For many African governments aviation is not a priority but an economic driver, supporting 57m jobs worldwide and US$2,2trillion in economic activity. In SA alone, R51bn is contributed to the economy, equivalent to 2,1% of GDP, along with R6bn to tax and 343 000 jobs.
Mike Higgins, Iata’s regional Vice President of Africa, said an important lesson which Africa could learn is the value of policies that encourage and support aviation.
Airlines globally can no longer ignore and simply absorb the cost of flying to expensive airports such as South Africa, says Forsyth Black, Senior Vice President of Menzies Aviation for Africa, the Middle East and India.
Black says a change in strategy is required to improve the country’s position, and says that SA needs to adopt a less stringent approach to its open skies policy. He also asserts that it needs to firmly establish itself as a hub between the East and West.
Higgins says that if aviation is taxed too highly, its catalyst effect on jobs (including tourism jobs) is compromised. He says it is unfortunate that a proliferation of taxes and fees to support infrastructure development is killing that ‘golden goose’.
Black believes that bold decisions need to be taken by a bold leader and introduced across the board to ensure SA’s markets become more open, competitive and attractive.
“You could reduce landing fees little bit by little bit and get no benefit. Decisions need to be taken in one fell swoop in order to get attention of airlines now.”
He maintains that lowering landing fees would be instrumental in attracting more airlines to the country. “I think it is a false economy to keep landing fees high when in South Africa, we are trying to keep the tourist industry healthy.”
Higgins says the BRICS conference in Durban in 2013 offers a chance for Africans to set an example of how states and industry can work together to show aviation in Africa is not seen as a cash cow, but a powerful workhorse.
“I am convinced Africa is on the threshold of an explosion in growth. It is significant that the Iata AGM will be held in Cape Town in 2013. Africa has the greatest potential of any continent for aviation to contribute even more to its development,” concludes Higgins.