aviation sector in Africa, a brief description of the two collaborative ventures is necessary.
Association of African Airlines (AFRAA)
The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) was established in April 1968, originally in Accra, Ghana, as a Trade Organisation with membership open to airlines of African States. Today, there are currently forty members from African Union member-states including Ethiopian Airlines; Kenya Airways; South African Airways; ASKY; and Ghana's Starbow Airlines
According to the AFRAA website: “The formation of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) was the result of historic developments and economic imperatives.” Though it is vague on what these “imperatives” are, it goes on to explain the context of the Cold War and the ushering in of independence for many African states in the 1960s as one of the reasons for its establishment.
In the early 1960s, a great number of African States acceded to independence and created their own national airlines. Most of these airlines became members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
In 1963, AFRAA had its “conceptual beginning” when a number of African airlines, taking the opportunity provided by the IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM), began holding consultation meetings prior to the IATA AGMs to discuss matters of interest to African airlines and to adopt common positions. This was the first step towards the creation of AFRAA.
From that first step in Rome in 1963, the establishment in 1968 in Accra of a regional organisation for the articulation of regional views and promotion of cooperation was undertaken by 14 founding members.
Cairo, Egypt, played host to the first Annual General Assembly in February 1969 – at which approval of the Articles of Association among other decisions taken.
According to the association's website, its activities over the last four decades show AFRAA can modestly claim that: (a) it has been in the forefront of major initiatives in the air transport field in Africa by sensitising African airlines to take concrete actions for cooperation in operational, commercial, technical, and training fields.
An ancillary claim-to-fame is being “instrumental in sensitising African Governments through the African Civil Aviation Commission and other regional and sub-regional organisations on the actions to be taken for the development of an efficient air transport system. It has been a catalyst for all the major policy decisions in the Continent.”
Banjul Accord Group (BAG)
On 29 January 2004, seven West African States -- namely Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone -- met in Banjul, Gambia, to sign the Banjul Accord Group (BAG) Agreement.
The objective of this agreement requires BAG member-states to harmonise their policies and procedures on civil aviation and foster the development of international civil aviation through cooperative arrangements between the states.
Interestingly, with the exception of Lusophone Cape Verde, the other six ECOWAS member-states are all members of the West Africa Monetary Zone.
Subsequently, in 2004 the seven BAG member States signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for implementation of the Cooperative Development of Operational Safety and Continuing Airworthiness Project for the Banjul Accord Group (COSCAP-BAG).
According to the BAG website: “The project was implemented under the ICAO Technical Cooperation Programme through assignment and technical back-stopping of internationally recruited experts in the fields of flight operations, airworthiness, flight Safety Regulations and aerdromes, and regionally recruited inspectors for carrying out safety oversight functions on behalf of the BAG member-states.”
It may interest one to know they have an updated website on http://www.bagasoo.org/en/, and have culled information of the twin crashes onto their site as at the time of this writing.
The African Civil Aviation Commission
A specialised institution of the African Union, the Dakar-based African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) was created by the Constitutional Conference convened by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the-then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1964. AFCAC was fully established and began functioning in 1969 and on 11 May 1978 became an OAU Specialised Agency in the field of Civil Aviation.
From its inception, AFCAC was technically, administratively, and financially managed by the UN agency ICAO through African member-state's contributions. AFCAC became autonomous from ICAO management as recently as 1st January 2007; meaning that it has officially been financially independent for only five years!
AFCAC today comprises 54 African States and is managed through a triennial Plenary (consisting of all member-states). The Bureau is made up of a President, 5 vice-presidents (representing North, West, East, Central and South African Regions) and the Coordinator of the African Group at the ICAO Council, and the Secretariat is headed by a Secretary General.
According to the website of AFCAC on http://www.afcac.org/en/, its vision is to “foster a safe, secure, efficient, cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally friendly Civil Aviation industry in Africa”.
The Third meeting of the African Ministers in charge of civil aviation matters which was held on 11th March 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, entrusted AFCAC with the attributions and responsibilities of the Executing Agency for implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision.
The Resolution was endorsed by the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government in Accra, Ghana, on 29th June 2007. To accommodate these added responsibilities, AFCAC adopted a new Constitution at a meeting of Plenipotentiaries which was held in Dakar, Senegal, on 16 December 2009, and the Constitution came into force on 11th May 2010.
In the next piece on theaviation industry in Africa/West Africa, I will spend more time on the role of the aviation sector, especially in the sub-region, and offer a summary of the second session of the AU conference of Ministers responsible for Transport that took place in Luanda, Angola, in November 2011.
In the meantime, Saturday 16 June will be two weeks since the Ghana/Nigeria crashes. Is anyone counting down to the outcome of the report from the established committee?