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Flarepath January 2017 By: Tom Chalmers

WHEN WILL the majority of African Governments wake up and realise what damage their continued self‐imposed ignorance is doing to the aviation industry? They seem to have scant regard for the true value of what the aviation industry could do for the well‐being of their countries. Their lack of action is losing their countries millions of dollars annually in tourism alone, let alone what the industry could mean as far as job creation and the wellbeing of their citizens is concerned.

Instead they seem to hide behind the stupid notion that aviation in all its forms is merely a rich man’s plaything not to be overly concerned with, and certainly not to get support from the State coffers.

In the past few weeks there have been several major conferences in various parts of the continent with speaker after speaker all aiming at trying to find some way to get governments to realise the folly of their ignorance and lack of foresight, or how to improve the airline industry, in particular, and the other sectors of the industry as a whole.

They have urged time after time a reduction in the ridiculous level of taxes imposed on the airlines and their passengers; the high cost of fuel, which in many areas of Africa, is the highest in the world; the stupidity of the Visa system which is seen as just another money‐making racket; the lack of action to improve the infrastructure, although, to be fair, some countries have realised this need and are spending millions of dollars on revamping or building entirely new airports.

Take the example of Nigeria (see also page 20) which has seen 56 major airlines cease operations in the last 50 years as a result of the shortage of cash brought on by the high fuel price and, indeed, the shortage of jet fuel, despite the country having one of the biggest and most active oil fields in the continent. The country is also seeing one after another international airline withdrawing its services because of a number of factors, not the least of which is the blocking of funds with the result that foreign airlines are unable to withdraw the money owed to them.

Take the example of South African Airways, once Africa’s leading airline and considered high in the rankings of the best in the world.

It is now just a shadow of itself owing billions and billions of rands to the government which it has no hope whatsoever of repaying, at least in the foreseeable future. In its heyday, it was run by men and women who knew what aviation was all about. Today, their top brass board of directors has little, if any, knowledge of the intricacies of running an airline – their annual financial report proving this in no uncertain manner.

On the flip side of the coin is Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopia’s now universally recognised best in Africa and certainly high in the world rankings, which flies to all the major cities in this continent, as well as overseas. It is totally owned by the Ethiopian Government, but the politicians learnt a long time ago to leave well alone and not interfere with its running, rather leaving it to people who know what they are doing. And what’s more – it makes a profit – and a good one at that every year.

Rwanda is another excellent example. A scant few years ago, its national airline, RwandAir, had but one or two ageing aircraft and very few destinations. In a scant few years, thanks for foresight and careful planning, it has developed into a major carrier and has certainly put the country’s capital, Kigali, on the map.

So much for the schedule airlines, but, unfortunately, they also share another problem with other sectors of the industry, namely their Civil Aviation Authorities which govern the airspace of Africa and what flies in it. Most countries have CAAs and most authorities seem to believe that they rule supreme issuing rules and regulations Willie Nillie without thought for the consequences and taking their time with any paperwork which happens to land on their respective desks..................................... To read the full article please subscribe to our E Magazine Here.


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