Improving air safety in Africa

Feb 20, 2006

The recent spate of commercial airline accidents in Africa, with the attendant tragic loss of lives, has once again focused the world’s attention on the African aviation industry and the urgent need for the African continent to improve its air safety record.

While some international commentators have unhelpfully derided Africa, in the usual manner, others have offered practical advice and assistance on how the air safety situation in Africa can be best improved. 

Giovanni Bisignani, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), stands out as an exemplary example of one of those who have quickly rallied to the support of the African aviation industry; true to form, he has done so with a combination of unquestionable good intent and the outspoken frankness which have come to characterise his dynamic tenure as the boss of IATA. “Everyone recognises that there is a problem in need of fixing,” he says. “But words and politics will not solve the problem. Action and commitment must replace platitudes and politics. African skies can and must be safer.” 

IATA’s Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) has become the first global benchmark for airline operational safety management and the recent decision to make IOSA a condition of IATA membership by the end of 2007 is a welcome step in the right direction. In this regard, there is need for rapid action in Africa. Giovanni Bisignani points out that currently only four African airlines – South African Airways, Kenya Airways, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc – are on the IOSA Registry. “We clearly have a long way to go in a relatively short period of time,” he says.

 According to IATA, air transport in Africa generates 470,000 jobs and contributes US$11.3 billion to Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Indeed, aviation will become an even greater catalyst for Africa’s economic development when it becomes much safer and more efficient.


– By Nick Fadugba

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