Air transport in southern Africa forecast to grow only by 2% to 3% per annum for next five years
Livingstone, Zambia. The quaint little town on the downstream end of the Victoria Falls provided a scenic background for the 48th Annual General Assembly of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa.
The voluntary association representing 19 airlines and 34 associate members met a week ago to discuss competitiveness and sustainability of the carriers operating in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). More than 200 delegates participated in the deliberations.
While the global air transport sector is on track to return a US$33.8 billion profit in 2018, the association said it predicts airlines across SADC to report a collective US$300 million loss for the year, with individual carriers experiencing fluctuating fortunes.
“Tourism, along with trade, is a powerful lever of growth. But they are being stunted by uncertainties. As one of the most capital-intensive sectors and a vital enabler of economic activity, the airline industry needs southern African governments to clarify their local economic reform policies so they do not spoil the appetite for much needed trade and investment in the region,” said the association’s Chief Executive, Chris Zweigenthal.
According to the airline association, demand for air transport is set to increase slowly by 2% to 3% annually over the next 5 years, reflecting weak economic performances in the region.
“For the aviation industry to expand and fulfill its potential in supporting jobs and enabling economies to become stronger, passenger growth must return to levels greater than 5%. To accommodate the volumes, we will need to operate more flights. This will require appropriate investments in modern aircraft, in airports and in airspace management infrastructure and systems,” explained Zweigenthal.
During the discussions, it transpired that to be competitive, southern African airlines – and the destinations and economies they serve – must differentiate themselves through excellent customer service, efficiencies and value-for-money travel, trade and tourism propositions. The entire value chain must work together to keep air travel safe, contain (and reduce) costs, create hospitable visa and immigration regimes, mitigate and reduce our impact on climate change and establish stable, safe and secure physical and cyber environments.
The association identified other handbrakes applied by governments which impede air travel, tourism and their ability to deliver growth. These included airlines’ inability to repatriate their revenues from a handful of African countries, including Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Laws on cybersecurity and personal data protection was another. Few African states have drafted or promulgated cyber and data protection legislation. Those that had been passed are inconsistent, while airlines in southern Africa are now also required to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations if they sold or marketed services and products to EU citizens and residents.